I was moved to write “Green Law, Red Tape” thanks to an email appearing in my inbox, drawing my attention to a plethora of pointless legislation which creates a lot of unhelpful red tape and bureaucracy for businesses. This week a friend whose position means he receives such things, forwarded to me an email headed “Final reminder – WEET policy conference – UK climate change policy – next steps for building adaptation capacity, net-zero strategies, COP26 & UK international role – CCC keynote – Morning, Thursday, 5th August 2021”.
That heading certainly encapsulates swathes of public policy areas taking up massive amounts of time on the part of public servants who I think would be better employed doing something useful. Probably the only part of the agenda with which I have any sympathy is “next steps for building adaptation capacity”. I will return to the email and the conference agenda later. For now I want to spend a little bit of time looking at one of the latest Quangos to emerge from the fevered brains of our climate-obsessed political class.
Green Technical Advisory Group
I confess I had never heard of this organisation, until the email drew my attention to it. My interest was piqued when it appeared on the agenda, and I saw it described as “an independent group appointed by HM Treasury to help tackle greenwashing, and make it easier for consumers and investors to find out and understand a firm’s impact on the environment”.
And so I had a look online and discovered that there are numerous online references to it, so many that I was surprised that I had not read about it or heard about it via BBC Radio, TV or website. Perhaps they’re not so keen on us discovering how taxpayers’ money is being squandered?
Anyway, on 9th June 2021 a news page appeared on the Government websitei which tells me:
The Green Technical Advisory Group (GTAG) will oversee the Government’s delivery of a “Green Taxonomy” – a common framework setting the bar for investments that can be defined as environmentally sustainable.
The Green Taxonomy will help clamp down on greenwashing – unsubstantiated or exaggerated claims that an investment is environmentally friendly – and make it easier for investors and consumers to understand how a firm is impacting [sic] the environment.
With hundreds of new sustainable investment funds coming to market each year and sales to UK retail investors tripling from 2019 to 2020, consumers and investors of all sizes will be able to make more informed decisions, and businesses will be supported as they plan to transition to net zero.
The Green Taxonomy is an important step in the Government’s efforts to boost investment in projects that accelerate the transition to a sustainable economy, create green jobs and support the UK’s environmental goals.
The Green Technical Advisory Group (GTAG) will provide independent, non-binding advice to the Government on developing and implementing a green taxonomy in the UK context.
GTAG will be chaired by the Green Finance Institute and made up of financial and business stakeholders, taxonomy and data experts, and subject matter experts drawn from academia, NGOs, the Environment Agency and the Committee on Climate Change.
And quite a lot more in similar vein. Including this:
The Government will also establish an Energy Working Group as part of the GTAG to provide advice on key technologies such as hydrogen, carbon capture, utilisation and storage, and how to address nuclear power in the taxonomy – a key element of the UK’s net zero plans. Other expert groups may also be established where required as work progresses.
The launch of GTAG comes shortly after the UK was instrumental in getting G7 countries to move towards making climate disclosures – in line with recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) – mandatory across their respective economies.
My word, that’s a lot of red tape, and a massive opportunity to influence public policy. How do I apply to get involved, given that this is to be an independent body? After all, I’m a qualified lawyer who has spent a lot of time working at a senior level at a FTSE 250 company, with an interest in the subject and a bit of spare time. What do you mean, I’m too late, the positions are already filled, and I’m not the sort of person you’re looking for?
Here’s the Membership List:
Chair: • Green Finance Institute – Ingrid Holmes
Users of the taxonomy – Financial Services:
• Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change – Faith Ward • UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association – James Alexander • International Regulatory Strategy Group – Elizabeth Gillam
Users of the taxonomy – Non-Financial Services:
• Aldersgate Group – Nick Molho • Confederation of British Industry (CBI) – Rain Newton-Smith
Taxonomy and Data Experts:
• Committee on Climate Change – Mike Thompson • Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) – Alyssa Heath • Climate Bonds Initiative – Prashant Vaze • FTSE Russell, London Stock Exchange Group – Lily Dai • Bloomberg – Nadia Humphreys • Environment Agency – Anna Bond
Academia & Subject Matter Experts:
• Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership – Paul Fisher • Centre for Greening Finance and Investment – Ben Caldecott • Grantham Institute/LSE – Nick Robins • Queen’s University – Theodor Cojoianu • Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures – Rhian-Mari Thomas
• E3G – Kate Levick • WWF – Karen Ellis
HM Treasury; Financial Conduct Authority; Bank of England; Other relevant HMG departments and regulators
Why does that membership list not surprise me? Bloomberg, Grantham Institute, WWF. With a membership like that, I will never be persuaded that we are witnessing anything other than an increasingly cosy relationship between such organisations and those who decide how are taxes are spent. Dissident voices are not allowed. Sceptics need not apply.
Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum
Meanwhile, back to the email. It was sent by WEET, you may recall, and WEET, it turns out, is the Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum. They have a website.ii It’s “About” page tells me:
Westminster Forum Projects (WFP) has its origins in the UK national Parliament, but its work now extends to policy decided in UK devolved Parliaments and Assemblies, the Oireachtas, and the European Commission and Parliament.
WFP currently offers 16 influential, impartial and cross-party forums
Money doesn’t seem to be a problem:
Westminster Forum Projects is a market leader in organising impartial, senior-level seminars on public policy in education, nutrition, health, employment, energy, transport, the environment, media, telecoms, and other key policy areas in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Our work enjoys considerable support from legislators, government, industry, the third sector, and amongst interest groups.
Their website is currently advertising twelve vacancies. The Conference due to take place (online, in fairness to them) on 5th August is, not surprisingly, featured on their website. The bit that caught my eye was the list of public sector attendees:
Places have been reserved by parliamentary pass-holders from the Department for the Economy, NI and officials from BEIS; the Cabinet Office; Cadw; the Climate Change Committee; DAERA, NI; Defra; the Department for Infrastructure, NI; the Department for International Trade; the Department for the Economy, NI; the Department for Transport; the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine, ROI; Department of Finance, NI; the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport; the Department of Health and Social Care; the Government Legal Department; the Health and Safety Executive; HM Revenue & Customs; the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government; the National Audit Office; the Office for Government Property; Ofwat; The Scottish Government; The Planning Inspectorate; and the Welsh Government.
Representatives of numerous local authorities are also scheduled to attend. My guess is that this sort of thing is absolutely standard, and that huge amounts of public sector time are routinely spent talking about the “green” agenda. No wonder the drains are blocked and the roads are full of pot-holes.