The UK Government has laws and commitments to meet with respect to action on climate change – in particular, net zero by 2050. They have made changes to legal commitments on cars and oil boilers and given the impression that they are weakening their resolve to take action on climate change. The claim has been made that this will not make any difference to the end date of 2050. See this article by clicking on this button
But are these decisions factually and morally correct?
Government changes laws on changes for electric cars etc.
The PM has just announced postponing the date by when new car sales have to be electric from 2030 to 2035. Also, the banning of new oil boilers in off-grid homes by 2026 has now been changed, and at the same time, a cloud of doubt drifts over a commitment to move to net zero heating technologies like Air Source Heat Pumps.
The PM made further announcements about scrapping (fictional) proposals on taxing red meat, air travel and having seven bins for waste. These may be ideas on the part of someone, but they are certainly not firm government proposals.
It is reasonable to take the view that the statements about red meat, air travel taxes etc. are straw men. The definition of a straw man is “If you deliberately use a fake issue to argue against because it’s easier to prove wrong than the real issue would be, you’re using a straw man.”
Cars, Boilers etc.
So here is a paper which investigates the facts based on the long-term decisions that consumers should consider when investing in cars, air source heat pumps and so on, using reasonable assumptions. This paper can be read or downloaded here. The basic conclusions are:
- It is wrong to say that an electric car is more expensive than a petrol/diesel car, and hence the decision should be postponed from 2030 to 2035 on buying electric cars. They are the same. The cheaper operating costs of electric cars offset the increased capital costs of an electric car.
- The statement that it is more expensive to replace oil boilers with air-source heat pumps than to replace boilers with a new oil boiler is wrong. It may look good for off-grid householders who have to change to air-source heat pumps or similar in 2026 in the short term. But when you look at the long-term it is more expensive.
- Both of these actions will add significant amounts of noxious gases to the atmosphere, which will prejudice the commitment to net zero by 2035.
- The UK taxes alchohol, cigarettes and sugar for health reasons. They all have impacts on farmers. The reason for not taxing red meat was stated to be because it will have an impact on farmers. So the basis of the argument is false. Red Meat is recognised as being unhealthy in excess, as it causes bowel cancer. Therefore there is a good case for taxing red meat. We need to reduce the consumption of meat by 20 %.
- The government also announced that there will be no new taxes on air travel because this will stop people from going on holidays. There is already in place the Air Passenger Duty which is a tax on travel. APD could/should be tweaked to become an environmental tax to control the annual emissions of around 45 Mn tonnes of noxious gases from air travel.
In sum government has made arbitrary sudden changes to the laws which could have enormous consequences for the emissions of noxious gases into the atmosphere, without proper discussion. The decisions are not long-term decisions as far as consumers are concerned, as shown in this paper.
One could draw the conclusion that these “decisions” have more to do with short-term electioneering rather than the longer-term welfare of the consumers in the UK/GB.