Sunak and Truss are wrong about solar

Rishi Sunak has joined Liz Truss in grumbling about solar panels in fields. This is all rather dismaying, and revealing. It suggests that Conservative leadership contenders – and the party faithful they’re appealing to – lack faith in the transformative power of markets and free enterprise. Those solar panels that Sunak and Truss deplore are nothing less than an economic miracle, delivered by private companies seeking profit. Anyone who proclaims themselves supporters of markets should be shouting from the rooftops about this miracle, since it shows how people and organisations freely allocating capital makes our world better, fast. Private enterprise works because the incentive to make a profit by selling

Fact check: Is Sadiq Khan right about fires?

Will global warming condemn Britain to more fires? Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has been widely quoted this morning comparing recent fires around the capital to the Blitz. ‘Yesterday was the busiest day for the fire service in London since the second world war,’ he said – climate change caused the heatwave which ‘led to the fires’. He added that he was dismayed that the Tory leadership contenders were not discussing this ‘elephant in the room.’ So is this right – or misleading? As so often, it’s a mixture. Khan is correct to say that the number of calls to London fire brigade was a record high: it received more

What’s going on with the Met and partygate?

I don’t understand the logic behind how the Met Police is conducting its probe into unlawful parties at Downing Street and the Cabinet Office. My confusion reached brain-aching proportions after my ITV colleague Anushka Asthana disclosed on Friday that officials had received fixed penalty notices – fines – for attending perhaps the most famous of all the Downing Street events, the Bring Your Own Booze garden party on 20 May 2020, revealed by an email leaked to ITV News. The point is that I know of at least two relatively junior officials who have been informed by the police that they’ve been fined. So there is no longer any doubt this

Britain is paying the price for its fracking panic

Between 1980 and 2005, the UK produced more energy than it needed. Today, we import more than a third of our energy and over half of our natural gas. Households are facing an increase in their annual tax bills from £1,500 to an eye-watering £3,000. While the Business Secretary may have tweeted this week that the current situation is a matter of high prices rather than security of supply, families already struggling to heat their homes are unlikely to tell the difference as they decide whether to heat their homes or pay for food. This was never a foregone conclusion. A decade ago, the US shale gas revolution was well

Has Macron shot France’s energy industry in the foot?

Gas prices are soaring. Europe could be about to witness electricity shortages. Power companies are collapsing by the day, and, on top of all that, the government is set to phase out traditional energy to meet its net zero target.  So might think that a cable to ship in cheap, greener electricity from the other side of the Channel is something of a knight in shining armour. Yet the government blocked the proposal today, and it was absolutely right to do so. Britain may need all the electricity it can get its hands on right now — but the last thing it should do is increase its dependence on Macron and Putin. Britain

Insulate Britain are not martyrs

Throughout the Insulate Britain protests there was a suspicion that the group was deliberately trying to get its members behind bars during the COP26 conference — a suspicion that was enhanced when a spokesperson for the group told the Guardian on 24 October:  It’s fair to say that there is absolute disbelief and surprise that the campaign has lasted this long. We assumed that we would not be allowed to carry on disrupting the motorway network to the extent we have been. We thought that people would basically be in prison… if our actions are as dangerous and as disruptive as is being claimed, then I think the question has to

The cynical brilliance of Boris Johnson’s green conversion

Does Boris Johnson really believe, as he told COP26 a few days ago, we’re at ‘one minute to midnight’ on the man-made climate change doomsday clock, and that ‘if we don’t get serious about climate change today, it will be too late for our children to do so tomorrow’? I ask only because in 2013 he used his Daily Telegraph column to write:  As a species, we human beings have become so blind with conceit and self-love that we genuinely believe that the fate of the planet is in our hands – when the reality is that everything, or almost everything, depends on the behaviour and caprice of the gigantic

Is climate change scepticism growing in Japan?

Fumio Kishida, the newly-installed Japanese prime minister, could have been forgiven for giving COP26 a miss. The opening ceremony in Glasgow coincided with the general election he was fighting back home. But Kishida, having won the election, did make the trip, where he gave a speech broadly but not unreservedly supportive of international efforts to cut Co2 emissions. The reward for his restrained tone and tepid assurances? Japan was named ‘fossil of the day’ by the Climate Action Network group, an ‘honour’ bestowed on countries deemed insufficiently devoted to the cause. Kishida’s specific crime was that while he did promise substantial financial aid to developing nations in Asia to work

The strange greenwashing of Nicola Sturgeon

It was only a matter of time. When the Scottish Green party entered government alongside the SNP in August, it was clear Nicola Sturgeon would use the party as a shield against her questionable record and stance on the environment. The surprise is that it happened so quickly and so blatantly. This week we had the extraordinary situation of the Scottish Greens attacking Greenpeace for daring to push the First Minister to explicitly come out against exploitation of the Cambo oil field off Shetland. Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie said Greenpeace was unfairly criticising Sturgeon and is ‘not particularly politically active in Scotland’. Ramping up the ‘othering’ of Greenpeace, Harvie’s

Where is the climate plan B?

