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Something sensible

Posted by Richard Friday, September 24, 2004

Actually, there was something interesting in the newspapers today – The Times to be specific – but not anything produced by a journalist.

In the wake of Michael Howard's recent speech on the environment, pledging his support for Kyoto, followed by Blair scarcely a day later, we see a letter from the following:

Lord Lawson of Blaby, Thatcher’s former chancellor; Wifred Beckerman, Emeritus Fellow, Balliol College, Oxford; Ian Byatt, Director-General of Water Services, 1989-2000; David Henderson, Visiting Professor, Westminster Business School; Julian Morris, Executive Director, International PolicyNetwork; Alan Peacock, David Hume Institute, Edinburgh; and Colin Robinson, Emeritus Professor of Economics, University of Surrey.
The subject of this letter, headed “Political action on climate change”, deals with Blair’s and Howard’s support for Kyoto, noting that they “hold the same alarmist view of the world, and call for much the same radical - and costly - programme of action.”

The authors, however, assert that “there are no solid grounds for assuming, as Messrs Blair and Howard do, that global warming demands immediate and far-reaching action”. The measures proposed would “raise costs for enterprises and households, both directly as consumers and as taxpayers” and “…make all of us significantly and increasingly worse off”. “There are no worthwhile gains to set against these costs”, they add, then concluding:

It is absurd to argue, as the Prime Minister did in his speech (and Howard took a similar line), that such policies can “unleash a new and benign commercial force”. The new opportunities created for high-cost ventures come as the direct result of suppressing opportunities for their lower-cost rivals: this is already happening in power generation.

It is not only the Prime Minister and Mr Howard who are advancing questionable economic arguments. We consider that the treatment of economic issues by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is not up to the mark. It is time for finance and economics ministries everywhere, including HM Treasury, to wake up to this situation and take action.
But, guess what, the eco-freaks in the EU already got there first and, with those great intellects, John Prescott and Margaret Beckett at the helm, we are going nowhere but down. But it is good to have a bunch of heavyweights point out the fatuity of their actions. Pity Howard didn’t consult them before he gave his own speech. If he had, for once, the Conservatives would have had something new, different – for a politician – and sensible to say.