Sunday, May 2, 2021

GWPF Newsletter: Europe’s heavy industry unlikely to survive Net Zero


While NASA goes green, China prepares to dominate Earth orbit

In this newsletter:

1) Europe’s heavy industry unlikely to survive Net Zero
GWPF, 30 April 2021

2) EU industry calls for urgent carbon border tax as prices soar
Financial Times, 29 April 2021

3) NASA Goes Green
NASA, 22 April 2021
4) China prepares to dominate Earth orbit
Real Clear Science, 28 April 2021
5) Patricia Adams: China's energy actions speak louder than its climate pledges
Financial Post, 28 April 2021
6) Jordan McGillist: Climate eyes are on China, but What about ASEAN?
National Review, 29 April 2021
7) Petrol cars make a covid comeback, and that means burning more oil
Bloomberg, 29 April 2021
8) Climate campaigners worry COP26 may be another flop 
The Daily Telegraph, 27 April 2021 

9) Ross Clark: Boris Johnson's Blairite climate targets will kill off support for the Tories' green agenda
The Daily Telegraph, 29 April 2021

Full details:

1) Europe’s heavy industry unlikely to survive Net Zero
GWPF, 30 April 2021

It is becoming ever more evident that much of Europe’s heavy industry is unlikely to survive the EU’s unilateral Net Zero policy.
As the EU’s carbon price reaches a new record high and is expected to rise much further in the next few years, European industrial groups are desperately calling for the introduction of a carbon border tax, hoping that it will save them from international competitors that are able to produce much cheaper.

They warn that rising energy and carbon costs will force energy-intensive manufacturing to shut down and relocate to countries with less stringent CO2 targets if the EU does not introduce protectionist carbon protection.

Even higher carbon prices are coming. BloombergNEF expects carbon prices to hit 100 euros by 2030. 

It is rather doubtful, however, whether the EU can afford to introduce a carbon border tax, knowing full well that China, India and much of the rest of the emerging and developing world would simply retaliate in return, threatening to tax European products out of Asian and African markets altogether.
European and American politicians should be reminded that we have been warning for years about this inevitable outcome of unilateral climate policies.

Click on image above-- Benny Peiser: Testimony on unilateral EU climate policy risks to US Senate Committee, December 2014
2) EU industry calls for urgent carbon border tax as prices soar
Financial Times, 29 April 2021

European industrial groups have stepped up calls for the EU to hasten the introduction of a carbon border tax as record prices for carbon dioxide allowances raise the cost of polluting in the bloc far above any other region.

Carbon prices in the EU’s flagship Emissions Trading System, a cornerstone of the bloc’s ambitious new target to slash emissions 55 per cent by 2030, are within touching distance of €50 a tonne — more than double their pre-pandemic level.

While the rally has been welcomed by environmental groups and some companies as a potential boost for the clean-up of European power and manufacturing, it has left some industries wincing.

Tata Steel has already placed a €12-a-tonne carbon surcharge on metal produced in Europe, including the UK. While it says this is necessary to cover its costs, the move risks disadvantaging the region’s production and exports.

Other industries, from cement to petrochemicals, have argued that the rally could starve them of funds to invest in decarbonisation.

“In the past, we did not have a significant problem with the carbon price because it was so low,” said Axel Eggert, director-general of the European Steel Association.

“Now, with the increasing price, we get into a real problem. One is our global competitors do not have those carbon constraints . . . the second point is it makes it much more difficult to invest in new technologies.” [...]
ArcelorMittal, one of Europe’s largest steel producers, said that without a global carbon price the EU would need to implement a carbon border tax on imports from beyond the bloc if the industry was to remain competitive.
The company said European producers were “at a competitive disadvantage versus international peers”, warning of “carbon leakage” should manufacturing move overseas to areas with less stringent environmental controls.
Full story
3) NASA Goes Green
NASA, 22 April 2021
NASA is responsible for collecting much of the data that people use to explain humanity’s environmental impact on Earth, from documenting climate change and its impacts on ice, sea level and weather patterns, to monitoring the health of forests and the movement of freshwater. But NASA doesn’t just report the data. It also acts on it.
NASA facilities across the United States are each working toward becoming more sustainable workplaces. Across 47 million square feet and 5,000 buildings, NASA works to fulfill its mission of revealing the unknown while lessening its demand on the planet’s resources....
Renewable energy made up just over 13% of NASA’s total electricity use in fiscal year 2019. Much of the percentage stemmed from purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates, or credits that represent a certain amount of renewable energy that is produced elsewhere. In addition, on-site renewable energy continues to increase. For example, as part of 58 renewable energy projects across 10 centers, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, installed rooftop solar panels in fiscal year 2019, adding to the other 56 on-site renewable energy projects NASA has implemented across 15 centers.
Full story
4) China prepares to dominate Earth orbit
Real Clear Science, 28 April 2021
Brandon Weichert

