Misguided, perhaps, but we can’t ignore climate change protesters

14th Oct 2019


However misguided you may think the recent climate change protests are by targeting the government that has led the world on legislating to address carbon emissions, it would be rash to ignore them.

We know that achieving NetZero by 2025 isn’t going to happen (one of their demands) but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss them. Indeed, there is a risk (and it might be totally unfair) that by ignoring their concerns, business puts itself in the firing line. The other week I mentioned polling across the world that suggested the public blame business and industry, not themselves, for carbon emission levels. This disconnect is worrying and I suspect that in time, when people match their consumption patterns with carbon then some of the ‘heat’ in the protests might dissipate. Until then, our industry needs to let the public know we are on their side and are working towards net zero. 

The whole climate change measurement is based on production of emissions rather than their consumption. And if this isn’t considered, as Dieter Helm has often pointed out, it could lead to dysfunctional decision-making. Closing down a steel plant to meet carbon emission targets in the UK is frankly absurd as all the UK does is import that same quantity of steel from overseas, where total carbon emitted might be higher. The global challenge requires global solutions. 

I saw Andrew Neil, the broadcaster, dissect the arguments of a climate change activist this week in his usual forensic (and at times acerbic manner). He made the point that aviation emission reductions that are advocated will limit people to one-flight every five years. I don’t know the basis of that statistic, but it is that dose of reality which will strike home. My fear, is that it could create a massive rejection of the whole climate change agenda. 

Moderate voices need to come to the fore to prevent that happening and to create the right environment for practical action to be taken that addresses the real threat of climate change. So biomethane HGVs, hydrogen boilers, solar PV or thermal, all need to be at the forefront of showing what we in the energy industry are actually doing.

Best wishes

Mike Foster, CEO