February 28, 2011

“Biggest scam ever” wind power in the U.K.

From today’s Daily Mail online, a review of industrial-scale wind power in Britain, and the status in other countries in Europe. Note his comment that Britain must buy much of its power from nuclear-generated power plants in France, and that the companies despoiling the U.K. are from Denmark, Germany and Spain.

Here is Christopher Booker’s article:

Why the £250bn wind power industry could be the greatest scam of our age – and here are the three ‘lies’ that prove it

By Christopher Booker
Last updated at 11:20 AM on 28th February 2011


Scarcely a day goes by without more evidence to show why the Government’s obsession with wind turbines, now at the centre of our national energy policy, is one of the greatest political blunders of our time.

Under a target agreed with the EU, Britain is committed within ten years — at astronomic expense — to generating nearly a third of its electricity from renewable sources, mainly through building thousands more wind turbines.

But the penny is finally dropping for almost everyone — except our politicians — that to rely on windmills to keep our lights on is a colossal and very dangerous act of self-deception.

Green and unpleasant land: The wind farm at Ingbirchworth, West Yorkshire, one of the landscapes blighted by turbinesGreen and unpleasant land: The wind farm at Ingbirchworth, West Yorkshire, one of the landscapes blighted by turbines

Take, for example, the 350ft monstrosity familiar to millions of motorists who drive past as it sluggishly revolves above the M4 outside Reading.

This wind turbine performed so poorly (working at only 15 per cent of its capacity) that the £130,000 government subsidy given to its owners was more than the £100,000 worth of electricity it produced last year.

Meanwhile, official figures have confirmed that during those freezing, windless weeks around Christmas, when electricity demand was at record levels, the contribution made by Britain’s 3,500 turbines was minuscule.




To keep our homes warm we were having to import vast amounts of power from nuclear reactors in France.

Wind turbines are so expensive that Holland recently became the first country in Europe to abandon its EU renewable energy target, announcing that it is to slash its annual subsidy by billions of euros.

So unpopular are wind turbines that our own Government has just offered ‘bribes’ to local communities, in the form of lower council tax and electricity bills.

Taking over: Europe's biggest onshore wind farm is Whitelee, on the outskirts of GlasgowTaking over: Europe’s biggest onshore wind farm is Whitelee, on the outskirts of Glasgow

In Scotland, the 800 residents of the beautiful island of Tiree are desperately trying to resist Alex Salmond’s plans to railroad through what will be the largest offshore windfarm in the world, covering 139 square miles off their coast, which they say will destroy their community by driving away the tourists who provide much of their living.  

So riddled with environmental hypocrisy is the lobbying for wind energy that a recent newspaper report exposed the immense human and ecological catastrophe being inflicted on northern China by the extraction of the rare earth minerals needed to make the giant magnets that every turbine in the West uses to generate its power.

Here in a nutshell are some of the reasons why people are beginning to wake up to the horrific downside of the wind business. And since I began writing about wind turbines nine years ago, I have come to see how the case for them rests on three great lies.

The megawatts supplied by our 3,500 turbines is derisory: no more than the output of a single, medium-sized conventional power station

The first is the pretence that turbines are anything other than ludicrously inefficient.

The most glaring dishonesty peddled by the wind industry — and echoed by gullible politicians — is vastly to exaggerate the output of turbines by deliberately talking about them only in terms of their ‘capacity’, as if this was what they actually produce. Rather, it is the total amount of power they have the capability of producing.

The point about wind, of course, is that it is constantly varying in speed, so that the output of turbines averages out at barely a quarter of their capacity.

This means that the 1,000 megawatts all those 3,500 turbines sited around the country feed on average into the grid is derisory: no more than the output of a single, medium-sized conventional power station.

Furthermore, as they increase in number (the Government wants to see 10,000 more in the next few years) it will, quite farcically, become necessary to build a dozen or more gas-fired power stations, running all the time and emitting CO2, simply to provide instant back-up for when the wind drops.

