Monday, February 12, 2024

Net Zero Watch: Germany's Green Suicide


In this newsletter:

1) Germany's days as an industrial superpower are coming to an end
Bloomberg, 10 February 2024

2) Britain’s Labour Party moves right on climate
The Wall Street Journal, 9 February 2024

3) Latest U-turn: Labour drops plan to backdate UK windfall tax on oil and gas
Financial Times, 9 February 2024 
4) Labour's windfall tax could see 42,000 oil and gas jobs lost, industry warns
STV News, 9 February 2024
5) Ed Miliband loses, again
The Spectator, 8 February 2024
6) Rees-Mogg urges Sunak to ‘take leaf out of Starmer’s book’ by slashing green pledges
The Daily Telegraph, 9 February 2024 
7) Rishi Sunak's watering down of Net Zero targets has spared the UK from riots blighting other parts of Europe, Cabinet minister suggests
Daily Mail, 7 February 2024
8) EU Parliament groups clash on 2040 climate goal, in post-election preview
EurActiv, 10 February 2024
9) Germany’s ESG swindle: 36% of ESG funds invest in coal, 55% in oil and gas
Die Zeit, 7 February 2024 
10) Germany likely to kill EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Law
Forbes, 7 February 2024
11) Charles Moore: The political class is only just realising that voters prefer prosperity over climate jingoism
The Daily Telegraph, 10 February 2024
12) Joseph C Sternberg: Net Zero becomes all dissonance and no cognition
The Wall Street Journal, 8 February 2024
13) False Equivalence: Making sense of Michael Mann's resounding defamation victory
The Honest Broker, 9 February 2024

Full details:

1) Germany's days as an industrial superpower are coming to an end
Bloomberg, 10 February 2024


As political paralysis grips Berlin, the energy crisis was the final blow for a growing number of manufacturers
In a cavernous production hall in Düsseldorf last fall, the somber tones of a horn player accompanied the final act of a century-old factory.
Amid the flickering of flares and torches, many of the 1,600 people losing their jobs stood stone-faced as the glowing metal of the plant’s last product — a steel pipe — was smoothed to a perfect cylinder on a rolling mill. The ceremony ended a 124-year run that began in the heyday of German industrialization and weathered two world wars, but couldn’t survive the aftermath of the energy crisis.
There have been numerous iterations of such finales over the past year, underscoring the painful reality facing Germany: its days as an industrial superpower may be coming to an end. Manufacturing output in Europe’s biggest economy has been trending downward since 2017, and the decline is accelerating as competitiveness erodes.
“There’s not a lot of hope, if I’m honest,” said Stefan Klebert, chief executive officer of GEA Group AG — a supplier of manufacturing machinery that traces its roots to the late 1800s. “I am really uncertain that we can halt this trend. Many things would have to change very quickly.”
The underpinnings of Germany’s industrial machine have fallen like dominoes. The US is drifting away from Europe and is seeking to compete with its transatlantic allies for climate investment. China is becoming a bigger rival and is no longer an insatiable buyer of German goods. The final blow for some heavy manufacturers was the end of huge volumes of cheap Russian natural gas.


