By Ted Vibert
By any standards, this has not been a good week for the few living in Jersey who believe that we must be prepared to accept massive changes to our lifestyles to stop the tiny fraction of carbon dioxide that our population is emitting into the atmosphere (which is allegedly helping to warm up the earth to a degree that life is in danger).
This is also the view of 99% of States Members who, in 2019, foolishly agreed a proposition by Reform Jersey’s Deputy Rob Ward that the Island must be carbon neutral by 2030, later extended to 2050.
Readers will now know that if you want to replace your car/van powered by either diesel or petrol, you can get a grant from the States of £3,500. If you have a family, you are likely to have to pay £12,000 for an electric one that suits your needs, so you will have to find £8,500.
If you own a house and you have an oil or gas-fired heating system, you will have to change over at a minimum cost of £6,000 to an all-electric system.
If you rent out such a property, it is very likely that you will have to increase the rent which you are charging, so your tenant will end up paying for it. If your building is not insulated, you could be up for even more expense. Interestingly, if you own a listed property and want to replace your windows, they have to match the ones being replaced, which means they must be timber frames and not plastic, which doubles the cost.
Those advocating this switch to ‘green’ energy make much of the opportunity for ‘wind power’ and the creation of a ‘wind farm off our coast’. Quite apart from the hideous look of them, the recent news about the economics of producing cheaper power from wind farms has not been good.
The UK government is currently involved in a round of contract negotiations with investors in wind farms and is finding it almost impossible to attract any interest from companies involved in their creation and development.
Even large companies with experience in this field, like SSE, have ruled themselves out of any negotiations, with one industry expert commenting in the Daily Telegraph that the number of bidders was between two and zero ‘with expectations at the lower end of that range’.
Last month, Swedish state-owned power supply company Vattenfall mothballed what would have been the UK’s largest wind farm off the Norfolk coast, saying it was ‘uneconomic to continue’.
The UK manager for Vattenfall, in a statement announcing the closure of this planned vast wind farm at the half-way stage of its construction, commented: ‘The investment needed no longer matches economic reality. The economics don’t stack up. It’s just a very, very difficult market for wind development at this time.’
Why Jersey should be bothering with even considering this area of energy supply, when we should be looking at tidal power, is beyond me.
It has been pointed out that one of the greatest problems with wind farms is that there are many times when the wind doesn’t blow, and a country needs to keep a back-up method of creating an energy supply that can be relied on.
This is not such a problem with tidal power, as power is developed by the tide going in and going out 365 times a year without fail. There is only a short period, when the tide is on the turn, that power drops for a short spell.
Jersey should look to be working with France on developing this obvious energy source, which they have already tapped into on the Rance outside of Dinard.
It is also clear that the UK government is now backpedalling furiously on commitments they have made about the UK’s plans to be carbon neutral by 2050.
An influential Conservative group is pushing the Prime Minister to hold a Brexit-type referendum on the matter, with one MP saying: ‘Just like Brexit, the government needs to make sure the public are on board with such a radical change so that they can hear the for and against arguments and can then make an informed decision.’
The Prime Minister told ITV News last week: ‘Most people in the UK are committed to getting there in a proportionate and practical way. That seems to me to be a common-sense approach to doing this, which has broad support.
‘The path to net zero is one where we have to tread carefully. We’ll bring people along with us as we do that. We will not necessarily burden them with extra hassle or extra cost as we do it. That’s my overall approach to net zero.’
What is surprising is that the case that Jersey must not be emitting any carbon dioxide by 2050 has never been critically examined by a Scrutiny panel of this States Assembly – bearing in mind the huge financial burden this will impose on the public and on government finances.
This is a pity, as since that decision was made, a group of 1,600 scientists from around the world, led by two Nobel science prize-winners, have produced a declaration that states: THERE IS NO CLIMATE EMERGENCY.
They argue that, while it is true that the world is warming, this is part of a natural cycle of events and that human activity is assisting this is but only in a marginal way.
In addition, a group of Jersey residents, with honours degrees in geology/geophysics/oil and gas consulting (and other academic and senior management qualifications in a number of international commercial enterprises), have formed the Jersey Climate Forum. The purpose of this group is to ‘generate knowledge and understanding of the causes and effect of climate change, as well as the effects of climate policy’.
So concerned are they by the way our government is handling the project, and the huge costs likely to be incurred by the States and individuals from all walks of life – especially as Jersey’s contribution to the perceived problem is so insignificant – that they intend to hold a series of public meetings in the Island with global scientific speakers brought over, possibly one of their Noble prize winners, to discuss their findings.
Here is an opportunity for the Chief Minister to display the leadership qualities I believe she has and arrange for the leader of this group to meet and explain to the council the views of this large scientific body what would clearly be ‘a better way’ than that agreed by the States in 2019.
At this stage, it is worth reminding the Chief Minister of the statement that the then Council of Ministers made in 2019 when announcing our carbon-free commitment: ‘It is important the people of Jersey can see and come to value the significant social, environmental and economic benefits from being carbon neutral and can acknowledge the legitimacy of their providing financial support to the transition.’
So far, we have heard nothing about what significant social, environmental and economic benefits the people of Jersey are going to get from their massive financial sacrifice.
It’s time for the Environment Minister to step up and tell us what the benefits will be.
Ted Vibert can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.