There are certain truths British politicians believe to be unsayable. For example, that we should build on the greenbelt or that freedom of movement was of great benefit to the economy.
But perhaps the strangest surrounds energy policy. Not whether we should transition to net-zero emissions or if the Prime Minister ought to be visiting Saudi Arabia to ask them to pump more oil. That’s about the supply. I mean the demand side.
Are you cold? Put on a jumper. Is everyone in your household 18-65 and of good health? Turn the thermostat down. Come into some cash? Insulate your loft.
Demand management is as critical as supply, but ministers hardly ever talk about it, partly for fear of being condemned as that most tedious of Westminster jibes, ‘out of touch’. See exhibit A for a classic of the genre. Or B for a modern twist.
The thing is, the UK has been remarkably good in recent decades at reducing the carbon intensity of its economy. According to the Office for National Statistics, between 1985 and 2016, GDP per head grew by 70.7 per cent. During the same period, carbon emissions fell by 34.2 per cent.
This can be largely attributed to economic structural change, technological advancement and the enforcement of environmental regulations such as the 2008 Climate Change Act. Our planet is still warming, but it would be even hotter/wetter/weirder had this decoupling not begun.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t be going hell for leather on renewables, nor that we shouldn’t be investing in new nuclear, which has minimal carbon footprint and provides baseload power. But these take time, a commodity UK consumers facing £4,000 duel fuel bills and Ukrainians fleeing Russian bombs, do not have.
Yet there is a curious void in the government’s energy policy. Sure, this sort of thing does not get the heart racing. There is a reason today’s newsletter subject line wasn’t ‘Let’s talk about energy demand management oh and loft insulation while you’re here’.
The problem is that bold plans on drilling for North Sea oil or building 20 Hinkley Point Cs sound like action. But if you want something truly radical, which will reduce bills in the much nearer term, policy commitments and a regulatory framework focused on the demand side would be far more impactful. And in the meantime, for goodness sake put a jumper on.
Elsewhere in the paper, more than 100,000 Britons signed up to host a Ukrainian refugee within hours of the website going live. It comes asresidential areas of Kyiv have come under sustained attack and the city’s mayor has announced a 35-hour curfew from this evening.
In the comment pages, Phoebe Luckhurst has learned one lesson from her London marathon run: don’t do it. Meanwhile, after catching Emmanuel Macron in a hoodie, Melanie McDonagh is on hand to remind men that we look much better in suits.
And finally, there is to be no launch party for Lord Ashcroft’s startling Carrie Johnson book. Londoner’s Diary attempts to get to the bottom of why…