The Mail on Sunday

The astronomic­al costs of pursuing a Net Zero utopia

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THE terrible events of recent days have forced us all to concentrat­e our minds on what is really important.

Complacenc­y on all subjects has come to an end. We can no longer pretend to live in a safe and stable world. We can no longer assume that peace in Europe is permanent and can be taken for granted, while our fellow Europeans are shelled and bombed in their homes, and tanks roar and grind down their terrorised streets.

We also find that we can, in practice, do shockingly little to help and protect them from the illegal actions of Russia’s increasing­ly erratic army.

We must cease to be self-satisfied about our own neglected defences. Exposed again to the great issues of war and peace, life and freedom, we can no longer allow politics to descend into petty squabbling about very little.

Amid our compassion for others – and we continue to urge support for our appeal to help Ukrainian refugees, which has already passed £3.5million – we also need to worry about our own national future. Many things now need to be reassessed. We cannot be sure what shape Europe will take once this conflict is over, or even if it will be swiftly brought to an end. History shows it is always unwise to assume that any war will be over quickly.

We may need to think carefully about just how far we can extend the guarantees of Nato, and how much that will require of us in extra defence spending. But one other absolutely central thing is now clear. Russia cannot be allowed to wield political power over Europe by virtue of its control of oil and gas supplies. Our energy policies of the past few years have been unrealisti­c, idealistic and in some cases downright foolish.

A strong argument can now be made, for instance, for reopening the debate on fracking in this country to ensure that we reduce our dependence on imported gas – a dependence that might, if left unchecked, have placed us at the mercy of Moscow.

Fortunatel­y our Russian gas imports are still small, so far, but with our tiny reserves and our heavy dependence on Middle Eastern gas supplies (for which we compete with much of Asia), we are vulnerable to possible future shocks. Germany, which chose commerce over principles in making gas deals with Moscow, now wishes heartily it had made more efforts to remain independen­t in its energy supplies, and may have to reverse several supposedly green decisions, including the closure of nuclear power stations and a planned phaseout of coal by 2038.

Perhaps, just in time, much of the rest of Europe, Britain included, might rethink some of the more utopian and impractica­ble pledges it made during what now looks like a period of unreality. In the light of our own vulnerabil­ity, are Britain’s promises to move towards ‘Net Zero’ carbon production sustainabl­e or sensible?

The former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, a man who can scent a new political opportunit­y long before most have seen it, thinks this is about to become a big issue in this country. He writes in The Mail on Sunday today in fierce criticism of our national aim of reaching Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The cost of pursuing this aim to this country could be well over £1trillion. But such policies do not even work on their own terms. By exporting highcarbon activities to poorer countries, they create higher global CO2 levels.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is one of several leading Tories who likewise suspect that Net Zero is an aim this country cannot afford, and which is not justified by its practical outcomes.

Now, thanks to Russia’s war crimes, it is also shown to be strategica­lly unwise. We should take heed of this and many other dangers, while we still can.

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