Author: Richard Vann

2030 and the green industrial revolution

Richard Vann

The prime minister aims to lead the government and the country into a new green industrial revolution with a ten-point plan, issued on 18 November 2020. One might call it the Johnson revolution. The target is to make the UK a zero emissions country. That’s a tall order, because although our economy has been advancing rapidly for about 250 years, it’s mostly been at the expense of the environment.
The ten-point plan has many aspects. One is that new petrol and diesel cars and vans will not be on sale after 2030. This is a big challenge as 2.3 million vehicles were sold in 2019, but only about 1.6 per cent were electric. What about the heavy goods vehicles, diesel trains, diesel ships, and kerosene jet planes? They are a problem, and the answer is … a consultation! Whatever is decided, there is at least one cop out – to plant enough trees to absorb the carbon dioxide (CO2) that these modes of transport are producing. As it doesn’t really matter where the trees are planted, it’s perversely possible for some companies that have made a load of dosh from cutting down the rain forests to be given a new load of dosh for re-planting them.
Say the 2030 date goes ahead, what about all the disruption? For certain, there will be a lot of fuss, but nothing as bad as Covid-19. What about the infrastructure costs, like charging points and improving the roads? These costs will be great, but the chancellor didn’t baulk at spending about £400 billion on fighting the pandemic. The main problem with Rishi Sunak and his recent spending review is that he didn’t mention the green industrial revolution that was so important to the prime minister a week earlier.
This proves what we all suspected. The different aspects of government are like a jigsaw puzzle where none of the pieces fit together. Coherence is lacking. What is done this week will be undone next week. This helps to explain the inadequate response to Covid-19. Whatever means you might choose to fight the virus you would never choose our government to co-ordinate the action. At present we are in a climate emergency, but again we should not expect any help from government. Sunak was right when he said the individual, the family, and the community must become stronger. But he failed to mention that his government is so full of weaknesses that it should be ignored.
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Apart from Sunak, will anybody else oppose this revolution? Well, why would an oil company vote for electric vehicles? Only if its main plan was to switch out of oil. And why would car manufacturers want to move from their cosy status quo to a scary new world? The large car companies will be forced to compete with the new kids on the block, such as Tesla, and some of our dearly loved brands may not survive. You can almost hear the gnashing of teeth as the day of Armageddon approaches. But the oil industry and the petrol car industry will still be using their influence and money to try to slow the green revolution.
So why has it taken the government so long to come up with this ten-point plan? Weren’t these environmental problems forecast 50 years ago? Yes indeed, but while our politicians were aware the environment was being brutalised, the natural world was not actually dead. The old oak trees in our parks and woodlands seemed to be taking the strain. Also, has the government ever got an award for being innovative? It hates change and has the power to ignore adverse comment. That is until now. At the moment more people are willing to side with Greta Thunberg than our dithering ministers.
What about U-turns? That’s something the government is good at when you consider environmental promises. The zero CO2 new houses promised for 2015 did not happen. Johnson’s promise of gas boilers to be phased out by 2023 has already been declared a ‘mistake’. U-turns reveal incompetence, U-turns promote distrust, and in all probability, U-turns will reduce the ten-point plan to dust. Is there any hope? Fortunately, we don’t have to rely on our government to bring about the green industrial revolution. Ordinary people and companies are making it happen. We’ve seen the need for change, and we’re not waiting until 2030.
It’s a popular revolution, not a Johnson revolution.