Space is the ultimate strategic high ground. Whichever nation controls this domain will have unprecedented access to the terrestrial strategic sectors (land, sea, air, and even cyberspace). The United States has been the dominant space power thus far, but the days of America’s unquestioned hegemony in orbit are coming to a close. 

The Long March-5B Y2 rocket, carrying the Tianhe module for China’s space station, blasts off yesterday from the Wenchang launch site in Hainan province. Photo: Xinhua
Very soon, Beijing will launch the first of three components for its modular space station. Meant to rival the American-led International Space Station (ISS), the Chinese Space Station (CSS) will grant China unprecedented access to low-Earth orbit (LEO). 

Unlike the ISS which is truly an international effort based on peace, China’s modular space station is—like so many things that China does today—a nationalistic endeavor with a militaristic flair. 

It’s true that China’s space agency has said they welcome international missions to their new space station. But simple science has never been China’s end goal. In fact, by allowing for international scientific missions to their soon-to-be-launched space station, China will be getting access to the intellectual property and trade secrets of other nations and corporations. And like they have always done with foreign entities, China will pilfer what they need. 

Essentially, international cooperation with China on their space station will amount to nothing less than the greatest technology transfer to China in history.

We know that China’s leaders have viewed their new station in strategic terms. In 2010, Beijing reorganized its military to fight—and win—a space war against the United States. So, while China’s new modular space station is nothing new (both the Americans and Russians have been operating space stations for decades), China’s space station program is one piece of a larger strategy for Beijing’s comprehensive dominance over the Earth. 

Beyond that, a few years ago Chinese scientists advocated for installing a laser at the base of the Chinese Space Station once it was in orbit. China claimed that a laser could be used to clear dangerous space debris from around the Earth. 
Of course, most systems in space are dual-use in nature. In peacetime, a laser could be used to clear dangerous space debris. In wartime, however, it could be used to disable critical American satellite constellations in orbit. When the Obama Administration proposed placing a laser on the ISS to clear space debris, it shied away, out of fears that either Russia or China would accuse Washington of weaponizing space.
The Chinese have little compunction about weaponizing space under the guise of making space safer for all. And China has already demonstrated a consistent disregard for international law, whether it be their illegal island building program in the South China Sea or their sloppy 2007 anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon test that created the world’s largest—and most dangerous—debris field around the Earth in history. 

All of this is happening at a time when the ISS is nearing the end of its lifespan. To compound matters, Russia, a major contributor to the ISS, is threatening to detach its portions of the ISS soon in order to create a Russian station in orbit. 

Moscow could ultimately link their space station to China’s new modular space station. Already, the space programs of both Russia and China have announced their intention to exclusively cooperate with each other in the development of a future lunar colony. Moving Russia’s ISS components away from the ISS and into the CSS would augment this growing authoritarian alliance in space. It’d also represent a seismic geopolitical shift away from the United States and toward a China-led Eurasian alliance for mastery of both the Earth and space. 

Going forward, the United States must plan for a future where the ISS no longer factors into the budget. It is an aging station past its prime. NASA has expressed a desire to cannibalize its station program and build the Lunar Gateway program. Although, this seems like a waste. 

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin company is attempting to build out the capacity to create private space stations between the Earth and moon. Bigelow Aerospace and Virgin Galactic—as well as a coterie of other private space start-ups—are thinking along similar lines. These companies should be encouraged to do so, even if it means the US taxpayer subsidizing some of these endeavors to keep America in the space station game—without distracting NASA from the greater mission of getting its astronauts back to the moon and beyond to Mars.

Time is running out. Few American policymakers are paying attention. If Washington does not take China’s space threat more seriously, it would find itself boxed out of the strategic high ground. The Chinese Space Station is yet another symbol of how badly American power in space is eroding. 
5) Patricia Adams: China's energy actions speak louder than its climate pledges
Financial Post, 28 April 2021
China is hell-bent on increasing CO2 emissions to meet its often-stated strategic objective of world domination

Last week’s climate change summit, though advertised as a meeting designed to get 40 world leaders to make pledges to cut carbon dioxide emissions and save the planet, was more a trade negotiation of sorts, in which the West wants China to make firmer commitments on climate change and China wants to tie any new commitments to weakened trade sanctions and less complaining about its human rights record.

