Thursday, May 29, 2008

Brown's 'greenwash' failure

The government’s alleged environmental credentials are in ruins, with Gordon Brown’s announcement of support for a massive expansion of nuclear power, and the exposure of the “green tax” fraud. Brown has gone further than before by declaring that new nuclear power sites will be needed. And this is in addition to the even more immediate threat of a new generation of heavily polluting coal-fired power stations.

Last year the government was claiming its road tax policies were aimed at reducing car use – now the chancellor is planning to scrap them, as Labour MPs wake up to the fact that they will only drive the poorest people off the roads. The taxes also have precious little to do with changing behaviour, as they apply to cars bought as long ago as 2001!

Meanwhile, as speculators and hedge funds tighten their grip on the oil market, helping to send fuel prices soaring, the government is like a frightened rabbit caught in the headlights. In the autumn the big utility companies are planning further increases in domestic fuel prices. Mark Todd, the director of, says: "This winter we have had the credit crunch. Next winter it will be the energy crunch.” He warned British consumers could face a 66% rise in gas prices by January, and similar increases in electricity.

Consumers got a taste of things to come on Tuesday, when several power stations shut down at the same time leaving half a million homes and businesses without power. After that, the price of gas for next winter reached a record 99.5p a therm, double the level a year ago. That increase will be passed on to the consumer, not only in higher fuel bills but in higher costs for food and other essentials.

The government was also forced this week to defend its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, in the face of new reports exposing it as an expensive fraud. Two academics at Stanford University, California, studied more than 3,000 CDM projects earning up to $10bn worth of carbon credits, and concluded that none of them should have qualified as they would have been built anyway. Almost every chemical, wind power or hydro electric scheme planned for China in the next four years has applied to register.

When it finally expires in 2012, it seems Kyoto will have saved a pitiful total of about 175 million tons of carbon, according to Professor Roger Pielke, Jr. at the University of Colorado’s Centre for Science and Technology Policy Research. Pielke totalled the cumulative emissions saved by CDM schemes already registered, or in the pipeline and found that the level emissions that would have been reached on January 1, 2012 will now happen just before noon on January 7, 2012. So at a cost of tens of billions of dollars, the CDM has given the planet about another 6.5 days. I suppose we should be grateful.

All the government’s hopes of meeting carbon emission reduction targets are pinned on the CDM, not on any real reductions. A note of desperation crept into their defence. A spokeswoman said: "We completely reject any assertions that it is fundamentally flawed. We've worked consistently for and seen improvement in CDM processes over the past few years of its operation. We believe the CDM is essentially transparent and robust, though we will continue to press for the environmental integrity of projects."

The facts are clear enough – the government is leaving it all to the global energy companies and to the market in carbon. It has no solutions to the fuel crisis or to climate change. The "green tax” approach has failed. Government policies are essentially a greenwash. There is an urgent need for a crash programme of energy saving and efficiency measures, along the lines of A World to Win’s Action Plan to Halt Climate Chaos. Join us today to help develop the strategy for implementing this urgent alternative.

Penny Cole
Environment editor

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