Britain Will NOT Lead in CO2 Cuts, Vows UK Chancellor

uk parliament photo

Image credit: McKay Savage, used under Creative Commons license.

Oh dear. Even as the promising signs of a clean energy revolution keep coming and as low carbon technologies provide a bright spot in a faltering economy, there are those who push for lower ambitions and a heavy dose of fossil fuels to magically get us out of our environmental and economic crises.

I had hoped this was just a US phenomenon. But now the UK Government may be faltering on its commitment to world-leading CO2 cuts too.Of course speeches at party conferences, much like the anti-green rhetoric emanating from GOP candidates, should be taken with a pinch of salt. Nevertheless, news from Business Green that UK chancellor George Osborne has been recycling the tired old cliche that environmental regulation is stifling our business is not good.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference, Osborne argued that Britain should not lead Europe in emissions cuts, and that regulations were in danger of putting Britain "out of business". Needless to say, leading environmental groups reacted angrily:

"The chancellor clearly can't do his sums - government figures show the reason our power bills are soaring is the UK government's addiction to coal, gas and oil, not green regulation that safeguards our economy," said Friends of the Earth's executive director, Andy Atkins. "Harnessing the UK's clean power potential is the only way to boost our energy industry and keep costs down in the long run - it's astonishing that Osborne seems to be in league with those falsely blaming moves to free us from our costly fossil fuel habit."

Maybe it's because I'm reading Jeremy Rifkin's The Third Industrial Revolution, but Osborne's push for mediocrity is more sad for Britain than it is alarming for the world.

As I argued in my post on why anti-green jobs distortions will proliferate, the defenders of dirty industry are starting to seem a little out-of-date. Much like the 16th Century authorities who scrambled to deal with the new-found-freedoms of the printing press, friends of coal and oil can delay and obstruct all they like—but the world is moving on.

The question now is just who is going to lead? Osborne has clearly indicated that he would rather not.

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