Friday, October 22, 2021

Net Zero Watch: Nations to accelerate oil, coal and gas production over the next decade, UN discovers


In this newsletter:

1) Nations to accelerate oil, coal and gas production over the next decade, UN discovers
The Times, 20 October 2021


2) Why COP26 will flop: Coal continues to dominate global energy mix and will do so for decades to come
Bloomberg, 20 October 2021 

3) Coal set to be stumbling block at COP26 as China, India and others balk
Nikkei Asia, 19 October 2021

4) Putin won't attend UN climate summit -- [Is anyone relevant still attending the Glasgow talk fest?]
The Daily Telegraph, 20 October 2021

5) Roger Boyes: Why President Xi will never turn his back on King Coal
The Times, 20 October 2021 


6) Editorial: The West’s energy masochism
The Wall Street Journal, 20 October 2021

7) Welcome to Net Zero: Britons face MORE taxes, a 50% hike on their heating bills, paying £10k or more for a heat pump, up to £9k a wall for insulation - and owners of inefficient homes may struggle to get a mortgage
Daily Mail, 20 October 2021

8) Steve Baker: New plans for Net Zero are unrealistic at best, irresponsible at worst
The Times, 20 October 2021

9) Ross Clark: Boris Johnson's green gift for the rich
The Spectator, 20 October 2021 

10) Philip Johnston: Boris is courting political disaster by trying to guilt us into going green
The Daily Telegraph, 20 October 2021

Full details:

1) Nations to accelerate oil, coal and gas production over the next decade, UN discovers
The Times, 20 October 2021

Countries are planning to produce more than double the amount of oil, coal and gas over the next decade than can be used if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change, a UN report says.

It warns that production plans are “dangerously out of sync” with the Paris Agreement temperature limits.

It also says that the plans are inconsistent with pledges by countries to reach net-zero emissions by the middle of this century and says that climate targets must be matched by “concrete” action to reduce the production and burning of fossil fuels.

The UN Environment Programme (Unep) and research institutions examined the plans of 15 big fossil fuel-producing countries and found that they would collectively produce about 110 per cent more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5C, and 45 per cent more than consistent with 2C.

Governments’ plans and projections would lead to about 240 per cent more coal, 57 per cent more oil and 71 per cent more gas produced in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5C.

It says that India and Russia are planning to increase coal production by 2030 compared to 2019. Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and the US are planning to increase oil and gas production over the same period.

The UK and Indonesia are the only two countries assessed that are projecting declines in oil and gas production by 2030.

Full story


2) Why COP26 will flop: Coal continues to dominate global energy mix and will do so for decades to come
Bloomberg, 20 October 2021

Humanity remains deeply dependent on coal.

Never in human history has a ton of coal cost more. Governments and utilities across the globe are willing to pay record sums to literally keep the lights on. That's the bruising reality that global leaders must face at the high-stakes climate talks in Glasgow this month as hopes fade for a deal to end the world’s reliance on the dirtiest fuel.

The burning of coal represents the biggest single obstacle to meeting the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5C. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls it a “deadly addiction,” and COP26 president Alok Sharma has urged leaders to “consign coal to history.”

There’s been some progress already — the global pipeline of new coal-fired power plants has shrunk almost 70% since 2015. President Xi Jinping announced last month China will stop building coal-fired power plants abroad, while Germany now wants to end its use of coal by the end of this decade and more than 40 countries have committed to “no new coal.” Renewable-energy is expanding sharply.

But the dramatic rally in prices in recent weeks shows ever more clearly that it’s nowhere near enough. Humanity remains deeply dependent on coal.

For one thing, coal continues to dominate the world’s total electricity generation mix by a large margin. There are still more new coal plants being built than old ones switching off, and the International Energy Agency projects emissions from the power sector will reach a record in 2022 as coal-power use surges.

To meet the 1.5C target, emissions from coal need to drop this decade about twice as quickly as pollution from oil and gas, according to Carbon Brief analysis of global emissions-scenarios. For example, in one of dozens of potential pathways to achieving the target, coal emissions would need to fall by 79% from 2019 to 2030.

That’s a gargantuan challenge, made even more daunting given this year’s surging appetite for coal to generate electricity. A global power crunch and shortage of natural gas has driven up coal demand, sending prices soaring to records in nominal terms and squeezing supplies.

And while production has been constrained as the biggest mining companies retreat from coal under pressure from investors, the high prices are likely to attract private and smaller players who don’t face the same constraints, meaning there’s more coal available to burn.

