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The Fatal Flaw In Boris Johnson’s Ten-Point Carbon Manifesto

November 19, 2020

By Paul Homewood



Ross Clark writes:



There is nothing wrong with the general direction of the policy contained within the government’s ten-point plan to cut carbon emissions announced today. Who doesn’t want clean energy and more energy-efficient homes and vehicles?

The problem is the perverse target that lies at its heart: the legally-binding demand, laid down in the Climate Change Act, to cut carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050.

This is so badly defined that the government’s ten-point plan becomes really little more than a manifesto to export much of British industry, food production, and power generation.

The UK’s definition of carbon emissions, as used in the Climate Change Act, covers only ‘territorial’ emissions – i.e. those spewed out physically within the confines of Britain.

It excludes carbon emissions from factories in Southeast Asia which are making products for UK consumers.

It excludes the emissions from container ships bringing those goods to Britain – at least until they reach the last few miles before docking at Felixstowe.

It also excludes international aviation, emissions caused by producing and transporting imported food, and imported electricity.

To underline the importance this makes: UK carbon emissions in 2017 stood at 460 million tonnes. That was down 42 percent from the 794 million tonnes emitted in 1990 – which makes the UK appear incredibly successful at cutting emissions.

Indeed, in some ways, we have been successful: coal, once the beating heart of our electricity industry, has all but disappeared as a source of power.

But once you add the carbon emissions embedded in food and goods imports, as well as those from shipping and aviation, UK emissions in 2017 were a whacking 784 million tonnes.

What we have really done is offshore our emissions. Huge swathes of the UK’s manufacturing industry have drained away to Southeast Asia, taking their territorial emissions with them.

Meanwhile, we are importing more food – our self-sufficiency in food has fallen from 74 percent in 1990 to 60 percent in 2019.

We are also importing more electricity – last year three percent of our electricity was generated on the near-Continent, and this figure is inevitably going to grow sharply as we build more and more solar and wind capacity without the necessary storage capacity.

Last week, when wind speeds were low in Britain and solar farms were producing little power, over 10 percent of our electricity came from abroad.

It is all too easy to foresee the day when a UK government announces the net-zero target has been reached.

But it will have been achieved by offshoring the remains of UK manufacturing, by ending steel and cement-making in Britain (two industries which are going to prove very hard to decarbonize), by importing far more of our food, and by making up the shortfall in electricity-generation with imports via subsea cables from Europe.

And it won’t matter if our imported goods and electricity are carbon-intensive – all that counts for the government’s target will be that emissions don’t physically occur in Britain.

As long as the government proceeds with the net-zero target, we are doomed to follow perverse policies that make the country poorer while doing little or nothing to reduce global net carbon emissions.

Read more at Spectator UK

  1. Vincent Booth permalink
    November 19, 2020 10:52 am

    Note, re burning woodchips at Drax, no account is taken of the carbon emitted by the machines cutting the trees in the USA, transport to drying plants, drying and the shipping to the UK. Madness!

    • Ian Magness permalink
      November 19, 2020 11:00 am

      …and not to forget Vincent, that even if vast piles of wood chips magically appeared at the site at no CO2 or energy cost, as these chips have inferior calorific value than coal, burning the latter would produce less CO2 per unit of generated electricity than burning those chips. Drax fails everyone conceivable CO2 efficiency text at every level. It’s an over-used phrase but you couldn’t couldn’t make the Drax scenario up.

      • Vincent Booth permalink
        November 19, 2020 2:51 pm

        Well said.

    • stevejay permalink
      November 19, 2020 2:14 pm

      Yes, you’re spot on. The ships bringing wood chips from the U.S. do a 10,000 mile round trip to Europe. Apparently, they use approx 80 gallons of marine diesel per mile. That’s a massive amount of No2 pollution. A recent report says, since Drax converted 3 of their 6 units to biomass, their pollution rate has increased by 135%. Apart from particle pollution, wood burning releases, Nitrogen Oxide, Sulphur Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide and Formaldehyde. Yet, the UK government is spending £5.5 billion on the plant over the next 7 years. Total lunacy!

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        November 19, 2020 7:10 pm

        Correction: electricity bill payers will be doing the splashing out.

  2. Ian Magness permalink
    November 19, 2020 10:53 am

    Great article but I take issue with the premise at the start: “Who doesn’t want clean energy and more energy-efficient homes and vehicles?”.
    Frankly, if such aims cost considerably more – as it is clear will happen, indeed is already happening – my answer is “not me”. Yes, if I believed coal and petrol were destroying the planet for my children, I might pay a bit extra, but I don’t believe that, so I’m not interested. Nor I suspect would a huge percentage of the population be if the facts were laid out honestly and we plebs were allowed to have a say.