This means that the 1,000 megawatts all those 3,500 turbines sited around the country feed on average into the grid is derisory: no more than the output of a single, medium-sized conventional power station.Not green: Greenpeace activists raise an inflatable model of a wind turbine, but they do not save a lot of CO2

The second great lie about wind power is the pretence that it is not a preposterously expensive way to produce electricity. No one would dream of building wind turbines unless they were guaranteed a huge government subsidy.

This comes in the form of the Renewables Obligation Certificate subsidy scheme, paid for through household bills, whereby owners of wind turbines earn an additional £49 for every ‘megawatt hour’ they produce, and twice that sum for offshore turbines.

This is why so many people are now realising that the wind bonanza — almost entirely dominated in Britain by French, German, Spanish and other foreign-owned firms — is one of the greatest scams of our age.

The third great lie is that this industry is somehow making a vital contribution to ‘saving the planet’ by cutting our emissions of CO2 – it is not

What other industry gets a public subsidy equivalent to 100 or even 200 per cent of the value of what it produces?

We may not be aware of just how much we are pouring into the pockets of the wind developers, because our bills hide this from us — but as ever more turbines are built, this could soon be adding hundreds of pounds a year to our bills.

When a Swedish firm recently opened what is now the world’s largest offshore windfarm off the coast of Kent, at a cost of £800million, we were told that its ‘capacity’ was 300 megawatts, enough to provide ‘green’ power for tens of thousands of homes.

What we were not told was that its actual output will average only a mere 80 megawatts, a tenth of that supplied by a gas-fired power station — for which we will all be paying a subsidy of £60million a year, or £1.5billion over the 25-year lifespan of the turbines.

The third great lie of the wind propagandists is that this industry is somehow making a vital contribution to ‘saving the planet’ by cutting our emissions of CO2.

Too many windmills: Holland is slashing its renewables subsidiesToo many windmills: Holland is slashing its renewables subsidies

Even if you believe that curbing our use of fossil fuels could change the Earth’s climate, the CO2 reduction achieved by wind turbines is so insignificant that one large windfarm saves considerably less in a year than is given off over the same period by a single jumbo jet flying daily between Britain and America.

Then, of course, the construction of the turbines generates enormous CO2 emissions as a result of the mining and smelting of the metals used, the carbon-intensive cement needed for their huge concrete foundations, the building of miles of road often needed to move them to the site, and the releasing of immense quantities of CO2 locked up in the peat bogs where many turbines are built.

When you consider, too, those gas-fired power stations wastefully running 24 hours a day just to provide back-up for the intermittency of the wind, any savings will vanish altogether.

Yet it is on the strength of these three massive self-deceptions that our Government has embarked on one of the most reckless gambles in our political history: the idea that we can look to the vagaries of the wind to provide nearly a third of the electricity we need to keep our economy running, well over  90 per cent of which is still currently supplied by coal, gas and nuclear power.

It is true that this target of raising the contribution made by wind by more than ten times in the next nine years was set by the EU.

But it is no good blaming Brussels for such an absurdly ambitious target, because no one was keener to adopt it than our own politicians, led first by Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband and now by David Cameron and the Energy Secretary Chris Huhne.

To meet this target, our Government wants to see us spend £100billion on building 10,000 more turbines, plus another £40billion on connecting them all up to the grid.

This country will soon be facing a colossal energy gap, and dependent on politically unreliable countries such as Russia and Algeria for gas supplies

According to the electricity industry, we will then need to spend another £100billion on those conventional power stations to provide back-up — all of which adds up to £240billion by 2020, or just over £1,000 a year for every household in the land.

And for this our politicians are quite happy to see our countryside and the seas around our coasts smothered in vast arrays of giant industrial machines, all to produce an amount of electricity that could be provided by conventional power stations at a tenth of the cost.

This flight from reality is truly one of the greatest follies.

But what turns it from a crazed fantasy to a potential catastrophe is that Britain will soon face a huge shortfall in its electricity supplies, when we see the shutdown of conventional power stations, which currently meet nearly 40 per cent of our electricity needs.

All but two of our ageing nuclear power stations are nearing the end of their useful life, with little chance of them being replaced for many years.

Six of our large coal-fired stations will be forced to close under an EU anti-pollution directive, and our Government is doing its best to ensure that we build no more.