The West may well water down sanctions in exchange for Chinese commitments but all it will get from China in return is lip service. China is hell-bent on increasing CO2 emissions to meet its often-stated strategic objective of world domination.

China’s Achilles heel is its dependence on foreign sources for its oil and gas, a vulnerability that the country’s super-planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, admitted last year for the first time. In its 2020 annual report to China’s official decision-making body, the National People’s Congress, it barely mentioned climate change as China instead pledged to “ensure energy security” to “improve our contingency plans in response to major changes in supply and demand at home and abroad.”

This year’s report, delivered to the People’s Congress on March 5, again gave short shrift to climate change — promising only what the West’s environmental NGOs decried as “baby steps” towards decarbonization. The focus instead was on the priority of securing energy supplies and China’s consequent determination to “promote the development of energy transportation routes, strengthen our energy reserve capacity, and improve transportation services. We will refine energy contingency plans, improve our risk and emergency response capabilities, and strengthen energy security and resilience.” The planning and reform commission concluded by promising to “boost oil and gas exploration and development” and “systematically increase our ability to ensure the supply of coal.”
China’s dependence on foreigners for its oil has grown steadily. In 2008, its dependence on foreign oil reached 50 per cent for the first time. Last year, it was 73 per cent. The trend is especially worrying to China because, while its oil imports increased by 7.3 per cent last year, its domestic production inched up a mere 1.6 per cent. Despite its drive for self-sufficiency, Chinese production since 2017 has stalled at 3.8-3.9 million barrels per day.
Moreover, most of its oil and gas imports pass through chokeholds — in the South China Sea, the Strait of Hormuz and especially the Strait of Malacca, connecting the Indian Ocean to the Pacific, through which roughly 80 per cent of China’s imported oil transits. China’s energy imports transit sea lanes controlled by other states, making its position precarious in the event of possible conflicts with Taiwan, Japan, India, or the U.S. The recent six-day blockage in the Suez Canal of a ship laden with Chinese goods only added to the urgency China feels in wanting to guarantee its security.

China’s determination to better secure its fossil-fuel supplies can be seen in its militarization of the South China Seas, where its navy, the world’s largest, protects both oil and gas tanker routes into China and the far-flung offshore oil and gas resources it is claiming. China has also been willing to risk U.S. sanctions by surreptitiously purchasing Iranian oil.
To minimize its vulnerability to interruptions at sea, China has also been aggressively developing overland oil and gas routes from Russia, from Burma, and from Turkmenistan to Xinjiang, China’s far-western Muslim province, whose Uighur population it sees as a security threat.
Of course, China’s most secure form of energy is coal, which in 2019 accounted for 58 per cent of its total energy consumption. That isn’t about to stop — certainly not because of hand-wringing in the West about how it imperils the planet. Last year, China’s 38.4 gigawatts of new coal-fired power was more than three times the new capacity built in the rest of the world, and another 247 gigawatts of coal power is being planned or developed. China’s proposed additional coal plants represent 73.5 gigawatts of power, five times what is proposed in the rest of the world combined.

Developing the fossil fuels that China needs to meet its strategic economic and military goals is a top priority. Climate-change targets just don’t figure in China’s grand schemes, except for propaganda purposes or to extract subsidies or trade concessions.
see also -- Patricia Adams: The Red and the Green: China’s Useful Idiots (pdf)

6) Jordan McGillist: Climate eyes are on China, but What about ASEAN?
National Review, 29 April 2021
While the U.S. and China meet at the climate table, the countries of Southeast Asia have their own table set for an energy-consumption feast. No matter what Biden and Xi hash out, global economic trends are afoot that are beyond the reach of either.


Last week, in an effort to reinstall the United States to a position of diplomatic visibility, Joe Biden convened a virtual meeting of political leaders from three dozen countries to discuss global climate strategy. The feather in Biden’s cap was that China’s Xi Jinping agreed to attend and deliver an address.
The conventional wisdom holds that the U.S. and China, acting in concert, can begin to curb global emissions and that this meeting was a hopeful start. As Reuters put it, the U.S. and China have “rediscovered a common interest in battling climate change.” Yew Wei Lit, a postdoctoral fellow at Singapore’s Yale-NUS College, says, “Sealing a cooperative pact with China on climate will be a crucial first step toward [the United States] reclaiming a leadership role on climate action.”

