<< With Professor Helm, left, before the seminar (Brussels, 03.10.2012)
•Yesterday in parliament (why does that phrase seem familiar?) I attended a seminar at which Professor Dieter Helm delivered a damning assessment of EU climate policy. It was utterly failing to deliver its primary objective, a reduction in CO2 emissions.
Prof Helm is a man who deserves our attention. He is a Fellow of New College, Oxford, and an economist specialising in environment and utilities. He is an advisor to our Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change, Ed Davey. He has served both as a special advisor to the European Commissioner for Energy and as Chairman of the Ad Hoc EU Advisory Group. He also assisted the Polish government in their presidency of the European Union Council, and has other achievements and appointments too numerous to mention. A distinguished academic who advises both British and European decision-makers.
I can't agree with all that Prof Helm said. On the basic question of man-made global warming, he insists that he accepts "the science". But so do the large and growing number of dissenters, including some extremely distinguished scientists (and remember that Prof Helm is an economist, not an atmospheric physicist). But they question inter alia the IPCC's estimates of feed-backs, and the predictions of flawed computer models based on questionable assumptions. They present undisputed evidence -- some of it from the IPCC's own reports -- which flatly contradicts and falsifies the predictions of the Warmist camp.
But let that pass. Yesterday Prof Helm delivered a damning indictment of EU policy.
He argued (as I have argued) that wind farms and solar PV achieve no more than trivial reductions in emissions. He argues that if a fraction of the funds wasted on wind farms had been devoted to R&D, we might now have some genuinely "sustainable" energy technologies (and I mean sustainable in both environmental and economic terms).
He argued that the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) was utterly failing. It delivered mixed and ineffectual signals to the market. He argued (as I have argued) that if you must curb emissions, a plain vanilla carbon tax would be much preferable and more economically efficient. (Note that I'm not in favour of a carbon tax -- I just argue that it would make more sense than ETS). And he argues (as I have argued) that a switch to a carbon tax would at least sweep away the rent-seekers and charlatans and downright fraudsters that have dogged the ETS from its inception.
He recognises that there are 1200+ new coal-fired power stations in the pipeline globally -- including 20+ in Germany -- and that therefore emissions will rise for years whatever we do.
He believes that EU climate policy has utterly failed to reduce emissions, arguing that any recent reduction in EU emissions is the result of recession and deindustrialisation, not policy. And he notes that while the EU accounts for only 13% or so of emissions, it accounts for 25% of carbon consumption, if you include embedded CO2 in imports.
He drew attention to the glorious irony of the contrast between the EU, where climate policies are signally failing, and the USA, that "Great Polluter", where emissions are dropping sharply. Not because of draconian emissions controls, but because in the natural course of the market and the industry, coal is being replaced by cheaper shale gas, with much lower emissions.
When (after several other panel speakers and a very long time) I got to ask a question, I applauded Prof Helm's demolition of EU climate policy, pointing out, in a self-serving kind of way, that I have been saying all of these things for some time (see our new UKIP energy policy). But I asked: "If you hold these sound common-sense views, why are politicians not listening? What is the UK Climate Change Committee saying? What about the European Commission? What does Ed Davey say?"
Sadly, the session ran on forty minutes beyond schedule, and I had to leave for another engagement without getting an answer.