There is no way we can hope to make up more than a fraction of the resulting energy gap solely with wind turbines, for the simple and obvious reason that wind is such an intermittent and unreliable energy source.

Meanwhile, this country will soon be facing a colossal energy gap, while relying on politically unreliable countries such as Russia and Algeria for gas supplies.

What we are seeing, in short, is the price we are beginning to pay for the past two decades, during which our energy policy has become hopelessly skewed by the siren calls of the environmentalists, first in persuading our politicians to switch from coal and not to build any more nuclear power stations, and then to fall for the quixotic dream that we could gamble our country’s future on the ‘free’ and ‘clean’ power of wind and sun.

All over the EU, other politicians are waking up to the dead-end to which this madness has been leading us.

The Danes, who have built more wind turbines per head than anyone, have realised the idiocy of a policy that has given them the highest electricity prices in Europe, while they have to import much of their power from abroad.

In Spain, their rush for wind and solar power has proved a national disaster. In Germany, having built more turbines than any other country in the world, they are now building new coal-fired stations like crazy.

In Holland, meanwhile, they have now given two fingers to the EU by slashing all their renewables subsidies.

Only in Britain is our political class still so imprisoned in its infatuation with wind that it is prepared to court this dangerously misguided pipedream.


Explore more:

Ed Miliband,
Alex Salmond,
Gordon Brown,
David Cameron
The Netherlands,

Read more:


To contact the North Gower Wind ction Group,

February 24, 2011

Gone with the wind: message to Queen’s Park

February 22, 2011

Backlash:the industry mobilizes against community groups, citizens

We predicted this, and now it’s happening: the wind business is mobilizing its troops to fight against community groups throughout Ontario, who are protesting the industrialization of their communities, and who are concerned about the environmental impact of putting industrial wind turbines in our lakes.

Today, a representative of Trillium Power was on CFRA, claiming that Wind Concerns Ontario and other groups are funded by the fossil-fuel industry. He said, They can’t be getting by on $5 and $10 donations, they have “sophisticated communication strategies.”

Well, thanks for the compliments but we know from our own work here that we DO survive on the donations, no matter how big, from members of the community, and we certainly have never even heard from any corporate sponsors. Why? Because nobody thinks building huge industrial structures that DO make noise and produce vibration so close to homes, farms and our school is the right thing to do.

And also today, in The Ottawa Citizen, Picton-area community activist Don Chisholm graces Ottawa with his words of wisdom in a letter to the Editor. 

Green means wind

By Don Chisholm, Ottawa Citizen February 22, 2011 8:02 AM

Ontario’s Green Energy Act showed visionary leadership in the struggle to end society’s dependency on fossil fuels. The act has been enormously successful at creating jobs and investment in Ontario. But human nature threatens its viability.

The past century of fossil-fuel driven growth was a one-time historical anomaly. But after growth comes the down slope. Cheap energy made jobs plentiful. Many retired baby boomers with fat savings look forward to a comfortable retirement, ignoring the problem.

Advanced smart hydro grids and distributed energy generation are essential cornerstones for our next generation’s energy supply. Distributed sources mean energy must be collected from natural flows in many backyards. But boomers are sometimes NIMBYs. Many otherwise responsible citizens have voted to prevent wind energy development in our rural farming communities, or even in our lakes. Extensive wind energy is essentially to future energy supply. Many civilizations in the past have grown rapidly and then collapsed because shortterm comfort too often trumps long-term need.

Don Chisholm,

Picton, Ont.

Mr Chisholm is with a citizens’ group himself, the County Sustainability Group or CSG, which is fighting all kinds of development in Prince Edward County but somehow—we don’t understand this at all—they seem to feel industrial scale wind development is OK.
Sorry Mr Chisholm, but all your insults about NIMBYism aside, the fact is this:
-wind doesn’t work
-it has no place being sited next to homes
-wind will never replace fossil fuel or nuclear as a fuel source, it is too inefficient and unreliable

It’s only Tuesday: more industry plants will be surfacing soon.

February 21, 2011

A stormy week ahead

We’re predicting a stormy week for the opponents of poorly sited industrial wind turbine projects.

It appears that the “environmental” groups have been encouraged to speak out against the community groups that have been formed throughout Ontario, with the goal of labelling them minority activists, “NIMBYs” and–amazingly—“bullies.”

