Sacked environment secretary Owen Paterson will, on Wednesday, demand his government scrap the world-leading Climate Change Act, during a speech before climate denial charity the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).
Paterson (pictured) was removed from office by David Cameron amid speculation that his climate scepticism would prove hugely unpopular among voters during the 2015 general election, but now seems to be positioning himself with a right-wing challenge to the party leader.
The former cabinet minister will claim that Britain will struggle to “keep the lights on” because of the Tory-led government’s current climate change and environmental policies—despite the fact that he voted for the Climate Change Act in 2008 and supported the legislation during the entire time he was in office.
Paterson will call for the act to be suspended, and then if other countries fail to introduce primary legislation forcing a rapid decline in carbon-rich fossil fuels, he will argue that the act should be scrapped altogether.
“Blind adhesion to the 2050 targets will not reduce emissions and will fail to keep the lights on,” he will say in a speech trailed on the front page of yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph. “The current energy policy is a slave to flawed climate action.”
Support for fracking
“It will cost £1.1 billion, fail to meet the very emissions targets it is designed to meet, and will not provide the UK’s energy requirements. In the short to medium term, costs to customers will rise dramatically, but there can only be one ultimate consequence of this policy: the lights will go out at some time in the future.”
Paterson will speak at the Annual Lecture of the GWPF, a climate denial charity founded by the former chancellor Lord Lawson, which recently fell foul of a charity commission investigation which found it blurred fact and comment.
The rogue former environment secretary will also call for the building of dozens of small nuclear power stations across Britain, and voice his personal support for a huge programme of fracking for shale gas despite serious concerns about its environmental harm.
“We must be prepared to stand up to the bullies in the environment movement and their subsidy-hungry allies. What I am proposing is that instead of investing huge sums in wind power, we should encourage investment in four possible common sense policies: shale gas, combined heat and power, small modular nuclear reactors, and demand management.”
Paterson’s new policy prescriptions will prove hugely popular among a small right-wing rump within the conservative party which has vehemently opposed wind farms, including Lord Vinson who is both a Tory party donor and a funder of the GWPF.
However, if his scheme were ever to become a reality, it might make the Tories unelectable. Siting nuclear power stations and fracking sites in rural constituencies around Britain would prove hugely unpopular with local residents—far more so than wind farms.
Immediate, urgent action
Shortly after being sacked, Paterson attacked the “green blob”, and singled out the Friends of the Earth and the Green party. “It was not my job to do the bidding of two organisations that are little more than anti-capitalist, agitprop groups, most of whose leaders could not tell a snake’s head fritillary from a silver washed fritillary.”
Ironically, it was Paterson’s host Lord Lawson who ended Britain’s nuclear programme when, during the process of selling off the state-run energy industry, he discovered the cost of dealing with waste would be astronomical and unlikely to be ever met by any private company.
Paterson’s speech will be delivered shortly after the publication of a report by a team of 30 climate and energy experts including Sir Bob Watson, the former chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, saying that the world can still stop runaway climate change.
However, Watson and his colleagues warned that the international community could only halt climate change at 2°C with “immediate, urgent action”. The report, Tackling the Challenge of Climate Change, was delivered at the UN summit last month.
Watson said abandoning hope of meeting the 2°C target “plays into the hands of climate deniers”. A delay to 2025 or later in reducing fossil fuel emissions would simply be too late, the experts warn. Climate change would then have appalling impacts on Africa and small island states.
“We have the technology and know-how to solve the climate crisis,” Marlene Moses, the Ambassador of the Pacific Island nation of Nauru, told The Guardian. “What is missing is the courage to make the change—and that has to come from world leaders.”