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.

And this:

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

NGOs:

E3G – Kate Levick • WWF – Karen Ellis

Observers

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.

i https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-independent-group-to-help-tackle-greenwashing

ii https://www.westminsterforumprojects.co.uk/

10 Comments

  1. Positively Balnibarbian, I’m sure there will be a session on the benefits of investing in sunbeams.

    Like

  2. “COP26: How is Scotland tackling climate change?”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-57970435

    The obvious and honest answer is – it isn’t. With emissions of a fraction of one percent of those worldwide, even if Scotland went net zero tomorrow, it will make no difference to anything. Instead we are offered:

    “The Scottish government has set a legally-binding target to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045, five years ahead of the date set for the UK as a whole.

    Emissions of greenhouse gases – such as carbon dioxide – have already been reduced to about half of what they were 30 years ago.

    The latest figures for 2019 showed they had fallen by 51.5% from the baseline, although this remains well below the target of 55%.

    A Scottish government-appointed commission was set up to examine how to protect the economy and ensure a “just transition” so oil workers and farmers don’t lose out as the world moves away from fossil fuels.

    The commission’s report, which made 24 recommendations, says there needs to be an “orderly, managed transition to net-zero” which creates benefits and opportunities for people across Scotland.”

    Oh good – another Commission. Just what we need! It’s report is here:

    https://www.gov.scot/publications/transition-commission-national-mission-fairer-greener-scotland/

    By the way, who are the Just Tansition Commission members?

    Professor Jim Skea
    (Chair)

    Professor Skea was appointed Chair of the Just Transition Commission in September 2018. He has research interests in energy, climate change and technological innovation. He is Co-Chair of Working Group III (Mitigation) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and was the Scottish Champion of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change until December 2018. Between 2012 and 2017 he was UK Research Council’s Energy Strategy Fellow.

    He is internationally recognised as a leading climate scientist. In 2004 he was awarded an OBE for services to sustainable transport and in 2013 he was awarded a CBE for services to sustainable energy.

    Lang Banks
    representing WWF Scotland

    Colette Cohen OBE
    Colette became the Chief Executive Officer of OGTC in August 2016. OGTC is an industry-led organisation based in Aberdeen, backed by the UK and Scottish governments, and working closely with the local universities.

    Professor Mike Danson
    Mike has varied research interests including regional economic development, regional development agencies, enterprise development, microbreweries, basic income, early-onset dementia, community ownership and management of land and other resources.

    Richard Hardy
    representing Prospect Union

    Charlotte Hartley
    representing 2050 Climate Group

    Charlotte is a Trustee of the Board at 2050 Climate Group. 2050 Climate Group engages, educates and empowers Scotland’s young people to take action on climate change. The group’s ambition is to start a social movement of passionate, active young people who are equipped with climate change knowledge and leadership skills so that our generation can lead the way to a sustainable, low carbon society.

    Charlotte works for Pale Blue Dot Energy, (a Storegga Group company), the project developer of the Acorn Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Hydrogen projects in Aberdeenshire.

    Norman Kerr OBE
    Norman recently retired as Director of Energy Action Scotland in May 2020, having previously been Development Manager and Deputy Director since 1996. Prior to this he worked with Heatwise Glasgow for 12 years as Production Unit Manager delivering the organisation’s energy efficiency programmes.

    Norman was Deputy Chair of the Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel and the Scottish Fuel Poverty Partnership Forum, having previously been Deputy Chair of the Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum and a member of the Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force and the Scottish Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group.

    Rachel McEwen
    Rachel is SSE’S Chief Sustainability Officer, and is responsible for its sustainability strategy, climate change policy, community funds and corporate heritage. She is a non-executive director of Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, the SSE subsidiary that owns and operates the electricity distribution and transmission networks in the north of Scotland. Rachel was Chair of the Leadership Group of Living Wage Scotland between 2014 and 2018 and is a board member of both the Fair Tax Mark and the Poverty Alliance.

    Dave Moxham
    representing Scottish Trade Union Congress

    Kate Rowell
    Kate Rowell is Chair of Quality Meat Scotland, a non-departmental public body representing the Scottish Red Meat Industry

    Tom Shields
    Tom is CEO of Spring Rise, a consultancy providing support to chemical processing, waste recycling and renewable energy industries. He was previously the Managing Director of KemFine UK Ltd., a speciality chemicals business, served as the Chairman of the Scottish Enterprise Forth Valley Board, and was acting chair of the Chemical Sciences Scotland Industry Leadership Group. He currently sits on the UK Government’s Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage Council, and is a non-executive Director of NECCUS, an industry-led alliance focussed on industrial decarbonisation in Scotland.

    Professor Karen Turner
    Karen is founding Director of the University of Strathclyde’s Centre for Energy Policy. The Centre conducts internationally leading research on the public policy challenges of decarbonising our economy. Her work focuses on understanding how a just transition may be delivered, and addresses key questions about distributional effects, employment and GDP.

    Karen has a number of advisory roles with national and international policy bodies, She has contributed to the CCUS Cost Challenge Taskforce, had a leading role on the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s inquiry on ‘Scotland’s Energy Future’, leads the ‘Energy, Policy, People and Society’ theme across the Scottish Energy Technology Partnership, and was a co-author on the European Zero Emissions Platform report ‘Role of CCUS in a Below 2 Degrees Scenario’.

    In fairness, a significantly more broad-based membership than GTAG, and with skills that may well be appropriate to its remit. Still, the usual bias is there – CO2 reduction fans and left-wing people are almost the only members. A Commission built in the SNP’s images, just as GTAG is a commission built in the Tories’ image. Once more, though, I strongly suspect, sceptics need not apply.

