A key element of my case for abandoning Net Zero is that globally CO2 emissions are increasing because over 70% are sourced from non-Western countries that don’t regard emission reduction as a priority and are focused instead on economic and social development, poverty eradication and energy security. Therefore, I argue, it makes absolutely no sense for Britain (the source of less than 1% of emissions) to pursue this unachievable and disastrous policy.

But – say supporters of the policy – my argument ignores the fact Britain has a unique part to play: we’re widely seen as a climate change leader and, for there to be any hope of global emission reduction, it’s essential that we set an example – do we really want to be responsible for the failure of this desperately important global policy? It’s a view that’s exemplified by this extract from the Chair’s Forward to the recently published Mission zero: Independent review of net zero:

The UK’s leadership on tackling climate change has not only delivered real change at home … it has led to a global transformation in how countries and companies now view the importance of taking action on net zero.

The first thing to say about this is that the evidence plainly shows that our so-called ‘leadership’ is meaningless. In 1990, the UK emitted 0.6 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 and, for example, China and India 2.4 Gt and 0.6 Gt respectively. By 2021, the UK figure was 0.3 Gt – i.e. a 50% reduction. That would seem to be a compelling lead. But did China and India follow suit? No, far from it: their 2021 figures were 12.5 Gt and 2.6 Gt – i.e. 421% and 333% increases.

The reality is that the idea that non-Western countries are waiting for leadership from the us betrays an embarrassing, outdated, neo-colonial frame of mind. After more than two hundred years of what’s widely seen as condescending, arrogant and often rapacious exploitation by the West, countries such as China, India, Iran, South Korea and Indonesia understandably have little interest in following a Western lead and are confident that they’re quite capable of deciding for themselves and going their own way. One perspective might be that the idea of Western leadership really boils down to old white men (politicians and scientists) in the West telling people of colour in the non-Western world (comprising 84% of humanity and all its poorest people) what they should be doing. Unsurprisingly, the latter are unimpressed.


  1. There is an argument to be made that once-great countries who are losing their economic and military dominion upon the world stage often seek to compensate by assuming a moral leadership. Climate change provided Sweden with an ideal subject for such a gameplay in the 1960s and now the UK is trying the same trick. It’s just political vanity and denial working hand in hand. Truly, no one is impressed and our noble sacrifice will be in vain.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I do wonder whether our glorious leaders (of pretty much all parties, it seems) really believe the world leadership argument. After all, anyone looking at global reality might realise that most of the rest of the world isn’t too keen to follow our leadership as we hurtle over the cliff edge.

    My worry is that, for our politicians, the global leadership argument gives them a marvellous excuse to strut about on the world stage – they seem to like nothing better. It will take quite a lot to dissuade them from strutting.

    However, I want to thank Robin for so clearly articulating an irony that has long struck me – the arguably racist and neo-colonialist mindset implicit within the assumption that it is for us clever people in the developed world to explain, cajole and lead those poor souls in developing countries who don’t understand the issues as well as us, so that they follow us down the righteous path to enlightenment (sarc). I find it truly bizarre that “progressives” don’t see it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So every year for the last 30 years, China has been increasing CO2 emissions by an amount greater than the total of current UK emissions. yet somehow, we’re the ones who have to quicken the pace of our death march towards the unattainable ‘net zero’.


  4. I have just tried to read the mission zero paper mentioned. I lost the will to live after the introduction.they boast of 1800 replys and meeting 1000 (yes, one thousand) people, Am I correct in my recolection that the uk has a population of fifty seven million people? (roughly).
    Maybe I’m missing something.


  5. The difference may be that the leaders who genuinely survive on the will of their people will never commit to national suicide, whereas leaders who treat their people with genuine contempt prefer to please international institutions, media & twitterers, and will cheerfully travel down long dark roads with unknown and risky destinations for the people they supposedly represent. It seems obvious to this observer that making life better for its people is not in the centre of UK politics. In the UK we seem to have ended up with a technocratic uniparty who care little for us, and triangulate about the meanest of distinctions, leaving us with no way to change anything.

    There seems no prospect for a left-field or right-field entrance to upset this applecart.

    To murder a quote from Orwell: Those who “abjure” carbon dioxide can only do so because others are emitting carbon dioxide on their behalf.

    Countries with a degree of self interest might look on our enthusiasm with a different sort of enthusiasm, looking on a donation to Gaia as a donation to themselves. That would be entirely rational and to the benefit of their people and the security of their decision makers.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m always struck by how the morally righteous from the plummy classes always assume that it is they who are at the centre of everything.