With all the environmental impact of industrial wind turbine projects, we’re amazed that organizations like Environmental Defence to name one (which is funded by taxpayer dollars and donations) supports the industrialization of Ontario, and that they clearly have not done thorough research.

That’s because they have bought the spurious argument that people–10,000 a year, the government claims (which is a rounding up of the equally false 9,500 statistic promoted by the Ontario Medical Association)–are dying from air pollution produced by Ontario’s coal-fired power generation plants.

Here are the facts:

-Ontario’s air quality is generally good

-the pollution we do have is from industry south of the border, and from cars and trucks

-closing Ontario’s coal plants completely will do nothing

-wind cannot ever replace traditional forms of power generation

-industrial-scale wind development is high impact on the environment for very little benefit

-industrial-scale wind turbines NEED fossil-fuel back-up to function, because the wind is intermittent and unreliable.

Air quality in Ontario today, February 21: GOOD.

Wind power production as of 9 a.m.: 916 MW

Ontario’s projected demand at 11 a.m. today: 17,829 MW; actual at 10 a.m.: 17,271 MW

Who is really speaking out for the environment?

February 10, 2011

Tell people what they CAN do: Prince Charles

Prince Charles, who is one of the world’s foremost environmentalists, and the most successful organic farmer in the world, delivered a speech yesterday to the European Parliament. He gave his views–not as a person on his own, he points out, but as someone who through his position as Prince of Wales has access to the best minds in the world–on climate change, and what can be done. The key, he says, is through proper business and agricultural practices and through conservation. Not a wind turbine in sight in this speech–in fact, Charles is opposed to industrial wind turbines as they are ineffective and a “blight” on the landscape.

Perhaps all those who claim wind turbines are “helping” Ontario farmers could take the wider view, and see that this is a wrong-headed approach altogether. But, it makes money for someone, doesn’t it?

Here is his speech. Any emphasis is ours.

A speech by HRH The Prince of Wales to the Low Carbon Prosperity Summit at the European Parliament, Brussels

9th February 2011

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Having only fairly recently been afforded the privilege of addressing this Parliament, I was somewhat astonished – indeed touched – to be invited back again to discuss the crucial subject of how we can shift our economies onto a lower carbon trajectory. I realise only too well that you are engaged ceaselessly with momentous issues, not least how to navigate the turbulent currents of this difficult and serious economic climate. But it is certainly heartening that here, in Brussels, so much thought is being given to the profound changes we need if Europe is to cope with the long-term economic consequences of climate change and the depletion of the world’s natural capital. If I may – and since you have been rash enough to ask me in the first place! – I would like to take this opportunity to consider why there is no more pressing problem and also how, perhaps, it might be addressed.

First and foremost, I believe, we need to deepen our understanding of the relationships between food, energy, water and economic security and the policies which are put in place in those areas; this is increasingly important given the rising demand and competition for land and other resources, which is already having an impact on prices and is exacerbated, as you will have no doubt have noticed, by rapidly changing weather patterns…

I am a historian, not an economist, but it is plain to me that responding to these problems with a “business as usual” approach towards our pursuit of G.D.P. growth offers only short-term relief, not a long-term cure. Why? Because I cannot see how we can possibly maintain the growth of Growth Domestic Product (GDP) in the long-term if we continue to consume our planet as voraciously as we are doing. We have to see that there is a direct relationship between the resilience of Nature’s ecosystems and the resilience of our national economies. And, let us not forget, it is on that resilience that our future prosperity actually depends…

I know there is a great deal of debate about the meaning of resilience. I cannot help but think it means an ability to absorb, repel and adapt to external shocks and without it we have very little, if any, capacity for mitigation and adaptation. If the fabric of the Earth’s life-support system fragments, as it appears it may be starting to do; if those systems become weak or even collapse – essentially, if Nature’s capital loses its innate resilience – then how long does it take for our economic capital and economic systems to lose their resilience too?