Like almost every other aspect of the global economic story, coal demand in the past three decades has been a story about the rise of China. As the world’s manufacturing base moved east, so did the demand for cheap, easy-to-build power needed to fuel everything from steel plants to cities.

Since 1990, U.S. coal demand has halved, largely because power companies have turned to gas instead. European demand has dropped by almost two thirds. Yet these gains have been easily offset by China’s growth. Its consumption was roughly on par with the U.S. when the Cold War ended, but now stands at a stunning 87,638 terajoules, more than half the world’s total demand.

It’s not just China. India now burns more coal than Europe and the U.S combined and miners are betting on rising demand over the next decade from countries such as Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia, although pollution concerns and cheaper alternatives threaten to derail those plans.

Full story

3) Coal set to be stumbling block at COP26 as China, India and others balk
Nikkei Asia, 19 October 2021

TOKYO -- A split over the near-term use of coal power threatens international cooperation at the United Nations climate summit later this month, pitting European proponents of an early exit with China, India and other countries opposed to quitting.

The disagreement could stymie an accord at the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP26, even after warming scenarios outlined in a recent report underscored the increasingly urgent need to cut carbon emissions.

Preparations for the meeting come as energy prices soar on a combination of slowing fossil fuel investment and fears of a spike in demand during winter. The crunch has underscored European reliance on Russian natural gas and its shortage of renewable energy output.

The Group of Seven leading economies agreed in June to end international support for coal plants without carbon abatement, and G-7 member Japan, which had been funding new coal facilities in Southeast Asia, has said it will change course. Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged at last month's U.N. General Assembly session to stop building new coal-fired power plants overseas, in line with similar moves by other major economies.

But how to handle coal power at home poses another question....

Calls by the U.N. and COP26 chair London to abandon coal, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, have been met with less action than hoped.


When climate and energy ministers from the Group of 20 nations met in late July, chair Italy urged members to phase out coal use and fossil fuel subsidies. But others objected, including China, India and Russia, and the joint communique issued after the meeting did not go in-depth on these topics.

Full story

4) Putin won't attend UN climate summit -- [Is anyone relevant still attending the Glasgow talk fest?]
The Daily Telegraph, 20 October 2021

The Russian president's absence comes as attendance by other major world leaders also looks uncertain

President Vladimir Putin will not be attending the Cop26 climate conference in person, the Kremlin said on Wednesday, delivering a blow to hopes of a breakthrough international deal on climate change in Glasgow at the end of this month.


Mr Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the president would take part remotely, but the no-show by the leader of the world's fourth-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases is just the latest setback for the event, with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also uncertain to attend.


Before the Kremlin's announcement, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told investors on Tuesday there would be a good attendance at Cop26. "It looks like a lot of people are going to be able to come in person," he said.

Britain, which hosts the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or Cop26, in Glasgow from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, is seeking support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle global warming.

The Kremlin had previously announced that Putin would not attend a Group of 20 summit in Rome in person this month due to concerns about the Covid-19 pandemic.

"He will also not fly to Glasgow, unfortunately," Mr Peskov told reporters, saying other Russian representatives would go instead and Mr Putin would take part remotely.

Full story


5) Roger Boyes: Why President Xi will never turn his back on King Coal
The Times, 20 October 2021
China’s stocks are low and party chiefs face popular uprisings if they can’t keep the heating on


Coal is at the heart of Chinese civilisation. Fuxin in northeast China claims to be the site of the earliest coal excavation in the ancient world and became the largest open-pit mine in Asia. The communists under Mao Zedong turned Fuxin into coal city, central to the industrialisation and modernisation of the country. Primary school children sang songs praising doughty pit-workers, proletarian heroes who kept their classrooms heated.

President Xi, it seems, has no intention of coming to Glasgow to sign coal’s death warrant. His absence from Cop26 at the end of this month will be more than just an act of diplomatic brinkmanship (or as some have been suggesting, a Covid-era twitchiness about long-haul travel). It will signal defiant reluctance to let China be put in the dock as the world’s biggest polluter.

The apparent contradictions in China’s positions, marked by Beijing’s increasingly toxic addiction to the black stuff, will probably turn Glasgow into a flop. If China can’t commit to an accelerated path out of coal in this decade then why, ordinary punters may ask, should others take on added costs of converting households? Xi’s reluctance to grasp the biggest nettle of decarbonisation makes a nonsense out of modest personal sacrifice elsewhere.