    You see this working in developing countries. There’s a certain type, working for international NGOs or some UN mission, who breeze in (perhaps for the first time in such and such particular country) with the latest morally correct dictum, which the locals need to adopt by the end of the workshop session. But all the while contrasting themselves with the terrible colonialists. The Chinese for one have a word for them : baizuo. It’s the smug knowledge that they are fundamentally right about everything that gets me.


  7. I searched for “what is climate leadership” and clicked straight to the tenth page, where I found climateleadershiptraining.co.uk. Here, we may take…

    A 7 hour training course in carbon literacy and how to become a climate business leader.

    Where we will…

    Learn the need to know facts about climate change, why the UK Government has set targets to be Net Zero by 2050, and what that means for businesses.

    Learn how to lead your business through the green revolution.

    Earn the qualification of being Carbon Literate with official certification by Carbon Literacy Project.

    I can’t wait. How much is it?

    Our standard pricing is £1500 for groups up to 15 participants rising to £2000 for groups of 20.

    Not at all bad for 7 hours of contact time.


  8. Thanks for that Chinese word, ianalexs. I’ll be keeping an eye out for it from now on.


    Can anything be more baizuo than Oxfam’s recently published Inclusive Language Guide?


    The wokely authoritarian leadership language guide/toolkit is crammed with so much baizuo crap that a comment couldn’t encapsulate its awfulness, so I won’t try. Read the thing. It’s bonkers.


    The Oxfam toolkit mentions climate change a few times (eg, its entry on ‘Climate gender justice’, which says that women are victims-but-not-victims of climate change because, although they are victims, they ‘have a crucial role to play in climate solutions’, so we shouldn’t call them victims, even though they are victims, etc) and…

    Quelle surprise! Its author is a very committed globetrotter.

    Helen Wishart blogs as ‘Vegan Wander Woman’. She travels the world sampling vegan cuisine. Countries visited in the last few years include Indonesia (Bali, obvz), India, Thailand, Peru, USA, Namibia, Iceland, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Ecuador, Botswana and Zambia.

    From her Oxfam toolkit: Climate Gender Justice ‘recognizes that women have a crucial role to play in climate solutions, mitigation and adaptation because of their lived experiences and knowledge.’

    Right. That old ‘lived experience’ crap again. Travel the world eating noodles. That’s the ticket. That’ll teach the colonialist patriarchy a thing or two about… noodles or something.


  9. At best, a lot of training now is either box ticking because of legal requirements or window dressing or benefits the provider hansomely.. Much of the traing I have done in recent years fits into these catogories and the rest has been as useful as a chocolate teapot. Although at least you could eat that once cooled.


  10. Well, it looks as though the ultra-“green” EU isn’t following the UK’s “lead”, so it’s probably time to give up on the pretence that we can influence the rest of the world:

    “EU ministers to approve vehicle emissions law after deal with Germany
    Berlin secures concessions over future use of e-fuels after going back on agreement struck last year”


    …Diplomats meeting on Monday approved the compromise agreed between Berlin and Brussels over the weekend, which will allow some combustion engines if they fill up with so-called climate neutral e-fuels…

    Meanwhile, in Berlin….


    …The referendum for more ambitious climate goals in Berlin has failed. The state election authority announced on Sunday evening that the required minimum number of yes votes had not been reached.

    An alliance “climate restart” wanted to achieve a change in the state energy transition law with the vote. Specifically, Berlin should commit itself to becoming climate neutral by 2030 and not by 2045 as previously planned…


  11. Mark, also this: “EU’s energy summit ends in division over Net Zero”

    European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen admitted that “nuclear can play a role in our decarbonization effort,” but said “only the Net Zero technologies we deem strategic for the future – like solar panels, batteries and electrolysers – will have access to the full advantages and benefits.”

    Madame Destructo.


    Liked by 1 person

  12. This was something I also wanted to clip out as it is germane to the head post:

    But the dispute over the combustion engine ban has highlighted friction between national economic interests and international moral pressure over climate change.

    “International moral pressure.” Are we feeling it, guys?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. By the way, please also read the comments under the UnHerd article. There are a lot of sceptics out there, plus a die-hard Skeptical Science linker.


