Benefits and pitfalls of this eco-revolution
THE key to a successful revolution, said the Jacobin firebrand Georges Danton, is ‘audacity, more audacity, always audacity’.
In his approach to the green revolution, this is a quality Boris Johnson certainly doesn’t lack. His pledge of a 78 per cent cut in CO2 emissions by 2035 builds on the equally bold target of ‘ net zero’ carbon output by 2050.
If achieved, it would make Britain a world leader in carbon reduction and no doubt see him showered with plaudits.
But the burning question is, will it happen? This is not incremental ‘ nudge theory’. It would require the public to tolerate a seismic shift in their way of life.
An end to cheap air travel, mass conversion to electric cars, an expensive new generation of domestic heating and cooking systems.
More wind farms, strict regulations on household insulation and radical changes in farming and national diet away from meat and dairy.
And what of the massive boost in electricity supply needed to power this revolution? With nuclear endlessly stigmatised, where will it come from?
All these measures will cost money and from a population already weary of being bossed about by the state during the Covid crisis, it’s a lot to ask for them to buy into.
They will probably do so if they believe their sacrifice will truly change the world, but will it? While China produces 30 per cent of world carbon emissions and the US 15 per cent, Britain contributes just one per cent. It’s blindingly obvious the UK cannot solve this problem alone.
It is no coincidence that this announcement comes in the run-up to the UN Climate Change Conference, due to be held under UK presidency in Glasgow later this year.
‘COP26’ provides a perfect stage for the Prime Minister to burnish his green credentials and showcase Britain’s cuttingedge renewable energy, hydrogen and carbon capture technology to the world.
But there are dangers in these stringent targets. British industry has been sorely damaged by Covid and needs to regain its fitness quickly in the post-Brexit world.
Saddling our firms with a raft of green surcharges and taxes when other countries aren’t following suit would put us at a severe competitive disadvantage.
So this is the tightrope Mr Johnson must walk. Help save the planet, while simultaneously boosting and preserving British businesses, jobs and livelihoods. It is a fine and delicate balancing act.