AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Shirley
Democrats have for years chastised the American people for supposedly failing to do as much as their European counterparts to “combat climate change.” But developments in Britain suggest that these grand “green” ambitions have hit some major roadblocks across the pond and are proving disastrous for everyday Brits.
Back in 2019, the British government passed legislation requiring a 100 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions across the board by 2050 – what the left refers to as going “net zero.” Parliament followed up that bill with a series of aggressive policies gutting the country’s fossil fuels industry and investing heavily in subsidies for wind and solar. All domestic oil and gas production on the island nation is theoretically being phased out.
But according to a new report from RealClear Foundation Senior Fellow Rupert Darwall, Britain’s ambitious goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions has not only fallen largely flat, but has led to significantly higher energy costs for British families.
“The case for net zero rests on two falsehoods: the low and falling costs of renewable energy and that net zero is good for economic growth,” Darwall writes. “It will take time for these to be exposed for what they are and for net zero to be recognized as the greatest error of our age.”
As Darwall explains, despite the British government investing billions in renewable energy, “Whereas British residential electricity rates rose by 67.3 percent between 2009 and 2020, average U.S. residential rates rose 14.3 percent, from 11.51¢ per kWh in 2009 to 13.15¢ per kWh in 2020.”
“In 2009,” he continues, “Britons were paying 2.24¢ per kWh (19.4 percent) more for electricity than American households. In 2020, the gap had widened to 9.85¢ per kWh—74.9 percent more than average U.S. residential prices.”
These higher prices naturally compelled people to use less electricity. Climate activists then pointed to lower energy demand as proof of their success – apparently not realizing just how outraged the British people were at being forced to choose between feeding their families and keeping the lights on.
Proponents of the net zero agenda have alleged that green energy policies will ultimately be a massive boon for the economy – a key selling point for everyday people.
But according to Darwall, Britain’s Treasury and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) resorted to promoting outright falsehoods in an attempt to sell the government’s net zero ambitions as economically viable.
One of the most alarming falsehoods was their assertion that public debt in Britain would reach “289 percent of GDP in 2100” if no effort was taken to curb climate change. This proclamation was made on the assumption that massive climate catastrophes, including “a complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet,” would occur within the next century. But even the United Nations’ climate change panel believes the Greenland ice sheet would only melt over the course of the next “several millennia,” not several decades.
American Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Benjamin Zycher has called Darwall’s study of British climate policies one of the most important case studies for understanding how dangerous radical climate policies can be for a country’s economic health. He noted specifically that Britain’s decarbonization agenda has reduced British economic growth to “the lowest in peacetime since 1780.”
Darwall’s study also points out that many of the left’s climate policies are based on pure speculation, rather than actual hard science and data about whether or not renewables can meet current energy demands.
For example, the OBR claims that eliminating fossil fuel use in Britain and deploying massive government subsidies to the renewable market will inherently lead “to innovation that will boost growth,” and that the need to find alternative energy sources will spur scientific breakthroughs. In other words, the British government is intentionally creating an energy crisis and assuming that will make science progress faster. Darwall calls this assumption “wishful, indeed, nonsensical optimism.”
What makes Britain’s net zero disaster all the more demoralizing is that, even if environmental groups are correct about the looming disaster of climate change and even if Britain did reach net zero by 2050 or sooner, it would likely do little to stave off the pending apocalypse. According to the European Union’s own databases, the entire United Kingdom accounts for just 0.79 percent of total global carbon emissions.
As Democrats in the United States look to pass policies strikingly similar to those passed in the U.K. four years ago, Americans should take stock of Britain’s struggles. While energy prices have surged under Joe Biden and Congress has implemented a number of ill-advised climate policies of its own, the United States may still have a chance to avoid complete disaster if voters choose to reverse course now.
Andrew Shirley is a veteran speechwriter and AMAC Newsline columnist. His commentary can be found on X at @AA_Shirley.