  14. By the way, something came through from the dim mists of time when I was thinking about the UK’s climate leadership. It was this (first folio via Project Gutenberg with uncorrected canonical errors):

    Fal. Hal, if thou see me downe in the battell,
    And bestride me, so; ’tis a point of friendship

    Prin. Nothing but a Colossus can do thee that frendship
    Say thy prayers, and farewell

    Fal. I would it were bed time Hal, and all well

    Prin. Why, thou ow’st heauen a death

    Falst. ‘Tis not due yet: I would bee loath to pay him
    before his day. What neede I bee so forward with him,
    that call’s not on me? Well, ’tis no matter, Honor prickes
    me on. But how if Honour pricke me off when I come
    on? How then? Can Honour set too a legge? No: or an
    arme? No: Or take away the greefe of a wound? No.
    Honour hath no skill in Surgerie, then? No. What is Honour
    A word. What is that word Honour? Ayre: A
    trim reckoning. Who hath it? He that dy’de a Wednesday.
    Doth he feele it? No. Doth hee heare it? No. Is it
    insensible then? yea, to the dead. But wil it not liue with
    the liuing? No. Why? Detraction wil not suffer it, therfore
    Ile none of it. Honour is a meere Scutcheon, and so
    ends my Catechisme.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. “UK scientists urge Rishi Sunak to halt new oil and gas developments
    Call comes on eve of revised net zero strategy that allows drilling in North Sea and boosts ‘unproven’ carbon capture”


    The part of the report on the letter that caught my eye is this:

    They say, in a letter seen by the Guardian: “We are writing as members of the research community on climate science and other related disciplines to call on you to ensure the UK once again demonstrates international leadership by acting on the latest warnings about the escalating climate crisis. This means including in the forthcoming revised net zero strategy a commitment not to approve any new development of onshore or offshore oil and gas fields.”

    Presumably they don’t believe in evidence-based decision-making, then>


  16. the UK once again demonstrates international leadership

    It would be interesting to know when they think the UK last demonstrated international leadership. The reality of course is that it has never done so. I suspect they know this and simply see this assertion as another way of exerting pressure.


  17. Robin, I refer you to the forward to the Skidmore “independent” “review” of Net Zero:

    Forty-two months ago, the UK became the first G7 country to sign our commitment to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 into law. This landmark commitment built on the UK’s international climate leadership in passing the pioneering Climate Change Act in 2008 — becoming the first major country to establish a clear governance framework on how to achieve emissions reductions.

    The UK’s leadership on tackling climate change has not only delivered real change at home — reducing our carbon dioxide emissions over the past twenty years by nearly 50% compared to 1990 levels — it has led to a global transformation in how countries and companies now view the importance of taking action on net zero. Thanks to the UK’s Presidency of COP26, the Glasgow Climate Pact in November 2021 witnessed over 90% of the world’s GDP commit to a net zero target.

    It may be delusional, but it’s what they believe. In this world, announcing an unattainable target counts as leadership and is absurdly badged as an achievement in itself. Cnut could have tried it.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Speaking of neo-colonialism:

    “Green energy ‘profiting on back of Congo miners'”


    Human rights campaigners are calling on companies to increase the pay for impoverished miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo who are digging up cobalt – an essential commodity in the production of electric cars.

    Huge mining companies engaged in the switch to greener energy are making multi-billion dollar profits, while the Congolese workers digging for cobalt are falling further into poverty.

    That is the warning from two human rights groups – the UK’s Raid, and Cajj, which is based in southern DR Congo near Kolwezi where most of the world’s cobalt is mined.

    Food prices there have been soaring and the campaign groups say most miners are being paid much less than the $480 (£390) a month they need to support their families.

    They want the mining giants, including those from Europe and China that operate DR Congo’s industrial mines, to pay more, and electric vehicle companies to end contracts with cobalt suppliers exploiting miners.

    “The switch to clean energy must be a just transition, not one that leaves Congolese workers in increasingly desperate living conditions,” Cajj’s Josué Kashal said in a statement.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Mark,

    Thanks for drawing our attention to this important subject. I strongly recommend Siddharth Kara’s book ‘Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives’ (available from Amazon on Kindle for £10.44). I’ve just read it – it’s harrowing and disturbing. Here’s an extract:

    ‘The depravity and indifference unleashed on the children working at Tilwezembe is a direct consequence of a global economic order that preys on the poverty, vulnerability, and devalued humanity of the people who toil at the bottom of global supply chains. Declarations by multinational corporations that the rights and dignity of every worker in their supply chains are protected and preserved seem more disingenuous than ever.’

    It’s one of many reasons why I regard Net Zero as disastrous.

