Thursday, 17 December 2015

Knave or fool: David Cameron and climate change

It seemed an extraordinary boon: this morning, the cost of fuel at my favourite petrol station was below a pound a litre, for the first time in years.

It makes the point about the glut of oil on world markets. There’s so much of it around that prices are just collapsing. In principle, that would be good. If we were really beginning to wean ourselves off the stuff, supply would indeed outstrip demand. Weaning, however, seems unlikely to be happening. If there’s a drop in consumption at all, it’s much more likely to be down to economic slowdown rather than changing habits.

On the other hand, we can take a great deal of satisfaction from one recent event. On 12 December, the climate change conference adopted the Paris Agreement and, for the first time, gave the world some hope that nations at last had the will to tackle global warming. As UK Prime Minister David Cameron, said the accord represented “a huge step forward in helping to secure the future of our planet”.

Indeed, he went on to point out how the government he leads is working towards achieving the objectives of the agreement:

Britain is already leading the way in work to cut emissions and help less developed countries cut theirs and this global deal now means that the whole world has signed to play its part in halting climate change.

This makes it all the more interesting that less than a week later, his government won parliamentary approval for an extension of fracking operations in the country. In particular, it allows fracking under national parks or sites of special scientific interest.

Area newly authorised for fracking
Just what we need?
So at a time when there’s a glut of oil on the world market, and within days of a new agreement aimed at reducing dependence on the fuel, Cameron wants to see companies extracting more of it in Britain. He wants that to happen despite the oil glut, the possible damage to some extraordinary parts of the country, and his warm words welcoming the Paris Agreement.

His government followed up that initiative with another which would cut the subsidy previously available in Britain for solar panels by 65%. So Cameron’s government also wants to reduce the pursuit of alternatives to fossil fuels, just as he authorises further operations to extract more of them. But “Britain is already leading the way in work to cut emissions”?

Is it simply that he’s completely brazen in his hypocrisy? Or is he just too intellectually challenged to see his own incoherence?

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