Former Lib-Dem MEP Chris Davies
On Tuesday morning (Oct 13th) I attended a breakfast briefing on emissions trading (“Streamlined Market Provisions for the Paris 2015 Climate Agreement”) organised by IETA, the International Emissions Trading Association (no, I hadn’t previously heard of it, either). They were full of hope and enthusiasm for the up-coming Paris Climate Conference, and keen to spread emissions trading around the world, claiming that areas accounting for 40% of global GDP already had such arrangements in place.
Their objective (they said) was to meet climate targets and keep global warming down to only 2oC, by capping emissions.
It was chaired by German Socialist MEP Jo Leinen (whom I had discomfited the previous evening at the EEF dinner event: He’d said he liked “Designed markets”; I got a laugh by interjecting “That’s because you’re a socialist!”).
I was the first speaker from the floor. I started out “Here we go again. Another UN Climate Conference. We approach it with high hopes, but as on previous occasions we’ll come away disappointed. Commitments will fall short of your objectives. Subsequent delivery will fall shorter still.
An early speaker mentioned “Putting a monetary value on pollution”. May I remind you that CO2 is not pollution. It is a naturally occurring trace gas, colourless, odourless and non-toxic, which is essential to life on earth. Indeed the current level of atmospheric CO2 is massively raising crop yields and helping to feed a hungry planet.
You’ve been talking about emissions trading. We have ten years’ experience of the EU’s ETS. Surely that’s long enough to convince us that it doesn’t work? It was supposed “to send price signals to the market” – but the only signal it’s sent to industry is “Go to China!”
What we have round this table today is a special interest group, which is making a good living out of this artificial carbon market. But we’ve heard nothing about the damage that your energy prices are doing to real industry in Europe. Steel, aluminium, chemicals, petroleum refining, glass, cement, all moving abroad for cheaper electricity prices.
As Antonio Tajani put it, “We’re creating an industrial massacre in Europe” – and it’s time we stopped.
So far, so predictable. That’s just what you’d expect me to say. But I was astonished by what followed. Leinen invited Chris Davies to speak. Chris is a former Lib-Dem MEP, who was always a passionate climate alarmist, and was rapporteur on the original ETS proposal. He is now working with the European Climate Foundation (no, I hadn’t heard of that one either). But in his MEP days he and I enjoyed a lot of sparring over climate issues.
But what he said now was striking. As near as I can remember (and I made notes) he said: “I hate to agree with Roger Helmer. I’ve spent years trying to avoid it. But we have to admit that the EU’s ETS system has failed to live up to expectations. That’s because we added a lot of other measures – renewables subsidies, emissions and renewables targets – that muddied the water and created confusion.
We keep talking about the take-up of emissions trading around the world, but it’s going much slower than we’d hoped, and standards are very variable. We keep hearing about the amazing progress of CCS (Carbon Capture & Storage) in China – but not a single CCS project has been signed off! I’m very disappointed with the way things are going”.
So, our analysis of the state of play is remarkably similar, though Chris Davies admits it with a long face, while I greet it with relish. But endorsement is welcome from all sources, however grudging.