Douglas Carswell

25 FEB 2013

I was wrong about the Climate Change Act

My biggest regret as an MP is that I failed to oppose the 2008 Climate Change Act. It was a mistake. I am sorry.

On the very day the Labour government passed this fatuous attempt to "stop global warming", it was, if I remember rightly, snowing. Had I opposed the Bill, it wouldn't have made much difference, but I feel I should have known better.

Unlike much of the gesture legislation that goes through Parliament, this law has turned out to have real consequences.  The Climate Change Act has pushed up energy prices, squeezing households and making economic recovery ever more elusive.

The aim of the Climate Change Act was to create a low carbon economy. I fear the Act will do that, but perhaps not the way intended. The Climate Change Act is giving us a low carbon economy the way that pre-industrial Britain had a low carbon economy.

Cutting carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020 – as the Act requires – means, in effect, making energy costs so high that some will have to go without. How is that progress?

The Act's carbon price floors push up prices. Instead of energy producers competing to supply households and businesses with a product at a price they are willing to pay, the legislation introduces a system of price fixing. Suppliers switch to so called "renewable" energy sources, and the end user pays.

An unaccountable quango – the Committee on Climate Change – gets to determine energy policy much the way that central bankers now run monetary policy. The precedent is not a good one. Adair Turner, head honcho at the Financial Service Authority, was its chairman.

The tragedy is that it does not have to be this way. Technological innovation is discovering new ways of obtaining vast reserves of fossil fuel. As our understanding grows, the idea that human activity alone causes climate change seems less certain than it once did. Wind turbines, it turns out, are renewable in the sense that they need replacing every 25 years – or perhaps even every 15.

Too often, public policy in Whitehall is shaped by residual ideas and assumptions – which turn out to be wrong. Nowhere is this more so than when it comes to energy policy. It is time for a fundamental rethink about energy policy – starting with an acknowledgment that 2008 Act has got it wrong.

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