Friday, August 29, 2008

The wind of change

Although the media world-wide are besotted with the Obama drama, more sanguine commentators are pointing out that this is indeed theatre, with very little depth. Before too long, insistent voices are going to be heard, asking, "where's the beef?"

But, while heads are turned, things are happening elsewhere, of much greater importance to the lives of real people. Inevitably, they are unnoticed by the media which is transfixed by the histérie du jour as much as any rabbit caught in the glare of a speeding car's headlights.

In fact, on the back of Hutton's statement yesterday, we are seeing another event unfold which signal, in policy terms, could signal the equivalent of tectonic plates moving.

That "event", retailed by Reuters yesterday was the emergence of a document from the EU parliament industry committee which suggested amendments to alter the flagship Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) so it has less impact on energy-intensive industries such as steel.

Additionally, while the "colleagues" up-front are pushing to go beyond the current plan to cut emissions by 20 percent by 2020, planning to increase the cut to 30 percent if countries such as China and the United States can be conned into joining the suicide pact, the industry committee is also considering an amendment that would demand a full impact assessment before any further cuts - effectively blocking the ratchet.

Amazingly, drifting out from the parliament are statements which sound suspiciously like sense, with Swedish liberal MEP Lena Ek saying, "I think we should bring the latest science into any decision," while Welsh socialist MEP Eluned Morgan is saying, "However ambitious we are with climate legislation, we can't make European companies uncompetitive in the global market, particularly high energy users.”

This may only be a straw in the wind but to get this sort of heresy from the EU parliament is not far different, in magnitude, to the Pope suddenly denying the existence of God. And, predictably, it has the greenies squeaking in rage, with WWF campaigner Kirsty Clough declaring that, "This could potentially fatally undermine an automatic move to a 30 percent cut in emissions…".

Other events are also afoot, such as signals from the UK government that it is planning to go full-steam ahead with a nuclear programme, trampling roughshod over the sensibilities of the greenies, with some other indications that the apparent enthusiasm for subsidy wind farms is not quite all it seems (of which more later).

Against the broader noise level of climate change hysteria, these signals are all but swamped, and their meanings may be being afforded an over-optimistic interpretation. But there is definitely a sense that the greenies are getting more and more strident, which may indicate that they at least are seeing the writing on the wall.

However, since optimism is one of the few things which the government has not yet got round to taxing or banning, we can at least speculate that with a bit of luck squashing greenies may become a new spectator sport, one which even our governments start to enjoy.