What is now labelled as a culture war has been sprung against net-zero by some conservative parties in the UK. In the midst of the climate crisis and despite the growing and evidently devastating effects of climate change on people, nature and national economies, there are still some political members who deny the urgency, or the existence altogether, of climate change. The term climate change denial is a spectral term used to describe several phenomena: from the refusal to acknowledge that climate change is a human induced problem, to the rejection of global warming altogether. This can include other notions such as the claim that net-zero is not an imminent goal and that we can continue operating with business as usual. This short-sighted vision puts the future of the earth and the wellbeing of our livelihoods as we know them at jeopardy, a phenomenon that is even more exacerbated when people in power make bold claims that do not have a scientific footing whatsoever, leading many climate scientists and activists in a desperate internal (or not) tantrum as many climate-denialist concerns are beyond reason.
But, going back to the title and gist of this article: Tory MPs and peers in the Net Zero Scrutiny Group (NZSG) have gained widespread media coverage in attempting to link the government’s net-z-ero agenda to the cost-of-living-crisis and calling for cuts in green taxes and an increase in fossil fuel production. Yet another short-termist approach that actively aims to misinterpret economic analysis and political/corporate (because when are the two not intertwined) agendas to create denialist propaganda.
The group claims that the goal for net-zero will lead to a colder and poorer working class in the long-term.
Two of the politicians appeared at the Net Zero Watch’s lectures last year with US scientist Professor Steven Kooning who told the audience: “The first thing we can do is get authoritative bodies – the royal societies, the US national academies – to stand up and say there is no climate crisis. This is an issue, we can deal with it in due course, but let’s all relax.” You can watch the (painfully) long and filled with misinformation here although I would not recommend doing so.
One of the NZSG members even went so far as to say to the Guardian: “I’m delighted that we’re having the adult discussions that so many outside the Conservative party are afraid of having, around the ongoing need for UK oil and gas for transition to net zero by 2050 and beyond it.” I think we can all see the irony and misinformed nature of this argument but if it is not obvious, let me point out to you that decarbonisation means that we cannot afford to depend on fossil fuels by 2050 and beyond: it means that we literally need to cut down - DE - carbonise - our production and livelihoods, and as the largest sources of CO2, fossil fuels do not have a place in this conversation.
The green transition does not happen overnight: phasing out fossil fuels does not mean that we will stop relying on them tomorrow.
An integral part of this strategy, however, is halting the creation of new exploration and production projects, especially in the North Sea. Undeniably a lucrative business for many in the top 1%, yet a wealth that has not been appropriately distributed to the public. Instead, the cost-of-living crisis, especially in the UK can be blamed directly to the UK government who continue to support and subsidise fossil fuel companies despite the skyrocketing profits that large International Oil Companies like Shell and BP have seen in the last year. This is because: increasing prices mean increasing profits for companies, while increasing support for them through subsidy programmes or tax cuts means the continued systemic support of a fossil-dependent economy. If anything, the green transition can ensure energy democracy and justice: something that requires a whole other article, or even an entire book to cover. However, the gist of renewable energy is that it can be produced anywhere and at any point in time (apart from when there is no wind or sun, which is also a topic for a whole other discussion. A great example of energy democracy being put to use by renewables is from Energy Communities which you can learn more about here.
Despite the claims that energy dependency on foreign imports is dangerous, according to the UK Energy in Brief in 2021, we are seeing a reduction in energy imports in the last 5 to 6 years or so, while the portion of UK energy supplied from renewables is skyrocketing. Peculiar statistics that come in direct contradiction with the MPs claims. Hm. I wonder why.
According to Michalen Mann the author of The New Climate War, the group is attempting to drag climate policies into a culture war: which is a dangerous new tactic being used by those opposed to addressing the ecological emergency - and those who get an economic benefit from doing so.
“This is where the frontline of the battle is now, and yes, we do have to push back fiercely on this sort of pernicious disinformation,” he told the Guardian.
This is a dangerous game: the climate crisis is not one claimed by liberals or conservatives alike. It is a looming threat that touches everyone regardless of their political convictions.