Climate change, the actions pledged by the UK to tackle it and the response of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group headed up by South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay are at the heart of a new campaign blog.
The blog, Craig Mackinlay Watch, has been launched by ‘a group of climate-concerned residents’ who say the South Thanet MP should be supporting the UK’s drive for measures to eradicate the use of fossil fuels by 2050.
In 2019 the UK became the world’s first major economy to adopt a legally binding target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
Some of the measures outlined to achieve this include insulating homes and business premises; installing low carbon heat pumps and phasing out gas boilers; replacing petrol and diesel vehicles with zero emission equivalents (electric vehicles); using ‘green, clean electricity’ rather than carbon-laden gas, with most electricity coming from wind farms in the North Sea or British nuclear reactors.
Prime Minster Boris Johnson says of the 30-year transition to Net Zero: “Removing dirty fossil fuels from the global economy will lead to the creation of vast new global industries from offshore wind to electric vehicles and carbon capture and storage.”
The PM says the plan will: “create and support hundreds of thousands of new high skilled, high wage green jobs.”
The government’s Net Zero Review says the policy will have significant co-benefits, such as cleaner air.
It adds: “Improved air quality could deliver £35 billion worth of economic benefits in the form of reduced damage costs to society, reflecting for example lower respiratory hospital admissions. Where these benefits allow for a healthier and more productive workforce, they can support long term growth and productivity improvements.”
But the review also admits: “There is significant uncertainty over the precise mix of technologies and their costs.” Those costs will also fall on the public through taxes and/or financial outlay for ‘green’ heating equipment, electric vehicles and possible price rises of goods and services due to businesses needing to adapt to new technologies.
The government will launch a Fairness and Affordability Call for Evidence to help rebalance electricity and gas prices and says it will work with industry to seek to reach cost parity between heat pumps and gas boilers by 2030. A number of grant schemes will also be used.
Net Zero Scrutiny Group
However, the Net Zero Scrutiny Group (NZSG), made up of backbench Conservative MPs, opposes many of the government’s net zero policies.
The NZSG says it accepts climate science but the policies for net zero are ‘uncosted fairytales.’
The group has institutional links with the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), which says “predictions of unacceptable warming caused by more carbon dioxide are wrong”.
The NZSG is led by chair Craig Mackinlay and founder Steve Baker. They say people will be hit with huge costs for some of the measures, such as heat pumps replacing gas boilers and the switch to electric vehicles.
In a column for The Critic Mr Mackinlay wrote: “Air source heat pumps sadly fail to heat homes to the temperatures we are used to, cost more to run, work particularly poorly in winter, and require large water storage tanks. There is no technology to elegantly replace the gas boiler and I’m yet to find a constituent who would assent to pay out £20,000 to be colder and face higher bills.”
On electric vehicles he said: “The use of electric cars, which are already much more expensive than their petrol equivalents and have the obvious limitations of range and charging, are made more expensive if electricity prices rise to accommodate large amounts of additional offshore wind or expanded reliance on interconnectors from the continent supplying coal-powered electricity.
“There is little government planning to provide the millions of charging points, no thought as to the security or availability of supply of rare metals to make the batteries and even less thought as to the true CO2 cost of ore extraction, manufacture of the new cars, new batteries nor the nationwide upgrade to the electricity grid to supply.”
The Craig Mackinlay Watch group
The Craig Mackinlay Watch group says the Net Zero Scrutiny Group claims are not backed by scientific evidence.
Taking their inspiration from the Steve Baker Watch campaign, the group says it is monitoring Mr Mackinlay’s own blog and various other sources on which he relies for comments that contradict climate science, and will report them alongside current expert scientific opinion.
A spokesperson said: “Climate change is a critical issue and its effects will have a very significant impact on every aspect of Craig Mackinlay’s constituents’ lives: everything including their quality of life, standard of living and their food security.
“Mr Mackinlay is chairman of the climate-change doubting group Net Zero Scrutiny Group, a spin-off from the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). The group claims to be “highlighting and discussing the serious implications of expensive and poorly considered climate change policies” but their views are fringe theories which we say are not supported by mainstream science and often contain unsupported ‘facts’ which are not borne out by the evidence.
“Mr Mackinlay is very keen to highlight the costs of actions designed to avoid or mitigate the worst consequences of climate change. However, he doesn’t highlight the costs of not taking effective action or the climate consequences already baked into our future.
“Given he is the MP for South Thanet, Mr Mackinlay has been strangely quiet about the effects that rising sea levels will have on his constituents. Expert projections show that the annual flood level from 2030 onwards will result in the Wantsum flooding sufficiently for Thanet to be cut off from the ‘mainland’. On these projections substantial areas of land from Reculver to Sandwich will be under water.
“Craig Mackinlay Watch is a cross-party, cross-religion campaign that has no axe to grind other than to ensure local people are told the truth. All the peer-reviewed scientific evidence indicates that climate change is real, happening now and is potentially catastrophic. We cannot delay action any longer.
“We believe our MP should be supporting the established work of the vast majority of experienced climate scientists rather than using obfuscation to delay the implementation of critically-important changes to the way we use and save energy. NZSG claims to be helping the poor by blocking ‘costly Net Zero’ policies, when in fact increased renewable energy generation and better home insulation policies could have averted the rise in electricity costs caused by sky-high global gas prices and stopped the funding of the Russian war effort.”
Mr Mackinlay says the Net Zero path will instigate “a social calamity for those in Britain least able to afford its cost.”
The Government advisory Committee on Climate Change has said the cost of the net zero measures would be £50 billion per year in 2050. Mr Mackinlay says the government’s own figures show the cost is more likely to be £70 billion a year.
He also says the UK should reconsider using shale gas – the process of recovering gas and oil from shale rock by drilling (called fracking).
He said: “Renewables have a part to play, possibly longer-term as technology evolves, but we have a here and now problem.
“We should be far further down the line in the replacement of our ageing nuclear plants now coming to the end of their useful lives. We should have been far further advanced in ensuring we use the gift of domestic gas that mother nature blessed us with rather than a growing reliance on expensive and potentially insecure foreign imports which prop up unfriendly regimes, the geopolitics of which are now very real on the border of the Ukraine.
“Should we ‘frack’ – I think we most definitely should as it would create tens of thousands of jobs, bring £billions in positive tax revenues and most certainly assist in the UK’s perpetual balance of payments deficit…
“I do not have any overriding objection to renewables and am positively in favour of the need to leave a cleaner world than we found it – energy mix is sensible but does our dash towards Net Zero give us – (a) Energy security, (b) Affordability, (c) Practical solutions that make life better, (d) Are the vulnerable and lower paid protected and (e) Is there a better way?
“The current strategy is failing across measures (a) to (d) which leads on to the natural conclusion of (e). Even if renewables could be scaled up and storage of excess electrical energy achievable at a reasonable cost, none of this can happen overnight.
“Even then, given the risk to the grid as is being seen with severe storms in the north of the country, is reliance on 100% electricity for all our needs for motive power, heating and cooking at all sensible? Gas will be an important part of the mix for many years to come no matter what the pipedreams are.”
Fracking was stopped in the UK in 2019 following pressure from climate groups and residents due to concerns that the process causes earth tremors.
The Craig Mackinlay Watch group is also on facebook –https://www.facebook.com/CraigMackinlayWatch -and has launched a crowdfunding campaign at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/craig-mackinlay-watch to raise funds to spread awareness, print leaflets to inform Thanet residents, setup town-centre stalls to hand out leaflets and information, and encourage residents to contact their MP about their climate concerns.