Alongside global volatility, political paralysis in Berlin is intensifying long-standing domestic issues such as creaking infrastructure, an aging workforce and the snarl of red tape. The education system, once a strength, is emblematic of a long-term lack of investment in public services. The Ifo research institute estimates that declining math skills will cost the economy about €14 trillion ($15 trillion) in output by the end of the century.
In some cases, the industrial downshift is taking place in small steps like scaling back expansion and investment plans. Others are more evident like shifting production lines and trimming staff. In extreme instances — like Vallourec SACA’s pipe plant, once part of fallen industrial giant Mannesmann — the consequence is permanent closure.
“The shock was huge,” said Wolfgang Freitag, who worked at the plant since he was a teenager. The 59-year-old’s job now is to disassemble equipment for sale and help his old colleagues find new work.
Germany still has an enviable roster of small, agile manufacturers, and the Bundesbank and others reject the notion that full-blown deindustrialization is anywhere close. But with reforms stalled, it’s unclear what will slow the decline.
“We are no longer competitive,” Finance Minister Christian Lindner said at a Bloomberg event earlier this month. “We are getting poorer because we have no growth. We are falling behind.”
Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s fractious coalition was thrown into further disarray in mid-November by a budget crisis sparked by a court ruling over borrowing measures, leaving the government with little leeway to invest.
“You don’t have to be a pessimist to say that what we’re doing at the moment won’t be enough,” said Volker Treier, foreign trade chief at Germany’s Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
“The speed of structural change is dizzying.”
Frustration is widespread. Although hundreds of thousands of people have hit the streets in recent weeks to protest against far-right extremism, the anti-immigration Alternative für Deutschland, or AfD, is ahead of all three ruling parties in the polls — trailing only the conservative bloc. Scholz’s Social Democrat-led alliance has support from 34% of voters, according to a Spiegel analysis of recent surveys.
Fading industrial competitiveness threatens to plunge Germany into a downward spiral, according to Maria Röttger, head of northern Europe for Michelin. The French tiremaker is shutting two of its German plants and downsizing a third by the end of 2025 in a move that will affect more than 1,500 workers. US rival Goodyear has similar plans for two facilities.
“Despite the motivation of our employees, we have arrived at a point where we can’t export truck tires from Germany at competitive prices,” she said in an interview. “If Germany can’t export competitively in the international context, the country loses one of its biggest strengths.”
Other examples of decline surface regularly. GEA is closing a pump factory near Mainz in favor of a newer site in Poland. Auto-parts maker Continental AG announced plans in July to abandon a plant that makes components for safety and brake systems. Rival Robert Bosch GmbH is in the process of slashing thousands of workers.
The energy crisis in the summer of 2022 was a major catalyst. While worst-case scenarios like freezing homes and rationing were avoided, prices remain higher than in other economies, which adds to costs from higher wages and regulatory complexity.



One of the hardest-hit sectors has been chemicals — a direct result of Germany’s loss of cheap Russian gas. With the transition to clean hydrogen still uncertain, nearly one in 10 companies are planning to permanently halt production processes, according to a recent survey by the VCI industry association. BASF SE, Europe’s biggest chemical producer, is cutting 2,600 jobs and Lanxess AG is reducing staff by 7%.
Germany’s sluggish bureaucracy also isn’t keeping pace, even when companies are prepared to invest. GEA installed solar capacity at a factory in the western German town of Oelde, where it makes equipment that can separate cream from milk. It applied for permits to feed in the power last January, two months before starting construction and is still waiting for approval — nearly two years after initiating the project.
Full story
Nobody should say they weren’t warned...

Fritz Vahrenholt: Germany’s Energiewende – A disaster in the making (pdf)

2) Britain’s Labour Party moves right on climate
The Wall Street Journal, 9 February 2024

Politicians these days are tripping over themselves to abandon net-zero climate policies, and the latest is Britain’s prospective next Prime Minister, Keir Starmer. The leader of the center-left Labour Party on Thursday abandoned a signature climate pledge for fear it could scare voters ahead of an election expected this year.
Mr. Starmer ditched a promise to spend £28 billion ($35.3 billion) a year on climate measures if Labour takes power. Labour leaders scaled back the promise last year when they said they’d ramp up to that level of spending gradually rather than opening the money faucet immediately. Now they say they won’t spend it at all.
Some party leaders have believed that promising an aggressive transition to net-zero carbon emissions is part of Labour’s path to victory. This might be true in some urban precincts and among the culturally left-leaning and younger cohorts in the Labour base.
But Mr. Starmer and cooler heads in the party realized many more swing voters would be turned off by a spending pledge in support of policies that threaten jobs in manufacturing and the North Sea oil patch. They also seem to suspect that British taxpayers, already paying a postwar high of 36% of GDP in taxes, wouldn’t tolerate higher levies for climate action.
Abandoning net zero isn’t easy for Mr. Starmer, since the media and political class have spent years promoting climate change as a crisis. He faces pressure to devise some alternative climate plan. If that relies on expensive mandates for households or businesses, the costs to the British economy could be larger than the £28 billion in direct taxpayer cash he has now abandoned.
A similar dilemma afflicts the ruling Conservative Party. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak scaled back an electric-vehicle mandate and abandoned an effective tax on natural-gas boilers used by homes for central heating and hot water. Yet political pressure, including from green Tories, has prevented Mr. Sunak from admitting openly that net-zero is a foolish goal for an industrial economy. So a bevy of other distorting subsidies and regulations remain.
Still, politicians have to start somewhere. Credit Mr. Starmer for staring down the green faction in his party and focusing instead on making his party a plausible alternative to the Tories, which voters seem to want.
3) Latest U-turn: Labour drops plan to backdate UK windfall tax on oil and gas
Financial Times, 9 February 2024


Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, has dropped plans to backdate the windfall tax on oil and gas producers to the start of 2022 if the party wins the next general election, in a further recasting of the party’s green agenda. 
But that limited concession to the energy sector did little to assuage anger in the industry over Starmer’s plans to instead extend the lifetime of the levy by two years until 2029.
Full story
4) Labour's windfall tax could see 42,000 oil and gas jobs lost, industry warns
STV News, 9 February 2024


Sir Keir Starmer has been criticised over the 'proper windfall tax' which would see an energy profits levy of 78%.
Labour plans to extend the windfall tax on UK oil and gas producers could lead to 42,000 jobs and £26bn of economic value being wiped out, the offshore energy industry has warned.
The party published plans for a “proper” windfall tax earlier in the week which would see the energy profits levy for North Sea companies rising to 78%.
Labour said the move, which would bring the country in line with Norway, would “end the loopholes in the levy that funnel billions back to the oil and gas giants”.
Offshore Energies UK, the trade body for the sector, has asked for an urgent meeting with the Labour leadership following the plans being announced.
OEUK chief executive David Whitehouse said: “Labour either can’t do the maths or haven’t considered the alarming jobs impact that will be felt up and down the country.
“With no new investment, 42,000 jobs will go, and we could start to see the effects as early as this year. 
“These are not faceless numbers but decent, hardworking people working across the UK to provide the energy we will need today and in the future.  
“The impact of no new investment will be felt across the whole economy – today we estimate the UK will lose £26bn of economic value. It will undermine the very industry which can and must play a critical role in delivering a homegrown energy transition.  
Full story
5) Ed Miliband loses, again
The Spectator, 8 February 2024


Oh dear. It seems that the iron law of British politics has held true once again: everything Ed Miliband touches, he breaks. 
Whether it is the botched Falkirk reforms or gaffes as shadow business secretary, the infamous ‘Edstone’ or even eating a bacon sandwich, the hapless wonk can never seem to do anything right. And a perfect example of that has been Labour’s rows over the £28 billion for a much-trumpeted ‘green new deal’.
For after 18 months of flip-flopping, Sir Keir Starmer has today decided to ditch his flagship policy, in an apparent victory for Rachel Reeves and the Shadow Treasury team. This is despite furious opposition from Miliband, who, as shadow energy secretary, tweeted just seven months ago that:
“Some people don’t want Britain to borrow to invest in the green economy. They want us to back down. But Keir, Rachel and I will never let that happen. Britain needs this £28bn a year plan and that is what we are committed to.”
So much for ‘never’ letting that happen. Perhaps poor Ed should have carved his commitment in stone?
6) Rees-Mogg urges Sunak to ‘take leaf out of Starmer’s book’ by slashing green pledges
The Daily Telegraph, 9 February 2024


Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg has urged Rishi Sunak to “take a leaf out of Starmer’s book” and roll back further on green policies after the Labour leader slashed his £28 billion green pledge.
On Thursday, Sir Keir Starmer announced that Labour’s flagship clean energy policy has been downgraded to just £4.7 billion per year in a significant about-turn.
Speaking on his GB News show on Thursday night, Sir Jacob said: “Surely if even Keir Starmer can abandon a signature net zero pledge of his, doesn’t this mean that Rishi Sunak can go farther in rolling back the costly green policies already in place?
He said the Prime Minister “should take a leaf out of Sir Keir Starmer’s book and roll back the green agenda even further”.
In September, Mr Sunak announced that he was rolling back environmental policies to make them more affordable for working people, while still being committed to the 2050 net zero target.
He pushed back the ban of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030 and 2035, and gave people “more time” to replace their gas boilers with heat pumps. He also delayed the oil boiler ban from 2026 to 2035.
The Conservatives continue to be split over net zero. In December, the Prime Minister suffered a significant defeat in the Commons on plans for quotas for electric car sales.
He is set to face another mutiny within the next few weeks over plans to fine boiler companies that do not hit sales targets for heat pumps.
Sir Jacob, a former business secretary, said Labour’s move could allow Mr Sunak to go further, adding: “We know that net zero is seriously harming our industry ... We know that boiler companies have already begun increasing costs in anticipation of a ‘boiler tax’, which we hope is going to be scrapped.
“We know that green energy is unreliable, and the technology simply isn’t yet ready and we know that electric cars don’t work that well, particularly when it’s cold, which is why people aren’t buying them.”
7) Rishi Sunak's watering down of Net Zero targets has spared the UK from riots blighting other parts of Europe, Cabinet minister suggests
Daily Mail, 7 February 2024

Rishi Sunak’s decision to ease back on Net Zero targets has spared the country from riots blighting other parts of Europe, a Cabinet minister has suggested.

Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho said the Prime Minister has been acting to 'protect consensus' in the UK by keeping the public on board.
European cities have been hit with demonstrations over tough climate rules recently, including farmers targeting the European Parliament last week.
Ms Coutinho claimed 'clumsy policies' were to blame for the unrest.
She compared that to the UK, where significant progress had been achieved 'while also making sure we protect a consensus around the agenda in this country'.
'That is not happening in every European country,' she told the Politico website.
'Where you see riots and protest happening across Europe, I think that's because people are pursuing clumsy policies which the public feel are not in their interests,' she said.
'We do have to be careful in this area, and we need to make sure that we're helping people to get there.'
Ms Coutinho said that 'if we are going to have this agenda for decades, we need to protect a consensus'.
'People need to feel a sense of optimism about it, that it's going to be positive for them and their local areas, that it's going to bring jobs to this country, that it's going to improve their household finances,' she added.
Full story
8) EU Parliament groups clash on 2040 climate goal, in post-election preview
EurActiv, 10 February 2024
Political groups in the European Parliament have offered radically opposing views on the EU’s recommended climate objective for 2040 this week, in a foretaste of debates to come after the June EU election.
For several months, opinion polls have all pointed in the same direction: The European Parliament is set to make a sharp turn to the right after the 2024 elections, with far-right and nationalist parties expected to make big gains at the expense of the Greens, leftists, and liberals.
In other words, the “Green wave” that swept through Parliament after the last EU election, paving the way for the European Green Deal in 2019, is set to come crashing down and recede five years later.
What could this mean for the EU’s climate policies?
The EU got a foretaste earlier this week when MEPs debated the European Commission’s recommended climate target for 2040 – a 90% cut in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels.
Here’s a round-up of what they said.
Nationalists and far-right
Taking the floor at the Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg, hardline conservative and far-right groups warned about the social consequences and risk of de-industrialisation associated with higher EU climate goals.
Speaking on behalf of the nationalist ECR group, Czech MEP Alexandr Vondra called out the EU’s “unrealistic ambition” to cut emissions by 90%.
“But the main issue in the climate plan for 2040 lies elsewhere,” he said. “It’s the effort to force people to have a different lifestyle, to restrict their freedom of choice.”
The Parliament debate took place amid protests from farmers who stood outside the building in Strasbourg while MEPs watched EU Climate Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra present his recommended climate target for 2040.
“Have you informed your electorate about this? Have you been open about your plans, of what their lives would look like if you really do this? Have you told farmers and the people that energy, transport, housing, meat and other basic foodstuffs will be more expensive?” the Czech MEP said.
“How far do you want to go, and how far do you want to try their patience?” Vondra asked Hoekstra, who sat in the first rank of the hemicycle after his presentation to listen to successive speeches from MEPs.
“I think it’s a serious risk to make such a proposal before the elections, without knowing the real socio and economic impact,” Vondra warned.
Vondra’s warning is not to be taken lightly. His political group, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), is expected to grow its number of seats to 80 after the June election, up from 62 seats in the current Parliament, according to the latest projections in mid-January.
The far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) group, for its part, is expected to grow from 73 seats in the current Parliament to 93 seats after the EU elections.
They were represented in Strasbourg by Sylvia Limmer, a lawmaker from Germany’s AfD party, who warned against the economic consequences of setting ever-higher emissions reduction targets at EU level.
“Look at my own country, the ‘green champion’ Germany. De-industrialisation is progressing happily because companies can’t afford the highest electricity prices around the world,” she exclaimed.
And even though Germany’s share of renewables is nominally at 36.8% on paper, “on many days more than 90% of electricity is generated by coal, oil, and gas” because there is no wind or sun, she snarked.
Meanwhile, the EU’s wealth has decreased to reach 14.3% of global GDP, while emerging economies from the BRIC countries “enjoy rising CO2 levels and rising a rising share of global GDP at 32%,” Limmer pointed out.
“The green red policies are just pretty much the worst economic meltdown that we’ve seen in the history of the EU,” she concluded.
Full story
9) Germany’s ESG swindle: 36% of ESG funds invest in coal, 55% in oil and gas
Die Zeit, 7 February 2024
Hundreds of ESG funds approved in Germany present a green image. And at the same time invest in the expansion of coal, oil and gas. How can that be?
A name is a promise. And sometimes this promise sounds so good that you don't even take a closer look. For example, if you invest in a fund called “Allianz Stiftungsfonds Sustainability”. 130 million euros in fund assets, low risk of loss. No tobacco production, no sales of controversial weapons. Sounds good at first. But the last half-yearly report reveals: The fund, which promotes sustainability in its name, also invests in BP, Shell, TotalEnergies, Eni and Equinor. Corporations that produce oil and gas worldwide.
Sustainability is a best seller. From 2020 to 2021, the total amount of sustainable investments in Germany increased by 65 percent, shows the market report from the FNG trade association. From 2021 to 2022 by a further 15 percent. Sustainability sells. But what's behind it? Anyone who wants to invest their money in the financial market today will quickly end up with the abbreviation ESG. It stands for the English terms Environment, Social and Governance. This refers to the criteria of environmental, social and good corporate governance. Anyone who takes them into account when selecting stocks and bonds can speak of a sustainable investment. But securities often don't keep what their label promises.
New data shows: The Allianz Sustainability Foundation Fund is not an isolated case. The Urgewald organization has evaluated 2,168 investment funds approved in Germany that are described as sustainable. Including all of the four largest main providers DWS, Union Investment, Allianz and Deka. The results are available exclusively to ZEIT. 36 percent of all ESG funds examined invest in at least one coal company, 55 percent in at least one oil and gas company. These include many funds that have phrases such as “Clean Energy”, “Carbon Transition”, “Low Carbon”, “Sustainability” or even “Climate” in their names.
Full story (in German)
10) Germany likely to kill EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Law
Forbes, 7 February 2024


