Net zero is about to get even more painful

by Paul Homewood at

Human beings are an adaptable species – which is fortunate, given that modern-day politicians incessantly foist new laws, rules and regulations on us.

In few areas of public policy is this more exhaustive than net zero. So we’ve grown accustomed to paying 50p for a plastic bag in some supermarkets. Driving in many cities now brings an array of charges, and that’s before bewildered motorists accidentally stray into a new bus or cycle lane, yet still we just shrug.

As of October this year, single-use plastic straws, bowls, trays and cutlery have been banned, but seldom do we complain.

And the wider green drive is paying dividends, of sorts. This week it was reported Britain has become the first major economy to halve its carbon emissions. Curiously, the news has not been widely shared nor lauded by the nation’s usually noisy eco-fanatics. Perhaps it doesn’t fit their common refrain that the Government “isn’t doing anything” about climate change.

Some people may think this reduction has been painless, but they’d be wrong. While the minor inconveniences can be downplayed, the costs should not be.

Green levies now make up a significant proportion of energy bills. Restrictions on new North Sea developments and a windfall tax are likely to have combined to drive up energy bills further at a time when the post-Covid rebound and war in Ukraine had already sent them soaring.

Progress on environmental aims may have been aided by the failure of successive governments to build homes and lockdowns, but those policies have themselves wrought enormous harm on the UK economy.

It has, however, been relatively straightforward. The decarbonisation of power and offshoring of heavy industry, for instance, accelerated an existing trend. The consumption of intermittent renewables was able to increase because fossil fuels could be relied on to provide baseload power.