Ross Clark Ross Clark

Tony Blair’s Foundation takes Ed Miliband to task over Net Zero

Photo-illustration: Lukas Degutis (Getty/iStock)

Is Tony Blair, like Margaret Thatcher before him, about to become the voice from beyond the political grave that makes life difficult for his party? Labour’s climate secretary in waiting – Ed Miliband – won’t find a lot of comfort in a paper put out today by the Tony Blair Foundation, Reimagining the UK’s Net Zero Target. The conclusion of the paper, whose authorship is attributed to ‘multiple experts’, is not that Britain should drop its overall target to achieve net zero but that its strategy has become too dogmatic, and revolves around unrealistic targets which, by threatening to make people poorer, are in danger of hurting public support for net zero and setting a damaging precedent for international efforts to tackle climate change.

Just look at this passage:

Deploying intermittent renewables rapidly and without sufficient focus of storage solutions, frequency services, baseload power and whole-system integration could increase energy costs or reduce energy security, with major economic and social consequences for the country. This is made more challenging by increasingly affordable gas prices making non-renewable sources more economically attractive.

Ouch! It just so happens that Miliband has proposed a target to fully decarbonise Britain’s electricity grid by 2030 – five years earlier than the current government has proposed – and without much of a plan as to how it can be achieved. Moreover, Miliband has repeatedly asserted that switching to wind and solar will save consumers substantial sums – apparently on the basis that the very high spike in gas and oil prices in 2022 would signal permanently higher prices. It hasn’t. On the contrary, while the cost of oil and gas has fallen substantially over the past 18 months, the cost of building wind and solar farms has rocketed upwards thanks to higher interest rates. With renewables, most of the costs come upfront, meaning that the high cost of credit is particularly bad for profitability.

The Tony Blair Foundation report goes on to warn that an over-rapid effort to reduce emissions from Britain’s power sector will thwart the growth of industries which Britain needs to prosper, such as energy-hungry AI. The foundation says that its work with a think tank Carbon-Free Europe has concluded that most estimates of future power demand woefully underestimate future demand for power. It also challenges the argument, made by Miliband and others, that switching to renewables will promote energy security. ‘Replacing foreign sources of oil and gas with foreign sources of clean technologies displaces one security risk with another’, it asserts. Renewable energy, as well as the car industry, is becoming heavily reliant on Chinese-made batteries.

Ed Miliband has already lost one election for Labour. As argued here before, he threatens to be huge millstone around the neck of a Starmer government if his promise of cheaper, entirely zero-carbon electricity by the end of the next parliament fails to materialise. It now seems that the Tony Blair Foundation has reached the same conclusion.