20 July 2010

Fantasy Island

Tim Yeo, chair of the UK Parliament's Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, has issued a pamphlet (PDF) that indicates that UK Conservatives are just as out-of-touch on climate policy as was Labor. Writing in The Telegraph yesterday Yeo had this to say about the party's commitment to action:
Party members remember that, within a year of his election as Leader, David Cameron was photographed on a dog sled in the Arctic visiting a Norwegian glacier to see the effects of climate change first hand. This iconic image came to define his efforts to transform the image of the Conservative Party. Since then we have been urging voters to “vote blue, go green”.
A dog sled? That Cameron was actually on a dog sled is embarrassing enough, but to subsequently cite it as evidence of some sort of commitment to action? Oh, my. Yeo's specific statements on policy are no more encouraging:

The Coalition Agreement pledges to increase the target for energy from renewable sources; to create a green investment bank; to reduce carbon emissions from central government by ten per cent within a year; to cancel the third runway at Heathrow; and launch a (as yet undetailed) national tree planting campaign.

But we must go much further.
Meantime, the Coalition government has been busy this week cutting investment in green technologies, perhaps forgetting that targets don't reduce emissions, technology does. Third runway? Planting trees?

Yeo's pamphlet has some other bright ideas -- perhaps indicating what it means to "go further" -- such as personal carbon trading, increasing political will, making every aspect of our lives more energy efficient, ending deforestation and developing a viable system of carbon capture and storage. Easy!

Yeo points out that the UK is second only to Brazil in the international league tables of climate policy effectiveness as judged by the German NGO Germanwatch, due to its foresight in passing the Climate Change Act of 2008. He does not appear aware that the UK is going to fail dramatically to meet the targets for emissions reduction in the Act. No matter, with discussion of dog sleds, personal carbon trading and planting trees, Yeo's analysis has little connection to reality in any case.

UK climate policy continues to serve as a leading case for why climate policies need to be rethought.