The Chinese leader surely understands that to westerners he will look like a Grade A hypocrite. He promised at the Paris climate conference to reach peak coal use by 2030 and then ease towards net zero by 2060, allowing wind, solar and other renewables to pick up from coal.

As a concession — a “this is all we can do for you at the moment” gesture — he has added a pledge not to finance coal plants abroad.

Climate activists consider this gift to be not just profoundly conservative, but essentially a ruse, a way of making it look as if China is open to addressing global concerns about the continuing production of coal-fired plants without actually doing much about it at home.

They’re right. Anything that smacks of a Thatcher-like clash with mining communities and their powerful Communist Party protectors is regarded as taboo in the court of Xi.

There’s an awareness of middle-class urban discontent about air pollution and this gives Xi a constituency of sorts for pit closures. But it’s brittle support and it melts away as soon as there’s another wave of power cuts, when the lift stops working up to the eighth floor of an apartment block. Then the call goes up: Give our miners what they need! Keep the lights on!

Xi doesn’t have to bow to public opinion but he needs to tread carefully in a country that is trying to cling on to socialist heroic stereotypes while operating a near-market economy. Xi has to be the master of fudge.

For the time being he is busy undermining his own pledges. Because some pits have been closed, he is facing a shortage of fuel at the onset of winter, the precise moment this week when the central heating is turned on in apartment blocks.

Xi is having to face the reality that his economy is incredibly energy inefficient. Not only does China burn more coal than the rest of the world combined, it is also the second biggest oil-guzzler after the United States. Factories in China consume twice as much electricity as the rest of the country’s economy. And factories in China need between 10 and 30 per cent more energy than their western counterparts.

Yes, it is the dominant producer of clean energy technologies and raw materials for clean tech such as polysilicon for solar panels. Yet this embrace of the green — the wind, the sun, the hydroelectric dams and the natural gas — hasn’t been able to fill the gap left by even the most tentative of retreats from coal.

China’s biggest provinces have just under a fortnight’s stock of coal left and the global trading price for it is soaring. Result: mines are being reopened, even clapped-out ones. Banks have been ordered to dish out loans to coal producers. Street lamps are being switched off, lifts in provincial apartment buildings are grinding to a halt.

This is the transition period of course and most serious states, not only China, have been jittery about it. All the summer driving forces for Cop26 — the wildfires, the growing deserts and the floods — have given way to the winter preoccupation of energy security.

And Xi’s instinct is not to give in to demands to declare peak coal in 2025 rather than 2030 and thus speed China’s pace towards carbon neutrality. Rather he wants to head off any possible revolt from party bosses in the coal-mining provinces of the north. Xi seems to foresee a disruptive energy transition and fears the political risk.

All major participants in the Cop process have similar anxieties because bets placed now can quickly turn bad, perhaps even within a single electoral cycle, such is the speed of green technology advances.

President Biden also has to find a balance between the lofty aims of his clean energy programme and the stubborn opposition of coal-producing states such as West Virginia. For a dictator like Xi, though, the nightmare is more complex. As a child his life was turned upside down by the Mao-era Cultural Revolution. If he cuts coal subsidies, closes collieries, he could soon face street protests by miners, the salt of the proletarian earth, denouncing Xi for betraying the legacy of Mao.

Politics would become dangerously personal.

6) Editorial: The West’s energy masochism
The Wall Street Journal, 20 October 2021

Europe’s willingness to harm itself in the name of unachievable climate goals is one of the greatest acts of democratic self-sabotage in history.

With winter fast approaching, Europe finds itself in an energy crisis—and reliant on the tender mercies of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. It’s a self-induced disaster years in the making.

European energy prices are up more than five times from a year ago, as Asian consumption has risen and supply has tightened around the world. Russia supplies about half of the Continent’s natural gas, which heats homes and powers industry. While Moscow is fulfilling long-term contracts, it is refusing significant spot gas sales.

Mr. Putin said last week that his country is supplying as much gas as possible, but International Energy Agency chief Fatih Birol estimated this month that Russia could boost exports to Europe by 15%. Several Russian officials have made clear that political concessions would ease the crisis.

“Change adversary to partner and things get resolved easier,” Vladimir Chizhov, the Russian ambassador to the European Union, said this month. “When the EU finds enough political will to do this, they will know where to find us.”

Other Kremlin officials, including Mr. Putin, have hinted that providing regulatory approval for the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Europe would help ease the crisis. Moscow wants the pipeline to deepen Europe’s energy dependence on Russia, as well as deprive Ukraine of lucrative gas transit fees it collects from current gas pipelines.

