Fraser Nelson Fraser Nelson

The thinking behind Rishi Sunak’s common sense Net Zero approach

Rishi Sunak at the Cop conference in Dubai (Credit: Getty images)

Rishi Sunak has a new approach to Net Zero, defining himself against ‘zealots’ and acknowledging the side effects of proposed green taxes. He’s replacing the old, often hyperbolic precautionary-principle logic and bringing in the language of tradeoffs: stressing the importance of democratic consent and the futility of green taxes that voters will not accept and are likely to rebel against. The Prime Minister has just taken his case to the UN ‘Cop’ Climate Summit in Dubai and his short speech deserves more attention than it has received.

The standard form, in such events, is for leaders to try to outdo each other in ‘dark green’ jeremiads and say ‘we’ must act or the world fries. Such language skips the definition of ‘we’ which, of course, is the problem. Each national leader can only speak for their country – and no G20 nation is decarbonising faster than Britain. At Cop, Sunak made this point directly.

‘We’ve already decarbonised faster than any other major economy,’ he said. ‘Our emissions are down 48 per cent since 1990, compared to limited cuts from others. And a 300 per cent increase from China.’ The PM has a point: the below graph shows Britain’s historic carbon emissions and, underneath that, its progress amongst the G20 in the last 20 years. We’re the fastest in the G20; factor in imports (looking at carbon ‘consumption’ rather than territorial emissions) and we’re the second fastest.

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