A graphic example of this, ladies and gentlemen, is found in the fate of the world’s rainforests. Having already felled or burned a third of the world’s tropical rainforests in the last fifty years, six million hectares of rainforest continue to disappear every year. That of course is the equivalent area of nearly twenty-four thousand football pitches every day! And with them go tens of thousands of species of plant and animal – gone forever, into extinction, together with who knows how many vital cures and medicines and innovative biomimetic solutions to the problem we are facing. And because the trees are not there to transfer billions of tonnes of water to the atmosphere, so the world’s weather patterns are disrupted which, in turn, seriously undermines the stability of food production. So, you see, burning a hectare of rainforest has a direct impact upon the livelihoods of many communities and, thus, a direct impact on economic growth and prosperity at a local level. This has been underlined in recent days by the discovery that the ‘once in a hundred year drought’ (that by the way has now occurred twice in five years!) has killed so many trees in the Amazon that the depleted forest may be becoming a source of greenhouse gas rather than a store. Stopping deforestation is not a lifestyle choice, it is an absolutely critical part of any low carbon growth plan. If we fail to address this problem, despite everything else we might do, there is no answer to climate change.

Neither is there any way around the fact that we have to move away from our conventional economic model of growth, based, as it is, on the production and consumption of high carbon intensity goods. We need to meet the challenge of decoupling economic growth from increased consumption in such a way that both the wellbeing of Nature’s ecology and our own economic needs do not suffer. It seems to me that we need a framework focussed on resilience that enables us to recalibrate and balance our approach. If we do not think about creating such a framework and resolve that central dilemma soon, then I fear we are in for a very rough ride indeed. The trouble is we do not have the luxury of failure and success will be in building low carbon industries that provide not only substantial economic opportunity, but also a means to ensure Europe’s competitiveness.

There are, happily, some encouraging signs of progress. I have followed closely – and have been very encouraged by – the Strategic Energy Technology plan which aims to transform the entire European energy system – how we source it, produce it, transport and trade it. This is a big step towards making low carbon technologies affordable and competitive and, therefore, a market choice. In fact, if I may say so, with this particular initiative you have offered a very encouraging example to the rest of the world.

I know only too well the difficulties in you must have encountered in mustering support for the E.U. (European Union) target of reducing greenhouse gases by twenty per cent by 2020. But climate scientists by their hundreds are warning that if we are to avert the worst consequences of climate change we have to reduce CO2 emissions by at least fifty per cent by 2050. That can only mean your 2020 target has to be a minimum ambition. I know that many in the E.U. aspire to agree a target of reducing greenhouse gasses by thirty per cent, and I can only applaud their efforts.

Let us not forget that the oil-dependent, high-input, industrialized form of agriculture which now dominates food production around the world ties food prices firmly to the price of oil. One study estimates that a person on a typical Western diet is, in effect, consuming 4.4 litres of diesel per day and this factor helped push the F.A.O.’s Food Price Index up last December to its highest level since it was created in 1999. We should also bear in mind that we live in a world where one billion people go hungry and another billion are nutritionally deficient, while yet another billion suffer from the health impacts of over-eating and obesity; mostly in richer countries where billions of dollars worth of food are also wasted and thrown away every year. At the same time, in the developing world around forty per cent of agricultural produce is wasted before it even gets to market. Poor land management means that yields are frequently at only forty per cent of capacity… This is surely an insane situation.

And sadly, our highly intensive form of agriculture also effects our marine environment as nutrient enrichment caused by agricultural run-off is becoming a major issue for marine health. As you will know better than I, nutrient enrichment leads to algal blooms which cause significant depletion of dissolved oxygen levels in the water and so create “dead zones” that are uninhabitable to fish. The U.N.E.P.’s Global Environment Outlook report in 2004 cited over 140 dead zones world-wide – among the largest and most famous being the one that occurs annually in the Gulf of Mexico due to run-off from the U.S. corn belt. In 2002, this particular dead zone was estimated to be the size of Massachusetts. Furthermore, and I have to say, not very encouragingly, a recent report from Denmark suggested a possible scenario, where a combination of higher temperatures and increased levels of carbon-dioxide leads to a rise in these persistent dead zones from just under two per cent of oceans (today) to in excess of twenty per cent (by 2100).