Detractors, on the other hand, have expended much ink in explaining that Biden’s carbon plans will be swamped by continued emissions growth from China, despite Beijing’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and its 2060 carbon-neutral pledge.

What the two camps share is an acute focus on Sino–U.S. bargaining and trajectories. When attention does wander away from China, it is typically trained on its up-and-coming rival, India, a source of rising emissions in its own right and a country that Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, visited earlier in April.
All but forgotten in this discussion, however, are the ten countries that compose the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN): Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, and Brunei.

Today, the ASEAN population stands at about 650 million — almost exactly half of China’s. But unlike the giant to the north, ASEAN countries are young and, by comparison, have growing populations. By the middle of the next decade, ASEAN could add close to 100 million more people and eclipse Japan and the European Union to become the world’s fourth-largest economy.
With that growth will come enormous emissions increases that the global climate movement tends to ignore. Among the Biden climate-bash invitees, only three came from ASEAN countries: Indonesia’s Joko Widodo, Vietnam’s Nguyễn Phú Trọng, and Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong. Glaringly omitted was Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, a country that exemplifies the economic (and emissions) potential of the region.
ASEAN’s Leap

ASEAN is a booming economic market that will see faster growth than China over the coming decades. As in China, the ASEAN regions that are most urbanized and globally integrated are decades ahead of the less connected regions. In ASEAN’s case, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand are the wealthy cohort, while Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar make up the least-advanced group (with oil-rich Brunei typically lumped in among the latter). That leaves the three largest ASEAN countries by population: Indonesia (population 265 million), the Philippines (population 105 million), and Vietnam (population 95 million). It is thanks mostly to this emerging economic trio that the World Economic Forum (WEF) describes ASEAN as “on the cusp of a tremendous leap” in socioeconomic progress.

The World Bank reports that in Indonesia alone, 115 million people are poised to enter the middle class. This population, which it calls the “aspiring middle class” (AMC), is distinguished from the poor as well as the economically secure. As Indonesia’s AMC reaches the middle class, it will spend increasing sums on durable, energy-intensive goods such as refrigerators, automobiles, air conditioners, and water heaters. Since 2002, middle-class consumption in Indonesia has increased by an astonishing 12 percent annually.
WEF projects that over the next decade 140 million people across ASEAN will ascend to the consumer strata. Further, it says that, as regional per capita GDP surpasses $6,600 in 2030, ASEAN will “reach inflection points where consumption takes off.” Of course, those already in the middle class will get richer, too. By 2030, WEF estimates that there will be a regional near-doubling of high- and upper-middle-income households, which currently amounts to 30 million.

Unlike in China, demographic trends give ASEAN reason for optimism. Thanks to its former one-child policy (and now the remaining cultural stickiness), China is approaching a demographic winter. China’s working-age population (WAP) had already peaked and by 2050 China will have 200 million fewer working-age people than it has today.
ASEAN, meanwhile, is youthful. Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam had median ages of 31.1, 24.1, and 31.9 in 2018, respectively, compared with China’s 38.4. ASEAN will add 40 million potential workers this decade, while China’s WAP is now quickly slipping into decline.

Geopolitics also provides tailwinds to ASEAN economic expansion. By its own doing, China has begun to scare off economic partners, both public and private. “ASEAN will become a popular destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) as multinationals rebalance supply chains to diversify geopolitical risk,” WEF describes in a veiled allusion to China. In 2018, it notes, FDI inflows to ASEAN exceeded those to China by 20 percent.

Vietnam, with its less expensive labor, has become a major manufacturer just beyond China’s southern border. The current atmosphere of heightened geopolitical tensions will only add to that trend. And it is worth adding, of course, that ASEAN is not a passive beneficiary of investors souring on China; the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam have each recently faced aggression from China in disputed territorial waters.
The economic, demographic, and geopolitical trends cited above have a multitude of implications. An obvious one is that while the U.S. and China meet at the climate table, the countries of Southeast Asia have their own table set for an energy-consumption feast.

ASEAN’s Energy Appetite

Indonesia gets about three-quarters of its total energy from oil, gas, and coal. Though at first blush, Indonesia’s production and use of biofuel would appear climate-beneficial, the country faces widespread international condemnation for the forest-clearance practices it deploys to produce the palm oil it then turns into biodiesel.
Further, the country has been accused of polluting the region’s air with toxic haze from its forest fires. The emissions-policy watchdog group Climate Action Tracker (CAT) deems Indonesia’s plans highly insufficient for meeting Paris Agreement goals.