The COP26 summit is unlikely to be an outright flop. There has been no shortage of drama, with speakers seeming to compete with each other to see who could use the most histrionic language. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, went so far as to compare the attending leaders to Nazi appeasers. He later apologised.  Some progress, albeit small, is being made. A hundred countries have been persuaded, some on the promise of sweeteners worth £14 billion, to sign a pledge to end deforestation by 2030. Brazil, the most important of all, is among them. India has agreed, for the first time, to set itself a date for achieving net-zero

The wishful thinking of COP26

History records that George II was the last British king to lead his troops on the battlefield, at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743. But maybe it is only a matter of time… Addressing the COP26 summit in Glasgow Prince Charles called for a ‘vast military-style campaign’ against climate change. We must put ourselves on a ‘war-like footing’, marshalling the resources of the private sector as we did during wartime. I look forward to the sight of Charles, on horseback, leading a battalion against Xi Jinping’s People’s Army to try to take the site of China’s latest coal-fired power station. There is a very big problem with this kind of

Join: The Spectator’s online COP26 summit

The two-week COP26 climate change summit starts this weekend, with 100,000 expected on a protest march in Glasgow. And tomorrow, we at The Spectator will hold our own (virtual) summit looking at what lies ahead — and asking if history is about to be made, and how much of this is likely to be political theatre. The morning will open at 9.30am with a keynote speech from Dieter Helm, professor of energy policy at New College, Oxford: I’ll be in discussion with him afterwards. His book, Net Zero, is perhaps the best primer you’ll read on the topic: he supports the objective but is sceptical about the “jaw-jaw” of climate summits

It’s no wonder young people have ‘eco-anxiety’

Is it any wonder that children and young adults are going down with ‘eco-anxiety’ , as claimed in an opinion piece in the BMJ this week? One of the pieces of evidence it cites is a survey published in 2020, which claimed that 57 per cent of child psychiatrists had dealt with patients who were feeling anxious about climate change. It would be easy to dismiss this as another case of the ‘snowflake generation’ lacking the toughness of their forebears. But even if it is true that earlier generations of children, such as those brought up during the second world war, seemed to cope much better with the genuine threat

Red Wall Tories hit out at cost of net zero

One of the government’s flagship priorities this parliament has been its pledge for Britain to reach ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050, with the commitment taking on increasing importance ahead of the COP26 climate summit later this month. But while the policy has wide support across the party, a far more controversial question is how much the change will cost – and if the bill will end up particularly hurting communities in the north. So far ‘Red Wall’ Tory MPs have been supportive of the government’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions, seeing it as a way to create new green jobs in parts of the country which were hit hard

The gas crisis shows how important net zero is

This gas crisis has hit Britain because we rely too much on gas. That’s not a reason to abandon net zero. It’s a reason to do it. Gas prices are soaring, energy companies are failing. A few people are blaming government environmental policies for that. Their apparent hope is that Boris Johnson proves wobbly on green causes and backs away from net zero. I think they’re wrong, both about the policy and about the politics. Start with the policy. The net zero decarbonisation of the UK economy isn’t the cause of the gas price crisis. It’s the solution. Wholesale gas prices are soaring in Europe for several reasons: higher global

Why Johnson sounds pessimistic about Cop26

The Prime Minister has touched down in New York for the UN General Assembly where he hopes to press countries on committing funds for the Cop26 climate talks. Ahead of the summit, Boris Johnson has urged wealthier countries to contribute to a £100 billion a year funding target aimed at helping developing nations to cut carbon emissions. That commitment is viewed as key to getting the ball rolling when the negotiations get underway at the summit in Glasgow in November.  Behind the scenes there is increasing pessimism about what Cop26 will achieve But things aren’t going to plan. Speaking to hacks on the trip, Johnson said it would be a stretch to get the money

The truth about Extinction Rebellion’s ‘climate warfare’

What have environmentalists got against commuters? Not for the first time a group of bedraggled climate nuts have taken their argument for ‘radical’ action on global warming not to Downing Street or to Parliament Square, but to ordinary people just trying to go about their business. Junctions have been blocked along the M25 near Kings Langley, Heathrow, Swanley, Godstone and Lakeside. This is the work of Insulate Britain, a single-issue Extinction Rebellion offshoot demanding action on home insulation. So far 42 have been arrested. The protesters tweeted that they were ‘disrupting the M25’ to ‘demand the government insulate Britain’. And yet so far their primary achievement has been to infuriate

Fact check: what caused the German floods?

As a study in how hysteria develops, the reporting of World Weather Attribution study into last month’s floods in the Rhineland could hardly be bettered. You will no doubt have heard or seen headlines over the past couple of days claiming that climate change made the floods ‘up to nine times’ more likely. Some even ran without the ‘up to’ — such as the Times, which reported with apparent confidence: ‘Deadly floods nine times likelier in warmer climate’. What ordinary readers are less likely to have done is to have read the study itself. Needless to say, it paints a very different picture of the event and any causal link

Rishi Sunak’s waffle exposed the flaw in Boris’s green agenda

Who pays? It is one of the most important questions in politics, especially when it comes to the sort of expensive zeitgeisty ideas that governments love to take a reputational ride on. When Margaret Thatcher was Tory leader, she tried to exempt her party from this charge of vulnerability to fashionable notions that come with eye-watering price tags attached, once observing:  ‘The Labour party scheme their schemes, the Liberal party dream their dreams, but we have work to do.’ Nobody who has followed the career of Boris Johnson at all closely would seek to exempt him. Indeed, ‘schemes and dreams’ appear to be what make him tick. So it is

Britain’s Covid baby bust is bleak news

These are lean times for hospitality and retail. But at least pubs and shops have their champions, popping up on our television channels and radio stations. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, or in this case, taxpayer-funded grants. Where, though, are the voices raised for another activity – also struggling before lockdown – and now facing its own unprecedented crash. Who cares about babies? Truly, births need a push. Predictions of a boom in coronababies were way, way off. Britain, in common with many other developed nations, is experiencing a sharp new slump in fertility, the full extent of which remains unclear. If our neighbours are anything to go by,