It is perhaps worth noting that twenty-five per cent of the carbon dioxide we emit is absorbed by the oceans. But, it appears that the capacity of the oceans to continue this function is decreasing due to the loss of coastal habitat: for example 13.5 giga-tonnes of carbon dioxide will be released within the next fifty years as a result of mangrove clearance that occurred between 1980 and 2005 (much of this due to shrimp farming for the European market). This is equivalent to all transport-related emissions in twenty seven E.U. countries over a fifteen year period from 1997 to 2005.

In addition to these problems, the health and productivity of our oceans is also at threat from over-fishing, climate change, toxic pollution, invasive species and habitat degradation. These multiple threats make it imperative that a holistic and precautionary approach is adopted in order to manage marine ecosystems so as to ensure maximum food security benefit from fisheries and while understanding the carbon-related consequences of assuming that aquaculture will be able to fill the protein gap from the precipitous decline of wild fisheries.

I suspect I may not be alone in thinking it strange, to say the least, that, globally, despite subsidies in the region of sixteen billion dollars of public money every year, we appear to be close to bringing the fishing industry to its knees. It is worth recognizing that the fishing industry contributes over 200 billion dollars a year to global G.D.P., but may not be able to do so for much longer. But here, in the midst of such a big problem, lies a potential solution which could be of use to the other sectoral challenges we face. Research into the state and future of the North East Atlantic Bluefin Tuna fishery estimates that subsidies of around 120 million dollars return an annual profit of only around 70 million dollars. The research found that a sustainable future for the fishery, even without subsidies, could produce annual profits of 310 million dollars per year, if tuna stocks could recover to a sustainable level. The World Bank’s own estimates suggest that if we were to eradicate the perverse subsidies which currently exist, curb overfishing and improve ineffective management, then the global fishing industry could contribute 250 billion dollars per year to global G.D.P., and on a sustainable basis. This offers at least hope of a long-term cure, rather than a short-term form of relief and one from which the vast majority of stakeholders would benefit. I know it would require difficult decisions and even more difficult implementation measures. But, if we lift our eyes from the “here and now” and look to the future, I wonder if we really have any alternative?

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you can see my point. Essentially we have to do more today to avert the catastrophes of tomorrow, and we can only do that by changing the way we frame our approach to the economic problems that confront us. If we are to make our agricultural and marine systems resilient in the long-term, for instance, we have to design policies in every sector that bring the true costs of environmental destruction and the depletion of natural capital to the fore.

Having looked at these issues for very nearly thirty years and, being fortunate enough to have consulted some of the world’s most eminent experts, I wonder if I might just share with you a couple of observations about how it seems to me, at least, it might be possible to do this?

I would certainly suggest that social and economic stability is built on valuing and supporting local communities and their traditions, recognising as does the Report from the International Assessment for Agriculture Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, recognising the contribution which, for example, diverse farming systems make to economic and ecosystem resilience. Policies that encourage diverse landscapes, communities and products can generate all sorts of positive results, not just in agriculture, but in tourism, forestry and industry. So, there is a need for policies that focus funding on strengthening diversity. Might there be, perhaps, benefit in public finance being more specifically directed using “smart subsidies?” The aim would be to target a diversity of production in more specific ways while protecting public goods. This is vital if we are to strengthen the resilience of our agriculture, marine and energy systems so that they can ensure supply and thus withstand those sudden shocks on international markets which are bound to come our way, given the impact of climate change.

I would also suggest we need a different approach to profit and loss which would support Corporate Social Environmental and Economic Responsibility and give us the means to evaluate the impact of our actions properly. This was, incidentally, what drove me to set up my Accounting for Sustainability project six years ago. The aim was to develop a new approach to business reporting which reflects the interconnected impact of financial, environmental and social elements on an organization’s long-term performance. And, I must say, I am delighted that an increasing number of organizations – including the British Government and international groups like E.D.F. Energy, H.S.B.C. and Aviva – are adopting this system of “Integrated Reporting.” In fact, last year I expanded the project by launching an international group, supported by many of the world’s accounting and standard-setting bodies, as well as many major international accounting firms, Stock Exchanges and the U.N. What has pleased me most is that this initiative pre-empted the findings of the U.N.’s study into The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, or T.E.E.B., which reported last Summer to the gathering of 193 Environment Ministers in Nagoya. Having conducted a global assessment of the multi-trillion dollar importance to the world’s economy of the natural world, it called for the present system of national accounts to be upgraded rapidly so they include the health of natural capital, and thereby accurately reflect how the services offered by natural ecosystems are performing.

