The carbon lady

By Bogaerts, Rob / Anefo (Gahetna in het nationaal archief) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-nl (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Bogaerts, Rob / Anefo (Gahetna in het nationaal archief) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-nl (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
Say what you like about Baroness Thatcher (and I’m sure you will) but she was arguably the first UK Prime Minister to ‘get’ climate change. Arguably in fact, she may have been almost the only UK Prime Minister to ‘get’ climate change.

But there is a smidgeon of evidence that Enoch Powell was right to say that all political lives end in failure with yesterday’s vote in the EU Parliament that will further flood the market with carbon credits, thus potentially reducing the price of carbon emissions still further (see here, here).

It’s a technical area, but yesterday’s vote will lead to the price of carbon on the EU Trading Scheme falling even further – to below 5 quid a tonne (at its height the price was, I think, about 80 quid a tonne which made quite a difference to heavily polluting industries).

This is a double blow for the Thatcher legacy. First, it is clear that market mechanisms haven’t been very good at dealing with carbon emissions – and any old socialist like me could have told you that.  Second, of course it was the political Right who voted against the climate-protecting proposals to withhold emission quotas.

 

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6 Replies to “The carbon lady”

  1. As a trained chemist Mrs T certainly 'got' climate change straight away. However, apart from her success at closing down industry, her record suggests the lady was vert much for burning carbon; she bequeathed us 'the great car(bon) economy' for example and continued running down the railways (paving the way for nice Mr Major's disastrous privatisation). Historians surveying the smouldering remains of our beautiful planet may count this as missing a golden opportunity to rebalance our economy away from fossil fuels towards a more sustainable footing.

    To be fair, the Wildlife and Countryside Act was passed by her government and I'm sure there is much more to her record than my paragraph above. And of course it is sad that she has passed away after a decade or more of debilitating ill health. But I'm also tempted to agree with Sarah Parkin, the leader of the green party at the time, who I remember saying as she left office "such is the depressing lack of environmental action on her watch that I can't indulge in any hypocritical praise of her".

    As for her acolytes and imitators today, most of them don't know the price of a pint of milk so it's no wonder they also don't appreciate the huge environmental, social and economic cost of a carbon credit...

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  2. The fact that she passed the WACA81 leads me to conclude that she didnt have a clue what it was supposed to do........every government since has tried to find find ways to undermine or unpick the high point of our conservation protection......

    We are almost back 1980.

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  3. She also was instrumental in banning fluorocarbons in refrigerants; she had been a good industrial chemist. Since then there has been no science at the top of the poliical greasy pole. The Blair government had Lord Sainsbury but this lot are notably dire, apart ftom David Willets, who is no scientist but friendly to academe. Is the scientific gene opposed to the political one?

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    1. Roger - good point, thank you. And very few scientists pay much attention to politics? Does it work both ways?

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      1. One of things that sends a chill up my spine is that in a long career as a second rate scientist/engineer, whenever I have met up with somebody scientific who has the ear of government, they are universally of the opinion that the politicians dont get scientific stuff: they don't get objectivity, two sided arguments, evidence based reasoning, above all they don't get numbers (let alone maths)

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