Since 2022, the European Union has been developing new regulations relating to the responsibilities of corporations for environmental and human rights concerns. The Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive expands businesses’ liability, not only in their internal operations, but also in their subsidiaries and value chain. The final draft of the CS3D was released on January 20, but requires final approval by the European Parliament, European Commission, and the European Council. However, the approval appears to be meeting strong resistance from Germany, who have indicated they will abstain from CS3D, most likely killing the proposal in the Council vote on February 9.
The CS3D is part of a series of regulatory actions taken by the EU to address climate change and broader environmental, social, and governance issues. The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive created ESG reporting obligations for both publicly traded and privately held businesses in the EU. The directive called for the creation of European Sustainability Reporting Standards, the detailed processes used by businesses to report under the CSRD. The drafting of the ESRS was delegated to the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group. The first round of ESRS standards were adopted in July 2023, but the adoption of additional standards soon met delays as opposition to the reporting burden on small and medium sized enterprises grew. […]
The delay could be more than a temporary setback for the CS3D. The 2024 European Parliament election is scheduled for the beginning of June. Sustainability advocates are concerned that the composure of the body may change on this issue, removing majority support for both the CS3D and the CSRD.
Full story
11) Charles Moore: The political class is only just realising that voters prefer prosperity over climate jingoism
The Daily Telegraph, 10 February 2024


