Dominic Lawson: This is a Government which doesn't really believe in the threat of climate change

Share
Related Topics

It's a brave reporter who challenges Arnold Schwarzenegger face to face. Who knows what physical retribution the former Terminator might wreak? Yet one man was brave enough to trade (verbal) blows with the Governor of California last week.

It followed the revelation by the Los Angeles Times that Schwarzenegger – who after Al Gore is the US politician most identified with the "battle against climate change" – had been commuting almost every day by private jet.

Let me share with you this extract from a transcript of a news conference, as released by Schwarzenegger's office: "Governor, there have been reports coming out that you're flying up and down the state on a daily basis in a [private] jet...How do you reconcile your public rhetoric on global warming versus your personal lifestyle choices?".

"Are you always that positive? What a positive guy! To me it's very important that I serve the people of California but also at the same time that I serve my family... do the homework with the kids, spend time with my wife and everything."

"So global warming is for other people to worry about, as long as you can afford carbon offsetting?"

"You're absolutely correct. Global warming is very important and that's why we're fighting global warming... in all kinds of things we are promoting."

Schwarzenegger might be a hypocrite, but at least he is not charging the public: it's his own private jet and he's paying all the bills. In Britain, where the New Labour government vies with the Governor of California to be seen as a "leader in the battle against global warming", such moral inconsistency is entirely funded by the taxpayer.

Yesterday it was disclosed that two Cabinet ministers, Ed Balls and Shaun Woodward, used chauffeur-driven ministerial cars to travel 150 yards from Downing Street to a dinner party for Labour donors. The chauffeurs waited outside and then after dinner drove the pair, separately, a further 300 yards to the House of Commons. This has come to light because the Conservative MP Justine Greening has written to the Cabinet Secretary arguing that since the event was a Labour Party fundraiser, official limousines should not have been made available – at least for the first 150 yards of this 450-yard round trip.

The more obvious, but less party-political point, is that if ministers truly believe what they say about the dire threat of irreversible and murderous climate change through man-made carbon emissions, how could they simultaneously behave in such a casually wasteful manner? Surely they cannot be so wicked as knowingly to condemn another African to a premature death through thirst – or whatever the latest climate-catastrophe theory insists – in order to avoid walking for a quarter of a mile down Whitehall?

I think it is more likely that the ministers, deep down, don't really believe the conventional wisdom that such consequences flow from being driven everywhere in limousines – but of course they would do anything rather than confess that: better even to be thought a monumental hypocrite than a "climate change denier".

If I am right, it would explain quite a lot about Alistair Darling's first Budget, which was pre-sold as being "The Greenest Budget in history". The allegedly passionless Darling emoted impressively about the scale of the problems posed by man-made climate change: "We need to do more and we need to do it now. There will be catastrophic economic and social consequences if we fail to act."

So he deferred the increase in duty on petrol that had been originally scheduled for this Budget; instead he promised that from 2010 cars with the biggest engines would face a one off levy – amounting to £950 for top-of-the-range 4x4s.

This is, of course, not rational if you really believe that unpredictable weather is caused by the consumption of petrol. In that case you would continue to concentrate solely (and proportionately) on the actual use of petrol, through excise charged at the pump, rather than on the size of a car's engine. The new levy, however, qualifies as an "eye-catching initiative", just as does Mr Darling's threat to make retailers charge the public for disposable bags, even though this will do nothing to reduce carbon emissions.

Mr Darling's promised measures to make homes "greener" amount to a similar exercise in spectacular tokenism. Under all the rhetoric about "zero-carbon" houses, the Chancellor's actual commitment was for grants of £26m for such improvements as loft insulation, solar panels and roof-top wind turbines. This means that if every household in England and Wales were to implement such measures, each of them would get an additional grant of one pound. Since a wind turbine costs thousands of pounds to install ( assuming you get the planning permission), and takes more than 50 years to recover those costs through fuel bill reductions, I fear that Mr Darling's solitary pound will not have a decisive influence.

So the Green lobby has been united in denouncing Mr Darling for failing to deliver on his promise to deliver a Budget which would help to save the planet. To be fair to the Chancellor, to have satisfied them would have been politically suicidal. He is clearly – and rightly – concerned with the rise in "fuel poverty", as energy costs have soared.

Ministers have even waved the (probably illegal) threat of some form of statutory price controls at electricity and gas suppliers, and have – not so very long ago – bleated to Saudi Arabia to bring down the price of oil by increasing the supply of crude to the market.

Yet if the Government really believed that the planet was being brought to premature extinction through the consumption of fossil fuels, it would be encouraging the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Counties (Opec) to keep on squeezing the consumer, and thus choking off demand. It would be happy that, partly as a result of the Saudis' refusal to boost production, domestic fuel bills could rise to the level at which people might decide to keep the central heating switched off and instead wear balaclavas and mittens indoors.

It would, admittedly, be a brave Government – and a short-lived one – which told voters that a bit more shivering in the cold is the price we must all pay to ensure that the inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere don't have to endure even hotter weather than they do already.

It would be an even more bizarre Government which implemented such policies even though its members couldn't quite believe the stories of catastrophic man-made climate change in the first place. This Government is not actually deranged and neither does it have a death wish: so it will continue to ensure that its policies don't match its rhetoric.

All the same, I do think that its ministers might, for their own benefit, get out of their gas-guzzling limousines and walk a few yards every now and then – if only to prove to an increasingly sceptical public that theyreally do believe what they say.

d.lawson@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

DT Teacher - Textiles

£100 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We urgently require a DT t...

Year 1 Teacher for long term roles starting in September

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Year 6 Teachers needed for long term and day to day roles

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Year 5 Teachers needed for various roles across Berkshire

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Prime Minister David Cameron speaks outside Downing Street after the result of the Scottish Referendum  

Scottish referendum results: And now for the West Lothian question – but resolving it won’t be easy

Rosie Millard
No supporters react to results in the Scottish independence referendum at The Marriott Hotel in Glasgow as ballet papers are counted through the night.  

Scottish referendum results: Thank you, thank you, thank you to the No voters – the Union is saved

Andy McSmith
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week