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“I’ve just been made a baroness”

Ten years ago tomorrow (26 November, 2008) the Climate Change Bill gained royal assent and passed into law in the UK. Much has been written about the damage this ill-conceived piece of legislation has done and will do – Rupert Darwall pretty much covers it here.

After sober consideration of the dire economic and societal impacts of this Act of Parliament, it is perhaps worth a few moments to look once again at how the whole mess came about. In 2011 a talk by Bryony (now Baroness) Worthington was posted on YouTube – you can still view it here, and there is also a transcript. It’s worth watching or reading in its entirety.

We learn of the factors that came together to make the Bill a reality, the agitation from Friends of the Earth, the political ambitions of two Davids (Miliband and Cameron), the acquiescence of various different government departments – and the initial resistance from the Treasury and the Department of Business. The account of how that resistance was overcome is very revealing.

And I mean it was quite a challenge. I mean, we were a team of I think about eight of us working full time – tasked with preparing a draft bill, and not just a fairly large bill but also in a quite short period of time David Miliband was convinced he was going to be reshuffled off to another department. So he wanted action fast. So he said, ”I want this bill in three months”. So the lawyers all said, ”No, no, no… you can’t get a bill done in three months. It will take six or may be a year”. And we said, “Well, we’ve only got three months so let’s try it.”

And that speed was another key factor, that looking back on it was really important, because one thing that Whitehall is very good at doing is producing huge amounts of documents, and papers, and concepts, and notes, but if you are moving fast, often if you bombard people with huge amounts of information they will usually find a couple of things that they object to and then you have to have a process of negotiation on those one or two issues as opposed to the minutiae of every single clause, every single policy.

So we were fortunate in a way that, because… Let’s not pretend that the Government was united in wanting this. The Department of the Environment was very in favour, DFID was in favour, the FCO was pretty much in favour, but certainly the Treasury thought this was a terrible idea and the Department of Business thought it was a terrible idea and largely because they felt the UK acting alone would be really detrimental to our competitiveness. And here we were proposing a self-imposed target that was going to last to 2050. And it would introduce costs and force businesses to move overseas, and all sorts – the world was going to end, according to the Treasury. And we kept saying, “Well, we don’t think that’s true. It’s all very moderate, it’s very manageable and it’s important, because we have got to show leadership”.

And it was – so we ended up arguing with the Treasury more on the principle than on the detail. Because we were moving so fast that they only had maybe one or two policy people covering our brief, whereas we had a team of lawyers and us and all our special advisors and we basically just were able to outwit them a little bit by moving quickly so that was another element that, I think, led to it being successful.

Could it be any more obvious? Clearly there were things in the draft bill that that desperately needed proper scrutiny, indeed things that wouldn’t have got past the Treasury people if they’d had the proper scrutiny. And she knows that. But her team got this pig in a poke past the opposition, using high-pressure sales tactics (“moving fast”, “bombard people with huge amounts of information”, “outwit them a little bit by moving quickly”). And so the gatekeepers were outmanoeuvred and the damage was done.

Bryony’s words, if not her tone, are that of a scammer, sitting on a tropical beach somewhere, tequila in hand, having a quiet chuckle at all the mugs she’s just fleeced of their savings or pension money. Clever old Bryony, eh? Silly old Treasury people. And silly old United Kingdom.

So yeah, Happy 10th Anniversary, the Climate Change Act – by Bryony’s own admission, you were a con, right from day one.

10 thoughts on ““I’ve just been made a baroness”

  1. Pingback: “I’ve just been made a baroness” – Today,s Thought

  2. And the good Baroness has moved on within the NGO world: https://www.edf.org/people/baroness-bryony-worthington

    “Environmental Defense – Executive Director, Europe. She is a leading expert on climate change and energy policy and carbon trading. She recently served as the Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change in the House of Lords, leading on two Energy Bills for the Shadow Ministerial team.”

    “Drawing from her varied experiences, Bryony elevates EDF’s voice in the European environmental debate and helps oversee our activities and partnerships in key countries.”