The Philippines gets almost two-thirds of its total energy from oil and coal. The country did, however, recently announce a moratorium on new coal power, despite more than 5 million people in the Philippines still lacking electricity at home. Vietnam uses coal for more than half of its electricity generation and three-sevenths of its total energy, with fossil fuels cumulatively composing four-fifths of it. According to CAT, Vietnam “lacks policy action for a green economic recovery and has not focused efforts on emissions reductions.”
Led by Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, Southeast Asian electricity consumption will double by 2040, the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects. Though renewables will play a part in meeting new demand, much of it will be met by fossil-fuel sources, contributing to significant emissions increases.
If the three emerging ASEAN countries follow similar energy patterns to reach levels of development comparable to Malaysia’s and Thailand’s, it would mean a doubling of per capita emissions. Based on stated policy scenarios, IEA forecasts that emissions from the Southeast Asian region as a whole will rise from around 1,500 metric tons of CO2 in 2020 to over 2,300 metric tons by 2040 — an increase of more than 50 percent.

Full post

7) Petrol cars make a covid comeback, and that means burning more oil
Bloomberg, 29 April 2021

It’s starting to feel as commonplace as handwashing: To protect against Covid, people across the globe are skipping trains and buses. Instead, they’re part of the great car comeback that’s sending vehicle sales soaring and fueling a demand surge for oil and metals.
Julie Murataj is a reluctant part of the shift. Two of her three kids are now getting dropped off at school instead of taking public transit. Then she drives her Volvo SUV to work, where she helps London schoolchildren cross the road by halting traffic with a bright, red and yellow stop sign that Brits call a “lollipop.” It’s a front-row seat to the world’s changing travel habits.

After being stuck in their homes for so long, people are itching to get out again. It’s a boon to newly reopening economies, with consumers ready to start spending more at gas stations, convenience stores, restaurants, hotels and attractions. Daimler AG, BMW AG and Toyota Motor Corp. all started the year with sales at records, and things are so hot that used car prices in the U.S. are soaring to all-time highs.
The jump in vehicle sales is a strong sign that this is more than just a passing fad. Like the ubiquitous face mask, the car renaissance could be the latest example of how Covid-19 makes a lasting impact on our lives. The change could usher in an era of heavier traffic jams and longer commutes. All the extra driving will send gasoline consumption soaring, but with that also comes a rise in pollution. The increase in gasoline use that the International Energy Agency projects for this year alone would add as much as 1.5 billion pounds of carbon emissions per day....
Gasoline is the big winner

Profits from making the fuel are near seasonal five-year highs and are expected to stay strong as the Northern Hemisphere heads into summer driving season. U.S. refiner Valero Energy Corp. says gasoline sales are nearly at pre-pandemic levels, and the biggest bulls are predicting demand could hit a record. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects summer fuel prices to be the highest since 2018 this year.

The picture extends across the globe. BP Plc said this week that oil demand in China is back above pre-pandemic levels. In Europe, gauges of road congestion compiled by Bloomberg and covering 15 nations just posted their strongest reading in 10 weeks as the region emerges from another wave of the virus.
Full story 
8) Climate campaigners worry COP26 may be another flop 
The Daily Telegraph, 27 April 2021 
There are concerns that it may not be possible to hold the international climate summit (COP26) with all participants physically present due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with campaigners raising concerns that an online event will be less impactful.
Climate goals must be realistic, MPs have been told, as dire "last chance to save the world" warnings turn the public off.
Jamie Clarke, executive director of the charity Climate Outreach, said that previous climate conferences had been followed by a fall in public interest in the environment after world leaders failed to live up to expectations.
He told MPs on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee that more attention should be paid to social sciences in tailoring public information campaigns. It comes ahead of the COP26 climate conference, due to be hosted by the UK in Glasgow this November.
Mr Clarke said a previous occurrence of the UN conference, hosted in 2009, which was much-hyped but failed to deliver, offered a cautionary lesson to today's world leaders.
Mr Clarke said: "There is a fear, as has happened previously - COP15 in Copenhagen is probably the most salutary tale - when the public is engaged with COPs but is given a message that is unrealistic. "'This is the last chance to save the world' [was] quite prominent then, and then politicians don’t quite step up to that very high branch. We actually saw public concern plummet.
"If you create a deadline that is unrealistic, which we will not be able to actually achieve, you put it completely beyond the bounds of possibility - that doesn’t mean you can’t have a high bar, you should be aiming for a high bar - but it can’t be unrealistic.
"The climate crisis is very real, but if we give a one-stop shop, that this is now or never, then what happens afterwards?" [...]
There are concerns that it may not be possible to hold the international summit with all participants physically present due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with charities raising concerns that an online event will be less impactful.
Jamie Peters, of the environment charity Friends of the Earth, said video events lacked the "essential in-person meeting" and negotiator huddles that have been key to securing previous climate deals.
"If we can’t do a COP in person with full civil society participation, it should be delayed," he said.
The event was initially supposed to take place last year but was delayed due to Covid-19.
Full story 
9) Ross Clark: Boris Johnson's Blairite climate targets will kill off support for the Tories' green agenda
The Daily Telegraph, 29 April 2021