Konstantin Kosachev, an influential Russian legislator, recently told Bloomberg that “we cannot ride to the rescue just to compensate for mistakes that we didn’t commit.” Give him credit for thuggish honesty.

European leaders have handicapped themselves on energy in the name of pursuing a climate agenda that will have no effect on the climate but is raising energy prices, harming consumers and industry, and is now empowering the bullies in the Kremlin.

The U.K. and EU have pledged net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, closing coal plants and pouring billions into solar and wind projects. Germany and several other European countries have largely banned fracking. This has transformed European leaders into the equivalent of 16th-century naval explorers, praying for favorable winds and weather as energy prices rise and fall depending on cloud cover and wind conditions.

Germany also hurt itself when Chancellor Angela Merkel chose to eliminate nuclear power in an overreaction to the 2011 Fukushima accident. Germany will phase out its final nuclear station next year. The European Commission is now debating whether to classify nuclear as a sustainable energy source, which could lower financing costs for nuclear projects. But Germany is opposed.

Europe’s willingness to harm itself in the name of unachievable climate goals is one of the greatest acts of democratic self-sabotage in history. Yet Europe’s leaders are heading to the global climate confab next month in Glasgow to increase their energy masochism. And America’s President Biden is eager to join them in abandoning energy security. Mr. Putin must be amazed at his strategic luck.

7) Welcome to Net Zero: Britons face MORE taxes, a 50% hike on their heating bills, paying £10k or more for a heat pump, up to £9k a wall for insulation - and owners of inefficient homes may struggle to get a mortgage
Daily Mail, 20 October 2021

Boris Johnson gambled on turning Britain green – despite fears the bill could hit more than £1trillion. Treasury is warning that sprint to go green has hefty price tag and could lead to inflation and higher taxes. Heating bills are likely to rise – possibly by more than 50 per cent – as households ditch gas boilers


Boris Johnson yesterday unveiled his plan for turning Britain green by 2050 - but was warned by the Treasury that taxes and consumer costs could rise to cover the estimated £1trillion bill.

The PM has published the most detailed proposals yet for how the country will achieve the Net Zero ambition and contribute to the fight against climate change, rejecting alarm at the potential costs to families and businesses hit hard by the Covid pandemic.

But the Treasury is already warning that the sprint to go green has a hefty price tag - and could lead to inflation and higher taxes.

It estimates that carbon reduction targets will cost £60billion a year in capital costs alone.

Heating bills are likely to rise - possibly by more than 50 per cent - as households are forced to ditch gas boilers.

The Treasury also warned that, with fuel duty alone raising more than £30 billion a year, new taxes such as road pricing would soon have to replace existing levies on carbon - a move currently being resisted by the PM.

Meanwhile, first-time buyers of poorly-insulated homes may struggle to get a mortgage under government proposals to make the housing stock greener, as mortgage lenders would have to disclose the energy performance of properties in their portfolio - and set themselves voluntary targets to improve the insulation of their houses.

And official plans to replace traditional gas boilers with heat pumps came under fire as critics said a £5,000 grant for homeowners to install air or ground heat pumps are little more than a 'middle-class bung' for people who were going to switch to the technology anyway.

Rishi Sunak's department delivered a stark warning about the burden, saying the transition will have 'material fiscal consequences'.

Full story


8) Steve Baker: New plans for Net Zero are unrealistic at best, irresponsible at worst
The Times, 20 October 2021

Yesterday, months behind schedule, the government’s strategy for decarbonising the nation’s homes finally appeared. The long wait is understandable though - it is widely recognised that bringing the UK’s housing stock to net zero carbon emissions will be difficult and eye-wateringly expensive.

That’s because the only relevant net zero technology that is at hand is the electric heat pump, which carries a price tag of well over £10,000 once you have added in the bill for installation and the necessary upgrades to plumbing and radiators.

On top of that, most homes will also need much higher standards of insulation, adding thousands of pounds more. It’s little wonder that some estimates of the cost to the country run into the trillions of pounds.

Presenting voters with bills on that scale is politically tricky – hence the delay, and hence also why the strategy itself contains little new thinking. The headline is the decision to incentivise householders with their own money by offering grants for heat pumps. But it seems unlikely that many people will be tempted.

If the choice is between a £2,000 gas boiler and £20,000 for a heat pump system, a £5,000 grant will change few minds, particularly as the public is quickly learning that heat pumps are not all they are cracked up to be: they don’t keep your home as warm as a boiler and they are noisier and more expensive to run.