    Nice little earner and gives a US NGO direct access to our legislature. Notwithstanding that, her US boss, Fred Krupp gets another bite of the UK environmental cherry, with his membership of the Grantham Institutes Advisory Committee. Grantham funds EDF in the States. The Grantham Institutes have two representatives on the Climate Change Committee, Jim Skea and Brian Hoskins. Until last year it was three, before Sam Fankhauser was replaced by Rebecca Heaton from Drax.

    https://www.theccc.org.uk/about/committee-on-climate-change/

    http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/about/about-the-institute/advisory-board/

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  3. Reminds of the staging of Hansen’s 1988 testimony at US Senate. From interview with then-Senator Tim Wirth:

    “Believe it or not, we called the Weather Bureau and found out what historically was the hottest day of the summer. Well, it was June 6 or June 9 or whatever it was, so we scheduled the hearing that day, and bingo: It was the hottest day on record in Washington, or close to it. It was stiflingly hot that summer. [At] the same time you had this drought all across the country, so the linkage between the Hansen hearing and the drought became very intense.”

    .”.. What we did it was went in the night before and opened all the windows, I will admit, right? So that the air conditioning wasn�t working inside the room and so when the, when the hearing occurred there was not only bliss, which is television cameras in double figures, but it was really hot. ..”.

    “So Hansen’s giving this testimony, you’ve got these television cameras back there heating up the room, and the air conditioning in the room didn’t appear to work. So it was sort of a perfect collection of events that happened that day, with the wonderful Jim Hansen, who was wiping his brow at the witness table and giving this remarkable testimony. …”
    https://rclutz.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/new-york-times-1988-hansen-testimony-front-page.png?w=1000&h=649

    Wirth interview is here: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/hotpolitics/interviews/wirth.html

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  4. Thanks to a link at Dennis Ambler’s comment above, we learn that the Committee on Climate Change, headed by Lord “Big Mac” Deben, whose environmental beliefs owe so much to his friendship with a fellow-Welsh hippy drug addict: see
    https://geoffchambers.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/dirty-deben-does-drugs-and-potty-talk/

    also contains among its members Professor Corinne Le Quéré FRS, Professor of Climate Change Science and Policy at the University of East Anglia, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Director of the annual update of the global carbon budget by the Global Carbon Project, and about-to-be-named member of President Macron’s “High Council for the Climate.”
    https://www.lejdd.fr/Politique/exclusif-emmanuel-macron-va-mettre-en-place-un-haut-conseil-pour-le-climat-3807443

    So Professor Corinne will be actively guiding the climate policies of the world’s 5th and 6th greatest economic powers, one the provider and the other the consumer of the French government-controlled EDF’s carbon neutral nuclear plants – one inside and the other outside of the European Union – for the foreseeable future. And a member of the Royal Society to boot.

    Baroness Worthington’s rise to power was more arduous, in that she had to be nominated by a minister before being confirmed by the Head of State (E2R) as a member in perpetuity of the sovereign parliament of the UK, whereas Professor Corrine was co-opted in the UK, and simply appointed by the Head of State (EM) in France.

    Should we be thankful that the future energy policy of two of the world’s greatest powers is to be decided by such an impartial expert? Discuss.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. There is a whole section missing from the Baroness’s little talk. That is on the justification for the policy. That justification was supposed to be provided by the 2006 Stern Review. This gave the basic message that although climate mitigation was expensive, it would be far less than the projected costs of climate cataclysm revealed to us lesser beings by climate scientists. But for the policy to be net beneficial to the British people required all other countries to adopt similar policies. That is to reduce global emissions to zero requires all countries to follow the lead of Britain.

    This is David Miliband promoting the Bill in

    There is a blind spot in Miliband’s words when he believes that merely “leading the way” by on moralistic notions will result in others following. That has not happened. But there is no clauses in the final Climate Change Act funding overseas evangelism, or to rescind the Act if countries collectively so not follow Britain’s lead. So we have an Act that (in the terms of the Stern Review) is net harmful to the people of Britain.

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  6. Michael Gove has taken up the Milibands’ mantle admirably, you can hardly see the join:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/michael-gove-speech-on-uk-climate-change-projections

    “I am fortunate as Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to work alongside some of the most gifted, dedicated and impressive public servants in the country.”

    They have totally captured him and brainwashed him. The ignorance and disinformation is profound.

    “Today, as we launch the fourth generation of our UK Climate Projections, it is clear that the planet and its weather patterns are changing before our eyes.

    Sea levels, for example – which we are becoming more accurate at measuring, thanks to advances in instruments and monitoring systems.

