The left-green axis has been in uproar in recent weeks because several right-wing commentators have suggested holding a referendum on the government’s net zero measures. If the Telegraph, Sun, and Reform party support it, say critics of a referendum, then it’s got to be a bad idea.
As an environmental campaigner since the 1970s, I say bring it on. Even if the initial impetus for a referendum came from right-wing groups, net zero will affect our livelihoods and basic freedoms for decades. The way to counter accusations that it is the invention of a woke elite is to widen the debate.
What will be the terrain of that debate? And what is the net zero equivalent of the Irish question during the Brexit referendum — the issue that, if overlooked because it suits both sides to do so, will cause a paralysing disconnect between legislation and action?
After decades of environmental campaigners being ignored or derided, it’s hardly surprising the current set of policies devised had some deep-seated flaws. Heat pumps are a case in point. They only work by using a huge amount of electricity. Green advocates also understate the hit to our current standard of living in the coming post-carbon era of reduced consumption and ‘climate justice’.
As with Brexit, the eco-lobby fear voters ‘won’t understand the real issues’. This translates into their failure to make the case for major systemic reform to reduce global warming.
Insulate Britain has taken a blatantly saleable policy (save money and reduce carbon emissions by massive insulation of all buildings) and made it politically toxic. Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth for years promoted the idea that small changes to our consumption patterns and waste-bin arrangements would somehow be enough to see us through the green transition.