Underpinning any new framework, undoubtedly, is the need for an integrated set of long-term public policies and instruments to encourage a “green economy.” Such an economy would rely on sustainable asset management, more productive processing of waste, the construction of new, zero-carbon buildings and the retro-fitting of existing stock and on achieving stringent energy efficiency targets for our buildings, cars and household goods. If only we could look at the world in this new way, we could create significant – and, crucially, sustainable – economic opportunities. It would be an economy that would, on the one hand, put much more emphasis on planning sustainable urban developments and helping businesses to maintain biodiversity and safeguard ecosystems, while, on the other, placing less reliance on those government subsidies and mechanisms which, perversely, can end up eroding the vital, natural components that provide us with our essential capital resources.

For these solutions to be implemented at scale we would have to see effective partnerships between the public and private sectors, as the President just mentioned, and they would also need to involve the knowledge of many highly expert, non-governmental organizations. We could not leave it to the market alone. Long-term public sector policies need to be coherent and consistent in order to create an environment which is conducive to private sector investment. Only in this way will the private sector be prepared to commit investment capital.

The market certainly offers a means of accelerating changes in behaviour but, to be genuinely effective, these changes must be focussed and clearly directed by long-term policies, and that means robust legislation and, dare I say it, just as robust enforcement.

Now I would merely add to this list one very important acknowledgement, if I may, and that is the role of the consumer. It seems to me that until we all as consumers really begin to demand sustainable products and services from businesses and Governments, then policy-makers will struggle to see the importance of introducing real change. Lately, I have been asking myself why the public has not eagerly embraced the many advantages in pursuing a sustainable future. My conclusion is that, for too long, environmentalists have tended to concentrate on what people need to stop doing. If we are constantly told that living environmentally-friendly lives means giving up all that makes life worthwhile, then it is no surprise that people refuse to change! That is why, last year, I launched a new initiative called START, which aims to show people what they could start doing – the simple steps that we can all take to make better use of our natural resources. By working with some of Europe’s leading companies, such as Kingfisher and Eurostar, as well as celebrities and marketing professionals, we are unashamedly attempting to sell the benefits of sustainability. As one advertising executive put it to me, we are “making it cool to use less stuff.” Believe it or not, this smarter approach can actually be more profitable. As Marks and Spencer have found, an innovative approach to sustainability actually saves money.

I have to say, this process has not exactly been helped by the corrosive effect on public opinion of those climate change sceptics who deny the vast body of scientific evidence that shows beyond any reasonable doubt that global warming has been exacerbated by human industrialized activity. Their suggestion that hundreds of scientists around the world, and those who accept their dispassionate evidence – including presumably and gentlemen myself, rather ironically I am constantly accused of being anti-science – are somehow unconsciously biased creates the implication that many of us are, somehow, secretly conspiring to undermine and deliberately destroy the entire market-based capitalist system which now dominates the world! I would ask how these people are going to face their grandchildren and admit to them that they actually failed their future; that they ignored all the clear warning signs by passing them off as merely part of a “cyclical process” that had happened many times before and was beyond our control; that they had refused to heed the desperate cries of those last remaining traditional societies throughout the world who warned consistently of catastrophe because they could read the signs of impending disintegration in the ever-more violent, extreme aberrations in the normally, harmonious patterns of Nature. I wonder, will such people be held accountable at the end of the day for the absolute refusal to countenance a precautionary approach, for this plays I would suggest a most reckless game of roulette with the future inheritance of those who come after us? An inheritance that will be shaped by what you decide to do here in this Parliament.

Ladies and gentlemen, you have been remarkably patient in listening to me. I promise you, what you decide here could induce the very necessary adjustments we so urgently need to make. So can I ask if you will be courageous enough to seize the moment, set Europe on a course for survival and economic prosperity and so earn the endless gratitude of our descendants…?

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