Back in 2016, I spoke at the Oxford Union’s big debate: ‘Is global warming a big risk to humanity?’
I was speaking against it, with my opponent that day, Tory MP for Reading, Alok Sharma, arguing that the apocalyptic dangers of climate change are real.
The same Mr Sharma has been made chief organiser of the COP26 climate change conference, which starts on October 31st in the post-industrial city of Glasgow – one that has got rid of nearly all of its past world class manufacturing.
The main question for the organisers is: will the event be held by candlelight? This is now a distinct possibility after 30 years of successive UK governments implementing disastrous energy programmes.
We have built the world’s largest offshore wind infrastructure – one that completely fails when the wind fails to blow. The solar farm programme, also heavily subsidised, produces little regular energy due to Britain’s cloudy weather.
Worse, we have closed all but a handful of our coal-fired power stations, as well as our home coal production industry. We have introduced a blanket ban on fracking, halted investment in future North Sea oil and gas fields, and failed to complete any of the projected new nuclear power stations.
The result: about half of our energy – the important, ‘high density’ energy half – is now dependent on imported natural gas which has in the past 12 months leapt in price 800%. And there is little prospect of these prices falling soon due to the countries such as China grabbing what little surplus is available.
The other result is not just the shutdown of most manufacturing in the North of England within weeks – but the permanent closure of most of its remaining factories. In the North East, around half of permanent, well-paid jobs are in manufacturing.
And it is not just big companies such as Nissan’s highly efficient production plant in Sunderland – it could be nearly every producer in metals, chemicals, oil refining, airline gasoline manufacturing, steel-making, glass, plastics, auto, cement and construction.
Yes, that’s north of 450,000 jobs, direct and indirect, all in the North of England. Shortages of HGV fuel truck drivers pale by comparison.
The UK’s biggest power station, Drax in North Yorkshire, is trumpeted as the ‘cleanest’. Its switch from using coal to wood chips was heralded by politicians as masterful. In fact, reports suggest it eats one half of the world’s production of wood pellets.
If you live in the US states of Louisiana and Virginia, you would see the direct impact of this: many a square mile of virgin hardwood forest disappearing to go up in smoke at Drax.
Many British institutions – government departments, advisory councils, universities, county councils – have failed to speak out against these disastrous policies.
Three weeks ago, BBC broadcasters admitted their surprise at discovering that CO2, far from being the planet’s No.1 poison, was in fact a vital ingredient in manufacturing food and fertilisers. Just two US-owned plants, one in Teesside and the other in Cheshire, produce 40% of UK fertiliser – a truly vital resource.
On the ground, the mania continues. Pedestrianisation of Northern cities and towns is being pushed through by councils, creating economic dead zones that are swiftly deserted not just by retailers but by the car-dependent public. Meanwhile in London, Mayor Sadiq Khan is introducing a daily tax of £15 on any car journey within a zone bounded by the North and South Circular Roads on cars that don’t meet Euro 6 emission standards.
Transport for London is one of the biggest, most vicious users of bailiffs in the UK. In Birmingham and Bristol, city centres are becoming off-limits to ordinary people as entry charges are imposed, streets cut from traffic and yet more empty and expensive tram lines inflicted on communities.
So while Mr Sharma is busy overseeing COP26 – and the world’s climate change evangelists collectively wring their hands – many people in the North of England are more concerned about whether they are about to lose their manufacturing job forever.