Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends and Colleagues, and greetings from the European parliament.
You’ve just seen a speech I gave a couple of weeks back in the plenary session in Strasbourg. If you’re wondering why there were so few members in the chamber — that’s because it was about 10:30 at night. In the translation booths around the room there would have been forty or fifty interpreters, for a rather smaller number of Members.
And if you’re wondering why the speech was so short, that’s because in the European parliament, speaking time is rationed between 750 members, and is typically sixty seconds. It’s a great training for focus and brevity. But I understand that Jim Lakely has kindly allowed me slightly more time this evening.
I’d like to start out tonight by offering a big thank-you to Michael Mann, and his Hockey Stick Graph. Without him, I might never have engaged with the climate issue. It was about ten years ago, when I’d been in the European parliament for maybe eight years, that I saw that graph, and it made a big impact.
If Mann was right, we were walking blindfold into a pretty spectacular problem — a problem not least for the four million UK voters I was elected to represent.
So I started reading up on the issue, looking at both sides of the debate. And pretty soon I’d convinced myself that Michael Mann was wrong, and that the sceptics were right.
At that time I hadn’t read Andrew Montford’s great book “The Hockey Stick Illusion” (perhaps because it wasn’t published till 2010) but I’m sure you all know it, and it’s a tremendous read. Michael Mann may or may not know his climatology, but he seems to find statistics a bit challenging.
I organised a conference in Brussels to address the issue. We had former Chancellor — that’s English-speak for Finance Minister — Nigel Lawson, who has gone on to create a London think-tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation. We had Fred Singer — and I can’t tell you what a huge support and inspiration Fred has been in the last ten years. We had prominent London economist Roger Bootle. And at the end of the event, we showed Michael Durkin’s great movie “The Great Global Warming Swindle”.
Walking out afterwards I overheard a couple of staffers chatting. One of them said “I never knew that there was an alternative view on global warming until tonight”.
I don’t know how many converts we made at that event, but we certainly put down a marker for the climate sceptic cause.
Sadly, however, we didn’t manage to reverse the EU’s climate juggernaut. There’s an inbuilt “progressive” majority in the European institutions which votes with depressing regularity for anything with a green label on it.
As you saw in my video clip, the EU says it is committed to “secure, affordable and sustainable energy”. We could have a great debate about the misuse of the word sustainable — all my experience suggests that green policies are not sustainable at all. And as I have said in innumerable meetings over the last ten years, every single decision I’ve seen the EU make has had the effect of making energy more expensive, and less secure.
We’ve seen measure after measure. Many of these measures are overlapping and counterproductive, and create conflicting incentives and market distortions.
For example, we have separate targets for renewables, and for CO2 emissions reduction. Where does that leave nuclear? OK for emissions, but doing nothing for renewables targets.
Then we have the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, or ETS. You know it as Cap’n’Trade. The aim was to set a carbon price of €30 to €40 a ton, which would incentivise renewables, and investment in green, low-emission technologies.
But despite numerous tweaks and revisions, including “back-loading”, and the “Market Stability Reserve” the CO2 price never rose much above €10 a ton. This week it was below five. Enough to be a nuisance. Enough to spawn a vast lobbying industry. But not enough to have a material effect on renewables investment.
For ten long years, repeated changes to the ETS have failed to deliver. There’s a saying attributed to Einstein (although to many other people as well) that repeating the same action many times while expecting a different outcome is a sign of madness. But I’m afraid that’s the EU’s bureaucratic mind-set: they prefer to gnaw on the bones of past failure, rather than embrace a radical new approach, or start again with a clean sheet.
But there’s another problem. Because distributors are mandated to use “green” energy when available, the fossil fuel back-up runs intermittently. It therefore runs inefficiently and uneconomically. So no one wants to invest in desperately needed gas-fired power stations.
Indeed the EU has created an entirely new and additional level of subsidy, known as “capacity payments”, to subsidise the inefficient operation of intermittent back-up.
The German people have invested billions of euros in their “energiewende” or green transition, yet this last year their CO2 emissions increased marginally. Angela Merkel made a snap decision after Fukushima to close down the German nuclear fleet, and they are currently making up the shortfall with lignite — of all things.