Labour’s green U-turn reflects the shifting sands of climate policy
If you want to see how the politics of climate change are shifting, compare today with late 2009. In both cases, a general election was approaching.
In October 2009, with the Copenhagen climate summit imminent, the then prime minister, Gordon Brown, announced that we had only “50 days to save the planet”. The summit failed to agree any substantive action to reduce carbon emissions. The planet survived. But let that pass: the important point for Mr Brown was political. He wanted to make his party look as green as possible for the election, countering the Conservative opposition’s offer, under David Cameron, of “Vote blue, go green”. 
It is 15 years on, and we shall have an election fairly soon. Sir Keir Starmer now, like Mr Brown then, is thinking mainly about the ballot box. 
After a tussle with their consciences, Sir Keir and Rachel Reeves, who, in 2021, declared at the party conference that she would be Britain’s “first green chancellor”, announced on Thursday that her exciting green investment plan, unveiled in that same speech, will, sort of, not happen. Under that plan, a Labour government would have spent an extra £28 billion every year until 2030, including “borrowing to invest”. 
As late as Tuesday, Sir Keir was still clinging publicly to the £28 billion figure. He said he was “unwavering”. But on Thursday he waveringly tried to defuse his own tax bombshell. He had decided, though of course he did not put it like this, that voters care more that Labour should be safe with the economy than it should save the planet. 
Since July last year, when Labour failed to grab Boris Johnson’s old Uxbridge seat at a by-election, its leadership has finally noticed that the link in the public mind between the words “green” and “prosperity” has become tenuous. In that by-election, Sadiq Khan’s Ulez is thought to have worked its negative magic. Voters felt the pain of green policies, not the gain. 
It follows that looking green is no longer a clear electoral plus. The Tories saw this slightly earlier than Labour last year. They stole a march by lessening the net-zero torture, extending the lives of the internal combustion engine and gas boilers. Probably Rishi Sunak intended no revolution of policy, only its softening, but the effect is marked. Once people realise you can have prosperity or an energy system dominated by renewables, but not both, they will choose prosperity. That realisation has big political consequences. I believe it makes net zero by 2050 unachievable. 
A comparable cost-related disenchantment is visible in business. Last September, no bid was received for the government auction of offshore wind acreage. The subsidy was not big enough to make it worth bidders’ while. Before Christmas, Siemens Energy, one of the world’s biggest wind turbine companies, faced a collapse in its share price. Its chairman warned in January that the green transition must be paid for by higher energy bills: anything else was net zero “fairy-tale” thinking, he said. 
Business wants green energy only if it is “de-risked” – in other words, if it is subsidised for the life of the asset. It is supposed to be “sustainable”, yet often only taxpayers’ money can sustain it. In short, it is unprofitable. And now, thanks to Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (a title as good as The Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984), businesses will try to extort higher subsidy here and buzz off to America if they cannot get it. 
Thursday’s press reported that Ørsted, the gigantic Danish developer of offshore wind in Britain (and elsewhere), is sacking hundreds of workers and abandoning markets after losses of £2.2 billion in 2023. The day before, the new boss of BP, Murray Auchincloss, predicted resurgent demand for fossil fuels, especially gas, and is leading the company in that direction. 
This is the same Mr Auchincloss who, under his now disgraced predecessor, Bernard Looney, had been a leader in the company’s plan to move away from fossil fuels in favour of renewables, which he described as the new “upstream oil and gas”. BP lost competitive edge against its rivals. We don’t hear about that plan any longer. 
Part of the Looney case was that the switch to renewables was “grounded in economic reality”. We have now been with green energy and government attacks on fossil fuels long enough for people to wonder if that is true. 
As is well set out in Rupert Darwall’s new short book, The Folly of Climate Leadership (RealClear Foundation), the increasing costs have been relentless. They are particularly high here because of what Darwall calls Britain’s “climate jingoism” – our vainglorious desire to get ahead in what successive governments have decided is a race to net zero.
Our Climate Change Act of 2008 mandated an overall cut in greenhouse gases of 80 per cent of the 1990 baseline by 2050. That was under Labour, led by Mr Brown. In 2019, that percentage was upped to 100 per cent (“net zero”) and became law after only 88 minutes’ debate in the Commons. That was under the Conservatives, led by Theresa May. In 2020, we were told that Britain would become “the Saudi Arabia of wind power”. That, of course, was under the Conservatives, led by Boris Johnson. 
Our heroic example did not inspire others. Between 2008 and 2019, our CO2 fossil-fuel emissions fell by 33 per cent, but those from the rest of the world rose by 16 per cent, wiping out in 140 days, Darwall calculates, the reductions we achieved over 11 years. 
There is a high price for setting this pace: by 2020, our citizens were paying about 75 per cent more for their electricity than were Americans. Darwall points out that, from 2008-22, Britain has experienced its lowest underlying growth rate since the 18th century. 
The two phenomena are related. Competitively priced energy is essential for robust economic growth. By the 1990s, with Arthur Scargill well beaten and privatisations accomplished in the previous decade, Britain had achieved a good and secure energy mix on the “gas to nuclear” track, rendered more efficient by letting price signals drive changes. Natural gas is a fossil fuel, but a relatively clean one. Today our energy system is expensive, creaky, insecure, teetering on the edge of serious power cuts and, since the invasion of Ukraine, vulnerable to the malevolence of Vladimir Putin
If you survey this history, two thoughts arise. One is the uniformity of error across the political spectrum. How was it that most people in all main parties thought they had to think the same things about the complicated and uncertain subject of climate change? Why did they unquestioningly accept ideas like the uniformity of “the science”, the concept of “emergency” in relation to policy, or the ability of governments, rather than businesses and consumers, to make the most efficient choices?
Full post
12) Joseph C Sternberg: Net Zero becomes all dissonance and no cognition
The Wall Street Journal, 8 February 2024