If the Government wants to avoid falling victim to a huge public backlash once the cost of its zero carbon promises become apparent, it should be setting realistic targets. That would not include a legally-binding commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by any particular date. 

A Conservative Prime Minister who has renounced his former climate change scepticism, toughened Britain’s targets for reducing carbon emissions and thrown every effort into promoting the great ecological beanfeast that is COP26, to be held in Glasgow in November – you would think that climate campaigners would be performing cartwheels. Yet far from it: their enthusiasm seems to be stuck in the ice age.  

Addressing the House of Commons select committee on Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on Tuesday, Jamie Clark, executive director of the charity Climate Outreach, warned that the Government risks repeating the errors made by previous administrations – hyping the event as the “last chance to save the world”, with the result that the public ends up taking it about as seriously as shoppers took the man who spent decades walking up and down Oxford Street with a sandwich board carrying the words “prepare to meet thy doom”. People remember that we only apparently had five years to save the Earth 15 years ago. The fact that we are still here – in spite of carbon emissions that have continued to rise – somewhat undermines the message.  

But it isn’t just the language; government policy itself is wrong. Besides being sceptical of climate change, the Prime Minister was once a strong critic of target culture. I should know, because as leader-writer on Johnson’s Spectator it was a regular part of my job to attack Tony Blair’s obsession with targets, pointing out, for example, that the target of having no-one wait in A&E for more than four hours had had the perverse outcome whereby some hospitals had redesignated corridors as "clinical assessment units".

Yet on climate change Johnson has eagerly adopted the Blair way of doing things. He reckons that by setting a legally-binding target like he did last week – for a 78 percent cut in emissions on 1990 levels by 2035 – it will provide an incentive for private enterprise and public bodies to make it happen. Somehow, the necessary technology will be invented and developed, and the public will be persuaded to change long-established habits. We will all conform, for example, to the Committee on Climate Change’s edict to eat less meat and dairy foods.

Yet you can’t simply assume that technology will come into being just because an incentive is created to invent it. In supporting targets for net zero, people often quote John F Kennedy’s audacious promise to put a man on the Moon by the end of the 1960s; they are less keen to remind us of Nasa’s promise later in that decade to put a man on Mars by 1980, or how 50 years ago we were supposedly on the brink of having unlimited quantities of virtually free energy thanks to nuclear fusion.

Sometimes technology surprises us on the upside – and sometimes it disappoints. No amount of target-setting can overcome physics. Will we be able to decarbonise steel and cement, on a commercial scale? Will we master carbon capture and storage to be practical and safe, so that the CO2 doesn’t leak out of underground chambers or wherever else it is stored? We don’t yet know. What should be obvious, on the other hand, is that we will not be able to achieve net-zero emissions without these technologies – at least not unless we are content with the Extinction Rebellion option, to reduce ourselves to pre-industrial poverty.

And of course, as with Blair’s targets, perverse outcomes are all too likely. We could reduce Britain’s carbon emissions, for example, by closing down all heavy industry and importing goods instead (indeed, it is only thanks to the drift of manufacturing to Asia that the Government is able to claim that UK carbon emissions have fallen by nearly half since 1990), but it won’t do the planet an iota of good. On the contrary, offshoring our emissions to less-regulated parts inevitably means a net rise in global emissions.

The public is generally supportive of efforts to reduce carbon emissions – yet not at any price. There is a vast gulf between the carbon-free future to which many people give their vague support and the personal sacrifices they are prepared to make in order to achieve this. If the Government wants to avoid falling victim to a huge public backlash once the cost of its zero carbon promises become apparent, it should be setting realistic targets. That would not include a legally-binding commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by any particular date – only an aspiration to do so if investment in the required technology pays off.

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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