You’re probably familiar with the analysis of Bjørn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist, who used the IPCC’s own assumptions to calculate the impact of the Germans’ $110 bn investment in green energy. He concluded that the effect would be, by the end of this century, to delay the trajectory of global warming by only 37 hours. But given there’s been no significant warming for nearly two decades, a 37 hour delay is effectively zero.
I ask you — was ever so much money squandered by so many to so little effect?
We on our side know that global warming is so last-century. We have a two-stage response to climate alarmism. Firstly, as we have discussed at this conference, the orthodox paradigm is almost certainly wrong. But secondly, even if Al Gore and Michael Mann are right, the remedies and policies proposed will have a trivial effect on the climate — but a devastating effect on our economies. Climate alarmism is not only unsustainable — it’s also unaffordable.
In the UK, our dependence on renewables, coupled with the lack of investment in back-up, plus the closure of perfectly good coal-fired power stations under the EU’s large combustion plant directive, has resulted in a real risk of power outages. As a solution, our distributor the National Grid has been doing deals with businesses with large back-up diesel generation to call on that source in emergencies.
Ladies and Gentlemen you could hardly make it up. We’re going to save the planet by relying on diesel generation. Just like Angela Merkel is saving the planet with lignite.
The predictable result of EU energy policies has been a body-blow to European competitiveness. You don’t have to take my word for it. Let me quote Italian MEP Mr. Antonio Tajani. Mr. Tajani was EU Industry Commissioner from 2009 to 2014. He is now President of the European parliament. And his comment as Industry Commissioner: “Energy prices are creating an industrial massacre in Europe”. Strong language for a European Commissioner.
Meantime in the rest of the world — especially here in America, but also in China and India — energy prices remain competitive. In the USA, recent developments suggest that sustained low energy prices will drive economic development for many years to come.
As a result, there has been a massive exodus of energy-intensive businesses from the EU. We’ve heard a great deal about steel, and about Chinese exports. But the hard truth is that with European energy prices, steelmakers find it hugely difficult to compete. No one in his right mind would be investing in steel production in Europe today.
But it’s not just steel. We have the same pattern — maybe worse — in aluminium. Job losses. Plant closures. Business moving abroad.
Chemicals. Fertilisers. Petrochemical refining. Glass. Ceramics. Some of these industries, notably glass, are setting up production in neighbouring countries — North Africa, Turkey, Ukraine — for export into the EU.
There is evidence to suggest that by moving production to jurisdictions with less stringent environmental standards, Europe is actually increasing global emissions. The steel industry tells me that a ton of steel made in Shanghai produces double the CO2 of the same ton of steel made in Sheffield. A UK government report says that imported refined petroleum products typically incur 35% higher emissions than domestic production.
Meantime the EU congratulates itself on reducing its emissions. It accounts for no more than 11% or so of global emissions. EU politicians see this as grounds for virtue signalling and gesture politics. They get photographed under a wind turbine and expect to be thanked for saving future generations.
What they don’t mention is that if you look at the emissions associated with materials used in Europe, including imports — all that Chinese steel for example — there’s no reduction.
EU policy has not merely exported jobs, and industry, and investment — it has also, quite simply, exported emissions too. But if you’re concerned about atmospheric CO2 levels, a ton of CO2 in Beijing has exactly the same effect as a ton of CO2 in Birmingham or Barcelona.
By now I guess some of you are thinking that maybe the UK’s decision to leave the EU is just about the best thing we could have done for energy policy and industrial competitiveness. We stand on the cusp of a new era for the UK. Our Prime Minister Theresa May will write the momentous letter invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty — and kicking off the formal process of Brexit — on Wednesday next week. March 29th.
In boys’ storybooks in my childhood there was a phrase often repeated, often quoted — indeed often ridiculed — and that phrase was “with one bound, he was free”. I wish I could stand here today and tell you the same about UK energy policy. “With one bound, it was free”.
But sadly it’s not that simple. The same green mind-set that has done so much damage in Brussels is alive and well in London. In 2008, the Westminster parliament passed the Climate Change Act, the work of former Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband. It was debated in October 2008, when ironically London had its first October snow for seventy years. And it was passed almost unanimously, with only five votes against.