Politicians have trapped themselves into waging a crusade voters say they want but won’t pay for.
The fault, dear Olaf, lies not in ourselves but in our voters.
That, with apologies to Shakespeare, is starting to look like an explanation for the net-zero agonies now engulfing German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and many other Western politicians. It’s both fun and accurate to lambaste our political class for its many climate hypocrisies and idiocies. But as climate policy becomes more expensive and less coherent by the week, voters deserve more and more of the blame.
A clue lies in a report released this week by the Ifo Institute, a think tank in Germany. Some 55% of respondents said they believe their country should play a leading role in the global effort to combat climate change, in a poll of Germans conducted last September. Considerably fewer were willing to pay anything for it. Asked their preferred measures for achieving net zero, only 16% supported mandates such as a ban on natural-gas-fired home heating that would impose direct costs on households. Eight percent supported an explicit carbon tax, the most economically efficient way to reduce emissions.
The punch line is that Germans’ most popular option for addressing climate change was “targeted subsidies for climate-friendly measures,” which 28% of respondents supported. Note the timing. This poll was conducted before a constitutional court ruling in November disallowed Berlin’s preferred method for using off-balance-sheet government borrowing to fund climate-related subsidies. Germans supported climate subsidies when it looked like free money.
Not anymore. The admission that subsidies must be funded by tax increases or offsetting spending cuts has cast Mr. Scholz’s administration into a crisis from which it might not recover. Case in point: A mass protest—by farmers, as it happens—erupted when Berlin tried to inch toward a policy vaguely resembling a carbon tax. The administration had to backtrack. Whatever else voters say they want on climate, people really, really don’t want to redistribute the costs of mitigation toward those who emit more carbon—at least not if Johann Q. Publik thinks he might be the emitter in question.
I don’t mean to pick on the Germans, as rich a vein as that is. Everyone else is confused, too. A December poll in Britain found that 85% of respondents described climate change as “an important problem” facing the U.K. (with 46% of respondents describing it as the most important or one of the most important problems). Forty-one percent said they’d be more likely to vote for a party that promised strong action on climate change vs. 33% who said they’d be more likely to vote for a party promising to slow down on climate policy.
Do they mean it? Of course not. The same poll found less than a quarter of respondents saying climate-change or net-zero policies would be “very important” in determining their votes in the election due this year. In a question for which respondents could choose more than one answer, 57% said they would vote based on policy promises concerning the National Health Service and healthcare, and 55% said they’d focus on the parties’ approaches to inflation.
Surveys in several large European economies in August found at least two-thirds of respondents in each country were worried about climate change—and totally unwilling to pay any personal costs to mitigate it. In: planting trees, subsidizing home insulation, taxing heavily emitting companies. Out: banning internal-combustion cars, limiting meat and dairy consumption, increasing fuel taxes. Hilarious: Voters support a frequent-flyer tax as long as they don’t think they’ll have to pay it themselves, since taxing all flights remains deeply unpopular.
Squaring the circles of our many and varied cognitive dissonances is what we as voters pay our politicians to do. The problem is that for years politicians have been leaning into the dissonance rather than the cognition.
By promulgating apocalyptic rhetoric about climate change, the climate-industrial complex in politics, academia, green tech and the media has persuaded voters that climate change is an existential danger. This is why 77% of Britons can tell a pollster that climate change is “a serious global threat” and Germans can come to view their global leadership on this issue in quasimoral terms. We don’t even talk about our beloved entitlements this way, let alone any other policy with the possible exception of immigration.
What a crash, then, as voters start noticing what net zero might cost them personally. Knowing that they can’t or won’t bear the costs themselves but also unable or unwilling to drop the moral crusade, voters instead demand ever more creative expenditures of someone else’s money to achieve climate goals.
This explains the reluctance of even moderately sensible politicians to admit what they’re so obviously doing: abandoning the climate project. Rollbacks of the most expensive, least popular climate measures, such as electric-vehicle mandates or agricultural-vehicle taxes, invariably are accompanied by pledges to keep doing something else for the climate at someone else’s expense.
It’s a note of caution for those of us breathing a sigh of relief at recent net-zero reversals. Voters are growing clearer-headed about what they aren’t prepared to pay to avert climate change. Yet true sanity won’t arrive until they’ve decided they also don’t care.
13) False Equivalence: Making sense of Michael Mann's resounding defamation victory
The Honest Broker, 9 February 2024
By Roger Pielke Jr.


