Still keen on green now your that bill's arrived? ANDREW NEIL warns of storms ...

Still keen on green now your that bill's arrived? ANDREW NEIL warns of storms ...
Still keen on green now your that bill's arrived? ANDREW NEIL warns of storms ...

He pushes the need to combat climate change with the same gusto with which he used to excoriate all forms of greenery when he was a mere newspaper columnist.

With the zeal of the convert, Boris Johnson will pose as the Jolly Green Giant when he hosts world leaders for the global climate jamboree known as COP26 in Glasgow next month, leading the international charge against CO2 emissions and to the promised land of a new green economy.

Ambitious targets for slashing UK emissions have been set. Then made legally binding. Then made even more ambitious still.

Plans are being concocted to force fundamental changes in our lives, from how we heat our homes to how we cook, what we should drive and even how much flying and meat-eating should be tolerated. Investment is being ramped up to ensure renewable energy plays an ever-expanding role in electricity generation.

All governments, of course, have a duty to tackle climate change, which is real and potentially dangerous on so many fronts. But getting from where we are now to a greener economy with net zero emissions (or close to it) is expensive, disruptive and difficult.

The Government has a duty to give us the full picture and not just grandstand on the world stage with uncosted green rhetoric. Otherwise, when push comes to shove, the Government will not be able to carry the people, as President Macron found out in France three years ago when he tried to raise fuel prices to reduce consumption and sparked off the yellow-vest protests.

Boris Johnson pushes the need to combat climate change with the same gusto with which he used to excoriate all forms of greenery when he was a mere newspaper columnist, writes Andrew Neil

Boris Johnson pushes the need to combat climate change with the same gusto with which he used to excoriate all forms of greenery when he was a mere newspaper columnist, writes Andrew Neil

In other words, the Jolly Green Giant needs to come clean on the fact that his environmental deal will generate Jolly Big Bills, which we will be forced to foot.

So far all Johnson has offered is a menu without prices. The green virtue-signalling has grown ever louder but the associated costs aren't even whispered. What will the Great British public think about the glorious virtues of greenery now the bill's finally arriving?

When I interviewed Chancellor Rishi Sunak in June, I asked him to outline the full and true cost of getting to net zero. He was unable to do so, either because he didn't know or because it was too large a figure to present to an unsuspecting public.

But that's now all changing. The bills for going green are now coming in. Prepare to be shocked — and poorer.

For a start, take a close look at your annual household energy bill. On average, it's now £1,300, having just risen by almost £140.

By spring it could be closer to £1,700. Some energy experts say it could even nudge £2,000, which would bring real hardship to many homes.

Now, energy prices are rising across the globe and the reasons are beyond any one government's control. The robust V-shaped nature of the global economy's post-pandemic recovery surprised energy companies, leading to worldwide shortages of oil and gas.

China is scouring the globe for gas to keep its industries working and the lights on, pushing up prices to an incredible seven times their level of a year ago. Kremlin mischief makes the shortages even worse as President Putin cuts supplies to Europe to force it to accept Russian gas on his terms.

But at so many turns our Government's green obsessions have made things worse. Household energy bills — already soaring — are pushed 25 per cent higher by a variety of green and social levies whose proceeds are used to finance the switch to renewables and the decarbonisation of the economy.

Plentiful gas supplies could have been secured at a reasonable price if the Government had proceeded to exploit the massive reserves of shale gas on which Britain sits. But two years ago, after almost a decade of failure and running scared of powerful environmental lobbies, it turned its back on 'fracking', a process of getting gas out of the ground which had ended America's dependence on Middle East fossil fuels and turned it into a net exporter of energy.

The overall cost of the Johnson green deal is as yet unknown. Most experts say it will be at least £1 trillion over the next two decades or so, writes Andrew Neil

The overall cost of the Johnson green deal is as yet unknown. Most experts say it will be at least £1 trillion over the next two decades or so, writes Andrew Neil

In his speech to the Tory conference last week, Johnson talked of the raw deal northern towns such as Blackpool suffer because of the way our economy is configured. But that part of the North West has some of the biggest shale gas reserves in Europe. Fracking would have brought thousands of well-paid jobs to Blackpool and many other parts of the North, as well as securing cheap gas supplies.

But the Government preferred to burnish its green credentials and turned its back on fracking. As a result, instead of raising the living standards of people in places such as Blackpool, it stuffs billions of pounds into the pockets of despots from Moscow to the Gulf who sell us gas we can't do without at increasingly extravagant prices. I don't think that's what most of us understand by levelling up.

It's not as if the Government didn't know we would need copious supplies of natural gas for the foreseeable future. It still accounts for 40 per cent of all our electricity generation, more when the wind doesn't blow, which has been the case quite a lot this year.

No country is immune from the vagaries of global energy markets. But our Government has an uncanny knack of making difficult situations worse. Nor does it seem capable of learning from its mistakes. In the past 24 hours it was reported the Government plans to refuse Shell permission to develop further its Jackdaw gas field in the North Sea, which could meet 15 per cent of UK household gas consumption.

But Johnson clearly wants nothing to do with fossil fuels in the run-up to Glasgow, even if it means Putin and the Emir of Qatar will be further enriched by British treasure.

The spike in the cost of home heating and cooking — essential spending which no household can avoid and which hit the poor hardest — couldn't come at a worse time.

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