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Monday 13 April 2015, Ben Pile

Scrap the Climate Change Act

Researcher and writer Ben Pile says the CCA is the worst example of how politicians have distanced government from democracy.

It might be easy to imagine that scepticism towards claims that we face catastrophic climate change would be the main reason anybody could object to the Climate Change Act 2008 (CCA). But that would be a mistake.

The CCA was passed in the House of Commons by an overwhelming majority. Just five MPs voted against its second reading. Eager to appear as planet-savers, MPs were united by a cross-party consensus in which the various parties endeavoured to outbid each other in the scale of mandatory emissions reductions they demanded.

This absurd game of politics-by-numbers concluded with the Liberal Democrats promising to abolish the petrol engine and nuclear power, and to make the UK carbon neutral by 2050. The days of cheap energy were over, they proudly declared. One reason for objecting to the CCA, then, is that it epitomises the worst excesses of consensus politics: utter indifference to and divorce from the needs of everyday life.

The CCA mandated the creation of an expert panel to decide what the UK’s carbon emissions should be – the Committee on Climate Change. But, like most quangos, its bureaucrats were more interested in their own political ambitions than the public’s needs. Bemoaning the lack of popular support for climate policies, one CCC member, Professor Julia King, remarked that ‘we have a very selfish population’, and that enforcing ‘behaviour change’ should be a major part of the government’s strategy. Rather than finding technological solutions to climate change, King and others wanted to engineer obedience. The second reason for objecting to the CCC is that it allows technocrats to serve themselves, and legitimises their high-minded hostility to the public.

But the main reason to object to the CCA is that it reflects the growing tendency to hide from criticism behind the comforting certainty of scientific objectivity. The CCA has been an expensive failure, but its critics were dismissed as climate-change deniers. The real objective of the CCA was not to save mankind from the weather, but to save an exhausted political establishment from the public, and from democracy.

Ben Pile writes at Climate Resistance.

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