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  3. 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.

    Of course. Would you want to spend your life unblocking drains and filling in pot-holes when you could earn more sitting in an office churning out reports about how blocked drains and potholed roads were made worse by climate change, and the correct response was not to send a bloke out to repair the damage, but to issue another edict limiting energy wastage and use of disposable plastic goblets?

    The prime cause is the bourgeoisification of the proletariat, as we say down at my local Marxist cell. It’s 62 years since Michael Young wrote the satirical sociology treatise “Rise of the Meritocracy” in which he predicted that the obsession with educational qualifications, far from helping the lower orders to gain access to the advantages of their social superiors, would result in the leeching out of talent from the working class, and the concentration of power in an élite caste of experts. The process was accelerated by Blair and his like, who didn’t get the joke at the heart of Young’s critique. Making bright young working class people pay for the degrees that would get them out of drain-unblocking and into the enchanted world of David Brent’s Office was a particularly perverse stroke of genius.

    To make the whole thing sustainable and irreversible required just two things: apps that allow any idiot to make a pie chart out of a pig’s ear, and a Mission. Preventing the thermometer from rising a millionth of a degree by your worthy actions was just the ticket.

    And anyway, the more potholes there are, the less people are going to drive their carbon emitting death chariots.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Speaking of public sector employees attending lots of pointless climate change awareness seminars and the like:

    “Cumbria county council staff to receive climate training”

    https://www.newsandstar.co.uk/news/19501513.cumbria-county-council-staff-receive-climate-training/

    “CUMBRIA County Council staff will be taking part in carbon and climate literacy training.

    The training will help improve their knowledge and understanding of the issues and how they can take action to tackle this climate emergency.

    This is part of the council’s commitment of achieving a low/net zero carbon economy by 2050, the training will be available to all staff and elected members.

    The sessions will be delivered online by the councils training provider Cumbria Action for Sustainability. The course will be included as part of a core learning package alongside other topics such as Health and Safety, Equality and Diversity, and Information Security and Data Protection.

    Cabinet Member for Environment, Councillor Celia Tibble, said “Climate change remains one of the greatest challenges to this generation and for many generations to come. It is already a threat to Cumbria and is one of the greatest threats to humanity globally.””

    Not many comments, but they aren’t going well, e.g.:

    “Nice little earner distributing fiction to employees. Will they be highlighting how many “probably”s and “likely”s there are in the IPCC’s summary of their new report.”

    “Swap the word Training for propaganda”

    “And the woke box-ticking continues. I bet they don’t highlight China’s contribution to emissions. Anyway, let the scaremongering begin.”

    Which last comment provoked this wholly inaccurate (and typically sneering and patronising – as well as ignorant – response:

    “What about China is getting a bit repetitive, China is committed to targets for decarbonising it’s economy in similar way as we are.
    What about per capita production? China 4.58, uk 9.66, US 19.78 tonnes.

    Anyway, let the dumb comments begin. My apology, your way ahead of me there……….”

    Which was soon put in its place by somebody else who did know what they were talking about:

    “‘China is committed to targets for decarbonising it’s economy’
    Do you believe what the Chinese say?
    ‘ China 4.58, uk 9.66, US 19.78 tonnes’
    Why have you and copied and pasted the 2006 figures? They are FIFTEEN years out of date.
    Greenhouse gas emissions by China are the largest of any country in the world at around 27%, both in production and consumption terms”

    I live in hope that a backlash is starting.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mark, thank you for spurring me to look up the latest figures. The EU’s Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) database has these estimates for 2019:
    China 8.123 t CO2/cap/yr
    UK 5.450 t CO2/cap/yr
    US 15.519 t CO2/cap/yr

    China’s transformation since joining the WTO is astounding (figure from the EDGAR report for 2020):

    Note that while I might be critical of China at times, it’s obvious that this change has made the average citizen better off. It has also enabled us to buy cheap electronic stuff.

    The EDGAR site is well worth a visit:

    https://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/

    Its banner proclaims:

    “Global CO2 emissions continue to rise… but EU bucks global trend.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jit, thanks for that. I know that we (well, I do, anyway) bang on remorselessly about China, and the climate worriers get very upset about that, apparently regarding it as a horrid denier distraction tactic, but facts are facts, and those who would ignore China in this debate are blind to reality.

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  7. How can the BBC produce this article and not mention GTAG at all?

    “Efforts to curb energy tariffs ‘greenwashing'”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-58222808

    “The government is launching a review into how energy retailers market green tariffs to consumers.

    Nine million British households are now on energy products that are advertised as being “100% renewable” or “green”.

    However, some energy companies accuse others of “greenwashing” – using marketing spin to make “dirty” fossil fuel electricity seem clean.

    “Transparency is key to bring consumers on the journey to net zero,” said Uswitch.com’s Richard Neudegg.”

    Still, it’s not before the time that the nonsense of energy companies describing their electricity as “100% renewable” or some such form of words is looked into and stopped. It’s profoundly misleading, given the mix of energy sources used by the National Grid at any time to generate the electricity that comes out of a household’s electricity sockets.

    Like

  8. I suspect this is yet another committee where sceptics need not apply:

    “Dame Ellen MacArthur to advise ministers on environment”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-58293053

    “A round-the-world yachtswoman and a wildlife filmmaker will sit on a committee advising the Scottish government on environmental issues.

    Record-breaking sailor Dame Ellen MacArthur and broadcaster Gordon Buchanan will join scientists and climate activists in the new group.

    It will be chaired by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Prof Sir Ian Boyd, a former advisor to the UK government.

    They will present their proposals in a report at COP26 in Glasgow in November.”

    Like

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