    In the 20th century the oceans rose around 15cm and the rate of increase has since quickened.

    Just since 2000, levels have risen around six centimetres, based on a global-average rise of 3.2mm a year.

    Our seas are storing increasing amounts of heat:

    around half of all ocean warming has occurred since 1997.

    Even as we take action to slow carbon dioxide pollution now, physics dictates that the climate will keep heating up for decades to come.

    Peer-reviewed scientific research states that the rapid warming is substantially due to the methane, nitrous oxide, and fossil fuel emissions we produce.

    The great ice sheets of Greenland and some parts of Antarctica are increasingly unstable.

    Rising seas are rendering the storm surges not only of hurricanes but also regular high tides more of a threat.

    Food and water security are affected, as is national security.

    Across the planet, people, plants, animals and also diseases are on the move, searching for habitats in which to thrive, escaping erratic and extreme weather events which deliver too much rain, too little rain, searing summer temperatures, colder winters.

    Marine ecosystems will experience warmer and more acidic seas.

    WWF’s recent Living Planet report revealed a 60% fall in global wildlife populations in just over 40 years. One of the main causes of this devastating decline is climate change.

    Around the world, fears are growing for the existence of some low-lying countries – most of the 1,000 or so Marshall Islands, covering 29 slender coral atolls in the South Pacific, are less than six feet above sea level – and the future of a great number of coastal cities, including Miami, New York and Venice.

    And while climate change cannot be blamed for growing wealth inequality, it is the case that it disproportionately affects nations with the least resources to cope – nations which have also contributed least to emissions in the first place. In the coming years, they will expect the developed world to deliver what Mary Robinson, the former Irish president and environmental campaigner, calls ‘climate justice’ – sharing fairly the burdens and benefits of climate change and its impacts.”

    The litany continues, with fulsome praise of SR15. The whole speech is straight out of the WWF and Greenpeace playbook and sounds as if it is written by them. The media will play along as usual, just in time for COP 24.

    It is far worse than Cameron’s Hug a Husky period.

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  7. I think the main point of the Climate Change Act, unlikely to be mentioned by Bryony Worthington, is that it sets up the UK Government for a possible future legal challenge by a Green NGO (and there’s no shortage of money to fund such challenges). A paragraph from an Economist article from 2008 gives the game away I think:

    https://www.economist.com/britain/2008/11/20/a-rod-for-our-backs

    “But although the idea of applying the unforgiving sternness of the law sounds attractive, it is not clear how the planned legal straitjacket is to work. Government targets usually apply to bodies such as schools, hospitals or individual departments which can be punished if they fail to meet them. The emission-reduction targets would apply to the whole country, making any notion of punishment nonsensical. Instead, Mr Williams hopes that judges will enforce the rules against the government itself, citing a recent court case in which the judge agreed with Greenpeace that an official consultation on nuclear power had been unlawfully conducted and ordered that it be run again.”

    The ‘Mr Williams’ referred to above is Martyn Williams, who was head of the parliamentary lobbying bit of Friends of the Earth at the time. In addition to the more familiar activities of Green NGOs like lobbying politicians, giving interviews to environmental journalists, and organising publicity stunts that supposedly ‘raise awareness’, they also set up and carry out legal challenges against companies and governments.

    I would imagine Big Green has tried to set up Climate Change Act-type arrangements in other countries, but as I’ve not heard of this type of legislation existing elsewhere, it suggests that politicians in other countries are not as stupid as the ones we’ve got in the UK.

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  8. Science:

    afflatus → hypothesis → confirmed hypothesis → theory → law

    Climate science:

    bar bet with L. Ron Hubbard → sci-fi credo → vaguer, falsification-proof version → ??? → PROFIT → Bryony → Baroness → law

    But other than that, as Dan Kahan keeps trying to tell us, it’s just like regular science.

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  9. GEOFF CHAMBERS says:
    26 Nov 18 at 12:46 am

    You may like to know that the lovely Corinne has now been recognised in the prestige publication, The Eastern Daily Press, flanked by adverts for the pantomime Aladdin at Norwich Theatre Royal. I doubt he’s got an oil lamp… If she gives it a quick polish the genie Macron may appear and grant her the other two wishes.

    https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/president-macron-picks-uea-academic-to-lead-climate-change-council-1-5798481

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