Yesterday, a jury in Washington, DC awarded renowned climate scientist Michael E. Mann more than $1,000,000 in damages in a defamation lawsuit he brought against two bloggers. I was a witness in the case and testified on Tuesday. Here, I’ll offer my thoughts on the case and some personal reflections on my experience.
Mann’s case alleged that he was defamed by statements made the bloggers more than a decade ago, which harmed his reputation and career (I won’t rehash the details here, but you can get a full accounting of the trial at this comprehensive podcast).
The defense built their case around making three points to the jury.
One was to bring in experts to testify that Mann’s methods in producing the so-called “Hockey Stick” graph were manipulative, and thus critics of the Hockey Stick were factually correct in saying so. The second point was to demonstrate that the debate over climate during the time that the blog posts were written was intense and vitriolic, with Mann saying things about others that were worse than what the defendants said about him. Finally, the defense argued that Mann hardly put on a case — he provided no evidence or witnesses supporting his claims of damage to reputation or career.
In contrast, the prosecution was — in the words of the court, “disjointed” — and was reprimanded on multiple occasions by the judge, most notably for knowingly providing false information to the jury on alleged damages suffered by Mann. When I was cross-examined, Mann’s lawyer had considerable trouble getting basic facts right like timelines and who said what.
Even so, in a trial that most neutral observers would surely see as favoring the arguments of the defense, Mann walked away with a resounding, comprehensive victory.7 How did that happen?
In my view, there were two absolutely pivotal moments in the trial.
One occurred when Mann was testifying and he explained that he felt that the bloggers were not just criticizing him, but they were attacking all of climate science, and he could not let that stand. As the world’s most accomplished and famous climate scientist, Mann intimated that he was simply the embodiment of all of climate science.
For the jury, this set up the notion that this trial was not really about Mann, but about attacks on all of climate science from climate deniers.
The second pivotal moment occurred when in closing arguments Mann’s lawyer asked the jury to send a message to right-wing science deniers and Trump supporters with a large punitive damage award.
Full post

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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