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By Alistair McIntosh, HQN Chief Executive
That’s right: our new PM says pretty much that in his latest piece for the Telegraph!
Boris wants the UK to be a “clean, green powerhouse”. And so do we, which is why it’s the theme of our event. Folk do have different ideas about how to go about it though.
Boris thinks that “the market, rather than the state will find the solutions we need for a sustainable future”. Well, that comes as no surprise. And who is his hero of the hour? Yep, no prizes for guessing it’s Elon Musk and his Scalextric cars.
As Boris tears up the open road in the manner of Mr Toad, our friends in New Zealand want to try something else. You will have seen all the coverage of their new Wellbeing Budget that is seeking to go beyond GDP in testing how the country is doing.
One of the problems they’ve got is that New Zealand has just about the highest rates of greenhouse gas emissions per head in the world. Part of their answer to that is to plough money into trains. A report by Ernst & Young says that using rail instead of trucks cuts out about two-thirds of emissions.
Who should run these trains? Well, they want to undo the “historic misstep of privatisation” and give a big role back to the state.
The Kiwis are not the only ones that don’t see eye to eye with Boris. He proclaims it’s time to slash taxes. That shows Boris is the true scion of Mrs T. But one of the world’s biggest insurers wants taxes to go the other way and soar. Why would any business in its right mind say that?
Munich Re has seen its profits fall by more than a half in a year due to paying out hefty claims for the damage caused by things like wildfires in California. They’d try to fix this by ramping up the taxes on carbon fivefold to turbo charge the switch to renewables.
Of course, Munich Re want to pay out less cash for damaged property but they also worry about “the toll of human victims”. In fairness Munich Re have been saying much the same thing since the 1970s. Yep, they certainly got the message from The Osmonds’ Crazy Horses!
There’s a message floatin’ in the air
Crazy horses ridin’ everywhere
It’s a warning, it’s in every tongue
Gotta stop them crazy horses on the run
So far so good. But how would it all work? Is moving over to hydrogen the way to go? Should we tax petrol and gas to switch drivers and homeowners to hydrogen? Of course there’s a snag. Boris wants to get hydrogen from Scotland’s oil and gas. He would, wouldn’t he? Is this a classic case of one step forwards and two steps back?
Here’s what the New Scientist has to say about it all. You can get hydrogen cleanly using the sun and the wind -
“But the cheaper and more prevalent method is to extract [hydrogen] from natural gas or coal, which emits carbon dioxide and locks us into further exploitation of fossil fuels. Project’s touting hydrogen’s green credentials often rely on sequestering waste CO2 from its production, a technology as yet untested on the scale required.”
The long and the short of that is we could be in for a lot of dithering before you can rip out those gas boilers you have just put in. We know they’re bad, but were not sure what is better. It’s not easy, is it?
Back in the early 90s, I worked on a study for the Association of County Councils - we said councils needed access to better scientific advice on environmental issues so they could make the right decisions. That’s the way to steer clear of fake news.
These are the sorts of issues we will be delving into at the annual conference – crazy horses won’t keep me away – I look forward to seeing you.