    I think the only – and essential – solution would be for any business that imports products that incorporate Congo-sourced cobalt (that’s almost any product with a rechargeable battery – e.g. laptops, smart phones and most importantly EVs) to ensure they are paying their suppliers enough to enable them to maintain proper regulation and inspection of mines and to ensure that ‘artisanal’ miners are adequately paid and work for reasonable hours in safe conditions and without the employment child labour. All this would substantially increase the price of EVs – enough perhaps to even threaten the realisation of Net Zero. But there’s a complication: as most cobalt mining in the Congo is controlled by China, this ‘solution’ would in practice be hard to implement.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Robin,
    While I agree 100% with the sentiment, you are right that a solution such as you propose would be tough to implement.
    There is the obvious example of the production of polysilicon for PV panels. China dominates this even more than cobalt. A very large proportion of world output comes from the Uighar region employing slave labour. This is ignored in the drive for renewable energy.
    There are other sources of cobalt which were the main suppliers until the DRC started ramping up output 20 – 30 years ago, presumably driven by the demand for Li-Ion batteries. Then China moved in early in the 2000s and pushed things along even faster.


  21. Mike,

    I think China’s use of Uighar forced labour for the production of polysilicon may, as you suggest, be an even more serious problem than the exploitation of child labour in the Congo. And I very much doubt if there’s any possibility of persuading the Chinese to change their ways. But, in view for example of the huge fuss activists make about how we benefitted from slavery two hundred years ago, surely action is essential? Yet the only feasible solution must be to cease buying solar panels incorporating the subject polysilicon and get them from elsewhere. I think that might be possible – but it would almost certainly mean far more expensive panels. Another threat to the viability of Net Zero.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. This piece nicely inter-mingles the role of China with the issue of neo-colonialism and the madness of net zero policies in the developed world:

    “China’s loans to Africa worry World Bank President David Malpass”


    The president of the World Bank has told the BBC that he is concerned about some of the loans China has been making to developing economies in Africa.

    David Malpass says the terms and conditions need to be “more transparent”.

    It comes amid worries that countries including Ghana and Zambia are struggling to repay their debts to Beijing…

    …Tackling that challenge and its consequences was one of the main reasons for this week’s visit by US Vice-President Kamala Harris to three African countries. It is a visit that comes with big commitments of financial support to Tanzania and Ghana.

    There is a growing rivalry with China for influence in the continent, whose abundance of natural resources include the metals, such as nickel, crucial for the batteries needed for technology such as electric cars.

    Speaking in Ghana’s capital, Accra, she said “America will be guided not by what we can do for our African partners, but what we can do with our African partners”.

    While highlighting a new nickel processing facility in Tanzania Ms Harris said the project would be supplying the US and other markets by 2026 and that it would “help address the climate crisis, build resilient global supply chains, and create new industries and jobs”…


  23. “‘Green colonialism’: Indigenous world leaders warn over west’s climate strategy
    UN summit in New York hears how resources needed for sustainable energy threaten Indigenous land and people”


    World Indigenous leaders meeting this week at an annual UN summit have warned that the west’s climate strategy risks the exploitation of Indigenous territories, resources and people.

    New and emerging threats about the transition to a greener economy, including mineral mining, were at the forefront of debate as hundreds of Indigenous chiefs, presidents, chairmen and delegates gathered at the 22nd United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

    “It is common to hear the expression to ‘leave no one behind’. But perhaps those who are leading are not on the right path,” the forum’s chairman, Dario Mejía Montalvo, told delegates on Monday as the 12-day summit opened in New York in the first full convening since the pandemic outbreak.

    The longtime advocacy group, Cultural Survival, in partnership with other organizations, highlighted how mining for minerals such as nickel, lithium, cobalt and copper – the resources needed to support products like electric car batteries – are presenting conflicts in tribal communities in the United States and around the world.

    As countries scramble to uphold pledges to keep global warming to 1.5C (2.7F) above pre-industrial levels by 2030, big business and government are latching on to environmentally driven projects such as mineral needs or wind power that are usurping the rights of Indigenous peoples – from the American south-west to the Arctic and the Serengeti in Africa.

    Brian Mason, chairman of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Indian reservation in Nevada said that the 70 or so lithium mining applications targeting Paiute lands have come without free, prior and informed consent – what is considered the cornerstone of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He described the lithium extraction efforts as being on a “fast track” to supply the Biden administration’s net-zero strategy to create a domestic supply of EVs . “It’s kinda just being rammed down our throats,” he said. “At the cost of Indigenous peoples once again.”..


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