That cost differential is only going to increase. Despite claims from the industry and Whitehall, the financial accounts of wind farms – both offshore and onshore – show unequivocally that there has been no cost revolution; the power produced by our very latest wind farms is only marginally lower cost than those of ten years ago.

That means the steady increase in retail electricity prices that has taken place since we started to go green 20 years ago will continue long into the future and the cost of running a heat pump will rise too.

What is worse is the failure of successive governments to address the central difficulty with the net zero plan which makes heat pumps potentially disastrous. That difficulty is the intermittency of wind farms, which are meant to provide the vast majority of our energy in 2050.

In the future, low wind speeds will mean no electricity supply unless someone can come up with a way to store huge quantities of energy in times of surplus.

All the technologies we have at the moment are either far too expensive — like hydrogen, or batteries — or they cannot be delivered at the required scale, like pumped hydro.

That means when we reach a long lull in the wind in the 2050s (or sooner), electricity will have to be rationed. Heat pumps and electric vehicle chargers are bound to be the main concern. Soon we must ask how that rationing will be done when the wind doesn’t blow and how our everyday lives will be affected.

But such concerns seem to mean little to those who are making policy. As far as they are concerned, the country is going to go headlong for net zero, regardless of the cost and regardless of the pain caused.

They must, however, hope and pray that the costs will come down and that someone will invent something to deal with the problems. It’s a strange way to run a country.

Steve Baker is MP for Wycombe and a trustee of the Global warming Policy Foundation (GWPF)

9) Ross Clark: Boris Johnson's green gift for the rich
The Spectator, 20 October 2021

Who does the government think will be the 90,000 lucky people who succeed in pocketing £5,000 grants to replace their gas boilers with heat pumps? Just-about-managing homeowners in ‘Red Wall’ seats who strained every sinew to buy a draughty two up, two down – or well-off homeowners with nice period houses, lots of capital and three cars on the drive?

Here’s a little clue: even taking into account the £5,000 grant it will still cost upwards of £5,000 to install the heat pump itself, plus another £10,000 for insulation and to install larger radiators – so it is really not an option for the first group. As for the second, they are bound to lap up those grants, just as they have every other environmental handout on offer.

It is always the same with green grants. Bungs to install photovoltaic panels introduced over a decade ago went to homeowners with £10,000 to invest. Thanks to the inflated prices which power providers are obliged to pay for the electricity generated by early adopters, those PV panels have become assets now paying risk-free returns of upwards of 10 per cent a year, index-linked to the Retail Prices Index.

It was the same with huge subsidies paid to homeowners to install biomass boilers – pieces of kit which are only suitable for large properties. And it happened, too, with grants for electric vehicles, which have been eagerly taken up by eco-conscious, well-off motorists who wanted to treat themselves to a second or third car. This is not to mention the fortunes which have been made by landowners with the space to install wind farms and solar farms.

But guess who pays? Most of these bungs are added to the utility bills of people who can’t afford to generate their own electricity – according to Ofgem, 25 per cent of our electricity bills are currently accounted for by environmental and social levies. It would be a little fairer if the costs were met out of general taxation, which tends to be progressive, but most come in the form of regressive taxes. With electric vehicles, the situation is even less fair: while buyers of new electric cars enjoy grants of £3,500, owners of older vehicles are now being singled out for stiff daily charges in low emissions zones.

Green incentives have long been a racket, a machine designed to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich.


Normally, there would be outrage at such a system. But when it comes to anything green, the usual rules seem to go out of the window. Indeed, many on the left, who you might think would be especially offended at the inverse redistribution of wealth, spend time demanding even more green levies and subsidies. Don’t expect much in the way of objection from Labour against the heat pump grants – only a mild complaint that new gas boilers won’t be banned at an earlier date.


10) Philip Johnston: Boris is courting political disaster by trying to guilt us into going green
The Daily Telegraph, 20 October 2021

If ever there was a slow motion political car crash unfolding before our very eyes, it is Boris Johnson’s drive towards a zero-carbon future. Over the past 30 years or so, it has become customary to liken any similarly looming fiasco to the Poll Tax, but this will make the public backlash to the rates replacement pale into insignificance.


It, too, involves saddling millions of households with additional expenditure for unknowable benefits in an unfair way. Proponents may argue that this is justified to save the planet; but if the world’s worst polluters are just carrying on regardless then our sacrifice is pointless. Moreover, if we are merely outsourcing our own CO2 emissions to other countries – such as China and India – through imports it is also hypocritical.

