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Net Zany: Too many politicians think Net Zero more important than Britain’s prosperity

Tim Newark: Too many politicians think Net Zero more important than Britain’s prosperity
Daily Express, 26 January 2023

During her campaign for the Tory leadership in 2022, Kemi Badenoch rightly described our 2050 net-zero target as “unilateral economic disarmament”.

Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch is battling for Britain – not talking it down.

At the Davos conference last week, she noted: “The CBI was talking down the UK to business. I didn’t find that very helpful.” You wouldn’t find a French business association saying [that].” Instead, she was forging ahead with Brexit trade deals, ensuring they benefit Britain as well as other countries.

By contrast, Tony Danker, the boss of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) used his speech at Davos to castigate Britain, saying: “Money is leaving the UK.

“Investors are freezing up and the heart of the problem is that we don’t have a strategy.

“If we are going to be a plucky outsider, what’s the play? When you talk to Japanese companies here in Davos or energy companies, they don’t know what the growth plan is and where Britain is going. They need an investable proposition.”

Danker is entitled to his opinion but, as Miss Badenoch, points out: “When you go to an investment conference that’s about investment, I think we all need to be on Team UK.

“Everybody [else] was there advertising their country.”

Miss Badenoch knows the value of Britain. Latest figures from the ONS reveal that overseas investment has climbed above £2trillion for the first time ever, creating 85,000 jobs in the UK.

Leading the way is the US, backing Britain with an extra £89.7billion, taking them up to a quarter of all foreign investment coming into the country.

That’s the good news we should be trumpeting at international conferences.

Where the CBI boss does have a point is that Britain does not appear to have a coherent industrial policy, but I would argue it should be the exact opposite of what he advocates.

He wants Britain to double down on Green technology, raising the amount we invest to compete with the US and the EU, but these are eye-watering sums that we cannot afford considering the post-lockdown economic state we are in.

Sometimes there is little virtue in being the first person in on a fabulously expensive project.

Better to see how it pans out and then invest at a lower cost.

Many politicians of all parties think net zero is more important than our future prosperity.

It is not. The less money we generate, the less able we are to adapt to any problems climate change may bring.

The cost of decarbonising Chinese-owned British Steel is an extra £300million of taxpayers’ money and yet still we cannot compete with the rest of the world because our energy is too expensive.

Trade body UK Steel estimates that German steel producers pay £107 per megawatt hour of electricity compared with £174 in the UK.

China is a world leader in producing cheap steel because it takes a far laxer approach to net zero.

It doesn’t want to win the net-zero race if it stops it from becoming the richest nation in the world.

Even Germany is unafraid to arrest Greta Thunberg and her fellow green protesters if it prevents them from digging for cheap coal.

No nation can have a successful industrial policy without access to cheap and plentiful energy.

That must be our first concern and means, inevitably, making the most of the gas, oil and coal beneath our own feet.

President Joe Biden can only massively subsidise green technology in the US because it is selling shale gas to the rest of the world, including us.

During her campaign for the Tory leadership in 2022, Ms Badenoch rightly described our 2050 net-zero target as “unilateral economic disarmament”.

She later came under political pressure from Tory greens to reverse that, but her gut instinct was right.

Ms Badenoch also knows we’re a nation of traders and need to get our next trade deals right.

“We have to make sure that each trade agreement we sign is tailored to the specific country,” she said at Davos.

This is only common sense and is exactly what Britain needs to survive the next few decades of economic turmoil.

If Kemi is allowed to get this right, it will show she has the right stuff to lead this country one day.