Philip Hammond is in denial about what the climate emergency really means

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The FT has reported that:

Philip Hammond has warned Theresa May that her plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 will cost the UK over £1tn.

In a letter to the prime minister seen by the Financial Times, the chancellor said the cost meant that less money would be available for schools, police, hospitals and other areas of public spending. He also warned that the target would render some industries “economically uncompetitive” without huge government subsidies.

Whwre to begin with simerh8ng as inept as this. I think b6 adding a few more quotes, to add some colour.

Mr Hammond warned in his letter – sent last week – about the implications of going ahead with the new target, which is much tighter than the UK’s current policy of cutting emissions by 80 per cent over the same period. The CCC has estimated that reaching net zero will cost £50bn a year, but the department for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy puts the figure at £70bn, according to the chancellor’s letter. “On the basis of these estimates, the total cost of transitioning to a zero-carbon economy is likely to be well in excess of a trillion pounds,” he wrote.

H[ammond] added that reaching the net zero target would require heating to be almost entirely decarbonised, leaving households having to replace gas boilers with alternatives such as heat pumps, which cost “three times more”. Homeowners would also need to spend thousands or tens of thousands of pounds on insulation.

Unless, of course, we do a Green New Deal to help them. Which we will if we want to survive. But Hammond revealed his true priority:

Although the 2050 target is backed by some business leaders, Mr Hammond argued that industry would face “significant costs” from shifting to low-carbon processes. He pointed out that unless competitor countries adopted the same policy, the shift could render “key industries” – such as the steel industry – economically uncompetitive or dependent on permanent government support.

And he added:

there would also need to be significant changes to farming practice and a total ban on petrol and diesel cars by 2050, along with a tenfold increase in electric charging points.


there would need to be an “ambitious policy response” in the current Parliament for the new target to have any credibility. This would almost certainly include increased government spending, meaning less money available for other areas of public spending.

As a result;

The chancellor urged Downing Street to support a review by the Treasury that would look at how to minimise the cost of the policy for taxpayers and consumers to prevent “potentially damaging impacts”. He also suggested that the government give itself an “explicit review point”, or a get-out clause to reconsider the target if other countries did not follow suit.

This letter is quite extraordinary. Take the last comment as an indication of why. Hammond still thinks there is an opt out clause from the global environmental crisis. And that what really matters is consumer convenience and keeping everything going on as if nothing is really happening. Whilst he apparently thinks that the costs are just an inconvenience that must be managed, but within existing constraints so that no one has their ambition for a holiday in the Bahamas (or wherever he thinks people holiday) disturbed.

I suspect that Hammond is far from alone in suffering his delusion. He will also not be alone in finding it hard to imagine that if we are to survive as a race here on earth then a very great deal that has to change. Farming will change. So too will travel. And heating. And so our homes. And having said that so too, of course, will our finances change. As will those of government. And the respective roles of the private and public sectors may look quite different as we progress through the transition to a sustainable economy - if we succeed in doing so. And that will mean our economy will not just make different things in different ways (which it will have to, precisely because carrying on as we are is now not possible) but that we will have to accept different ways in which we govern ourselves: like it or not the choice to opt out of this process will not be on any governments’ agenda.

Hammond has not got his head around even the lost basic of these issues as yet. His concern remains at the level of new boilers. We need to worry about them, and maybe car charging points. But the truth is that the real issues - the ones that will cause the big stress if we are to really transition via a Green New Deal - are the strategic and governance issues that suggest radical and existential threats to our existing ways of thinking are going to have to be managed. If he thinks what he’s looking at now is going to be hard he hasn’t a clue how tough it’s really going to be. And that worries me. We are in for a rocky ride, most especially with those in denial who will be the obstacles to saving us all.