Aware that such arguments will be made, our political leaders are now resorting to moral blackmail. Yes, net zero by 2050 may be expensive to achieve and yes, we will have to cough up to replace our cars/ boilers/ cladding/ insulation etc (although we cannot say precisely how much). But what we must accept is that we are the primogenitors of global warming, so it is only right that we pay the price.

Original sin rests with us, apparently, and can be located specifically at Ironbridge in Shropshire. This Unesco World Heritage site is visited by many thousands of tourists every year because it is where the Industrial Revolution began – an achievement that we regarded until recently as something to be proud of, but which is now a badge of shame, apparently.

The Climate Change Committee which advises the Government says our “historical contribution” to warming and the fact that the Industrial Revolution made us wealthy obliges us to make amends, even though we would still be tilling the land without it. This self-flagellation may go down well among the zealots of environmentalism but good luck turning it into a political slogan.

Boris Johnson, speaking to a Global Investment Forum in London, tried his best, reaching for his inner Gordon Gecko to declare that Green is Good. He invoked the UK’s record as a polluter, saying that we have a responsibility to set an example because we “knitted the deadly tea cosy of CO2 now driving climate change”, which must have troubled the interpreters.

An absolute essential for any government pursuing a policy carrying such enormous costs and implications is that it has to bring the country along with it. That requires a compelling argument to be made for its achievement, a realistic timetable for doing so and widespread acceptance that it will make a difference and is not just being done for show or bragging rights at a summit.

Campaigners say the first is met by the climate change “emergency”. Without reducing emissions to net zero by 2050, a warming “tipping point” will be reached. Whether or not you agree with the science is neither here nor there since most governments accept it to be true and are planning accordingly. But whether the timetable is realistic is another matter, not least what happens during the transition. The UK is committed to earlier deadlines than most, with the sale of new petrol and diesel cars banned from 2030 and gas boilers outlawed in new homes from 2035.

These monumental changes are supposed to happen within the same space of time it takes a child to go through school, and the danger with such expedited deadlines is that wrong choices are made.

For instance, the pressure is on people to switch to heat pumps as gas boilers are phased out. These cost upwards of £10,000 and ground-source pumps require a lot of outside space that most people don’t have. The economics of running heat pumps once installed are good but the problem is in the interim. There is no certainty that the skills and labour are available to do the work – unlike the last time such a massive infrastructure project was undertaken with the conversion of 22 million homes to North Sea gas between 1968 and 1974.

The UK now has 28 million homes, most of which will need improvements to achieve net zero by 2050. This requires retrofitting existing houses and building energy-efficient new ones at an estimated cost of £525 billion by 2040, including £168 billion of government investment, or £18,750 per home.

But is this the right way forward in any case? Proponents say hydrogen boilers are the best mass solution for existing homes, with low consumer impact. Households would experience little disruption to their supplies and their radiators can remain in place. The problem for a Government anxious to charge forward is that the technology is still being tested, although the industry says it is viable.

Mr Johnson made much yesterday about the importance of market-driven solutions, so why are we being pushed in one direction with £5,000 bribes to opt for heat pumps? Is it because they can be installed more quickly and therefore reach the target faster?

Surely what matters is whether we plump for the right solution, not the one that allows artificial deadlines to be set by politicians who will not be around when the consequences become apparent. The installation of a new boiler will for many be a major investment and the idea that they are being compelled to make the wrong choice is deeply worrying. Since the main barrier to hydrogen is the cost of replacing the existing gas pipe supply network, this is something the Government needs to get behind. Mr Johnson says hydrogen is part of the solution along with new nuclear power plants, but does anyone seriously see this happening in the next 15 years?

If one thing is certain it is that in the short to medium term, this is all going to be extremely costly and the bills will be paid by you and me. In many cases they will be considerable. Eventually, of course, market forces and scientific advancement will create a green world of affordable electric (or hydrogen) cars and well-insulated homes heated by eco-friendly technologies, backed up by all the necessary infrastructure.

That is the utopia of which the PM dreams. It is getting there, and the costs of doing so, where his real problems lie. Telling us all to grin and bear it because we are the true begetters of climate change is a suicidal political strategy.

The London-based Net Zero Watch is a campaign group set up to highlight and discuss the serious implications of expensive and poorly considered climate change policies. The Net Zero Watch newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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