It was one of the most expensive Acts ever passed in peacetime. A recent study by MP Peter Lilley (who was one of the famous five who voted against the Act) suggests that if maintained, it will cost the UK £300 billion by 2030. It is the only climate measure in the world that sets legally binding targets as far ahead as 2050 — much more restrictive than even Brussels’ plans.
Or put it the other way: how would we feel today if we found we were legally bound to climate targets passed 42 years ago, in 1975?
In my party — Nigel Farage’s party — we insist that the first energy priority for a newly independent Britain should be the repeal of the Climate Change Act. But it will be an uphill struggle.
Meantime the mendacious anti-shale gas propaganda put out by the green lobby has poisoned the minds of voters in the UK. Polluted water, earthquakes, vast drilling rigs, thousands of lorry movements — who’ll vote for that?
Of course the truth is rather different. I have endlessly pointed out that on just about every measure, shale gas is cleaner and safer than the coal industry on which the British Industrial Revolution was based. If Greenpeace had been around in the eighteenth century, coal might have been left in the ground. Britain today could be an impoverished peasant society, every man with an acre and a cow.
I have had the pleasure and privilege of visiting shale gas fields in Pennsylvania and Texas. I have talked to local residents about economic renaissance, new businesses; new jobs; new hotels and restaurants; higher house prices. None seemed to want to complain about environmental problems.
I have stood alongside a shale well-head — the photo appeared in our last party election manifesto — and observed that the well-head was about the same size as a man. In visual intrusion terms, infinitely preferable to a wind turbine.
In parentheses, I’d like to recount a story told by Fritz Vahrenholt, the German climate sceptic and author of “The Quiet Sun”. Prof Vahrenholt was present when the Chinese energy minister was in Germany talking to the German Energy minister. The topic was wind farms. The issue was what to do when a wind pulse overloads the grid. Through an interpreter the German minister explained that the wind-farms are asked to shut down, but that they are then paid for the energy they do not supply (as also happens in the UK, by the way).
The interpreter explained this to the Chinese minister who immediately became angry with the interpreter, telling him that he had clearly not understood the German minister’s answer. So he was told to repeat the question. Same answer. The Chinese minister told the interpreter to ask a third time: and again, the same answer!
When the Chinese minster realised that this was truly the position in
Germany, he was astonished and said that in China no one got paid for doing nothing!
Reverting to shale gas, its potential in the UK could be huge — though we need more drilling to verify it. But we also have a huge job to shift public opinion to see the possibilities: new jobs, prosperity, lower energy prices, increased industrial competitiveness; lower imports and stronger balance of payments; more energy security as we become less dependent on politically unstable suppliers; more tax revenues for the Treasury.
Ladies and Gentlemen I’ve been visiting the United States, meeting ALEC and Heritage and Heartland, for many years, and I always say that after the stultifying political atmosphere in Brussels, a visit to the States is like coming up for air.
It is doubly so today — here with Heartland, with a Trump Presidency in place. I could scarcely believe the good news as the results of the General Election came in. I hoped and prayed that President Trump would deliver on his campaign rhetoric on climate, and I’ve not been disappointed.
The position I’ve taken on climate in Brussels has been a lonely and isolated one, with only a handful of supporters and sympathisers. But suddenly the big battalions are on the right side. I feel vindicated.
I’d like to thank those who’ve given me their support and encouragement over the years. I’ve already mentioned Fred Singer, but I must also thank Mark Morano, who came over with his “Climate Hustle” movie a few months back. And the great work that Heartland, CFact and Climate Depot have been doing has been a huge encouragement.
I’ve known Myron Ebell for years as a doughty protagonist in the climate realist cause. Imagine my surprise — and delight — when I heard he had been named by the President to head the EPA transition team. Myron was over in Brussels in February, and I had the pleasure of dining with him there. I don’t know Scott Pruitt, who now heads the EPA, but all I hear about him is good.
Sometimes I have to pinch myself to remind myself that this is reality. The world has changed. The world’s biggest economy is embracing climate realism.
America must now take global leadership on the issue. We must repudiate the absurd and doctrinaire Paris agreement. We can deliver a world of realism, growth, prosperity, with secure and affordable energy for all. We have a paradigm shift. We can consign the myth of man-made global warming to the dustbin of history. Together, let’s make it happen.