Al Gore, the CBI & Greenpeace: which big gun will make a difference?
The heavy artillery of the climate movement parked its tanks on the (metaphorical) lawn of the UK Chancellor this week. Al Gore, John Cridland of the CBI and John Sauven of Greenpeace lambasted his approach to clean energy at a Green Alliance conference. Each took a different tack and I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast.
Gore appealed to the UK Government to show leadership:
“The UK’s historic legacy of leadership on the most important moral issues faced by humanity, including the climate crisis, is long and has been recognised with respect by the community of nations,” he said. “It is time for the UK government to honour and live up to that legacy, and return to its global leadership position, domestically and abroad, by supporting an ambitious international agreement in Paris that unleashes the power of the private sector to create a global clean energy economy.”
Cridland looked at the risks of inaction and economic benefits of action:
“Supermarket chain ASDA estimates that 95% of its supply chain could be at risk from changing weather patterns and increased extreme events – which are both accelerated by climate change. And we’ve already seen how global technology companies in the US – in particular – had to stop trading when flooding in Thailand shut down the factories they relied on.
But besides the ‘costs’ of inaction, the ‘benefits’ of seizing the opportunity and growing the green economy are also clear. We know the UK’s green economy has sales of over 120 billion pounds a year. And whilst people might describe ‘China’ or ‘India’ as ‘emerging markets’, the green economy is a high-growth ‘emerging market’ in its own right. Between 2010 and 2013, the green economy grew at more than 7% a year, compared to less than 2% a year over the same period for the UK economy as a whole.
Today, 164 countries have renewable energy targets. That’s 164 potential markets worldwide for the UK’s renewable industry – for example.”
Sauven took a more combative approach:
“From Britain’s business leaders to the government’s own advisers, the chorus of opposition against George Osborne’s ideological assault on clean energy just keeps growing. His increasingly erratic and capricious policies are not only harming UK businesses and ripping off consumers but are also isolating Britain ahead of a crucial climate summit.
When Al Gore ironically remarks that Osborne is not the prime minister, he makes a very good point. David Cameron should take heed of it and start wresting back control of energy and climate policy from the chancellor’s hands.”
My assessment is that, in the short term, the Government will be embarrassed most by Gore’s argument – every politician likes to think of themselves as showing leadership. However, Cridland’s cost-benefit analysis may have more long term effect on a business-loving Chancellor, particularly if it is followed up with some invitations to see that burgeoning green sector in action (Osborne likes nothing more than swanning about a factory in hi-viz). I’m most disappointing in Sauven’s line – he should know by now that experienced politicians have an inner noise-cancelling switch which is activated by insults and words like ‘ideological’. You’ve got to preach to the congregation, not to the choir.