    • Peter F Gill permalink
      November 19, 2020 11:09 am

      Hi Ian: Absolutely no chance of the facts being laid out honestly. Anyway it was not a great article anyway. The premise is OK if it means particulate emissions largely eliminated and deSOX and deNOX technologies employed. However I suspect that it also assumes deCOX too and the rest of the article accepts the need to reduce anthropogenic emissions. In both practical and economic terms these ideas are indeed fatally flawed.

      • Sara Hall permalink
        November 19, 2020 12:30 pm

        Yes, articles such as these should first state that carbon dioxide is not a dangerous pollutant that is killing our planet but is in fact plant food that is good for our planet. This simple fact seems to have disappeared from our collective knowledge and almost everyone now bizarrely talks about “carbon emissions”. What do they think they mean by this? I suggest a simple chemistry lesson is needed.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      November 20, 2020 9:20 am

      And it misses entirely the point – if I have that, I have to not have something else. Every extra doctor means one fewer other job. Every bit of steel in a wind turbine means one fewer bits of steel in something else. All economics is trade-offs. My local council has all its refuse lorries saying “H&F streets are now the cleanest they’ve ever been. Now let’s make them spotless( or something similar)”. No! The last 10% has marginal utility but will cost huge amounts! Nobody running anything understands even basic stuff about the world.

  3. November 19, 2020 11:04 am

    Apart from the Covid hysteria, which is bad enough, the utter insanity of these green policies is unbelievable. I never thought we would have a government that would propose such nonsense.
    The only explanation can be that they have gone mad, or as Johnson did with the Brexit ‘oven ready’ deal, they will agree to anything now, knowing that they will never have to put it into effect or suffer the fallout.
    That is the height of irresponsibility.
    But who are they agreeing with?

  4. Up2snuff permalink
    November 19, 2020 11:07 am

    Greenwashing … that is what it is … pure greenwashing.

  5. GeoffB permalink
    November 19, 2020 11:13 am

    Here’s my comment on a Telegraph EV article the other day …. I predict that the majority of electric vehicles will end up being manufactured in the far east, just like the Scottish wind farm bases and towers. There will be green unemployment in our traditional manufacturing industries.

    “It is not going to work, It does not matter if you believe in climate change or not, Unless Electric Vehicles offer plus points with respect to Internal Combustion Vehicles, consumers are not going to change. EVs have many negatives, range, charge time, few charging points, depreciation, OK these will improve in time, but forcing them on us now is not the way to go. If EVs were so much better consumers would be prepared to pay higher prices, just look at the original Apple i phone, it was much more expensive than the traditional Nokia, but it really took off, because it was so much better,

    There is NO climate emergency, in the next 30 years, the ice caps are not going to melt, the sea is not going to rise much, we are all not going to die, the temperature did rise between 1980 and 2000, but it has been very stable for the last 20 years and there are even signs that it may be going down. It was just as hot in the 1930’s as it is now.

    Just let natural progression take over, EVs will gradually improve so that they will offer real advantages, but that is going to take 30 to 40 years. It also allows the existing automotive industry, which employs millions, time to adapt over a reasonable time frame. There is no need for mammoth subsidies and government spending as well.”

    • Lorde Late permalink
      November 19, 2020 12:58 pm


      Couldn’t have said it better!

  6. Stephen Bazlinton permalink
    November 19, 2020 11:21 am

    The Spectator’s picture which heads this article is nuts, these cooling towers are producing water vapour, how are we going to get rid of this which contributes to the whole assumed problem!

  7. Chilli permalink
    November 19, 2020 11:23 am

    Received a marketing email from car insurance seller promoting the Boris car ban including this justification “Why ban cars? It’s no secret that we’re living through a climate emergency…..”. Huh? The only emergency I’m seeing is an emergency of stupid.

    Unsubscribed. Always preferred the GoCompare song anyway.

  8. jack broughton permalink
    November 19, 2020 11:25 am

    Climate politics are true example of Orwellian “Newspeak” and is founded on “duckspeak” i.e. automatic support for an orthodox viewpoint. Drax is “blackwhite”, or possibly even “Doublespeak” where some CO2 counts some does not – bb decides. The entire press output supporting the “duckspeak” is “prolefeed”.

    Maybe Boris needs the Latin version, probably MCMLXXXIV: nil desperandum sed carborundum.

    • David Parker permalink
      November 19, 2020 5:30 pm

      Nihil illegitimae carborundum est.

  9. November 19, 2020 11:30 am

    So Boris doesn’t know that cutting UK emissions cannot cut global CO2 unless he also bans all foreign imports of …… TVs, computers, mobile phones, EVs, household goods, plastics, clothing, solar pastels an wind turbines, the manufacture of all of which produceS CO2?
    And that he will destroy the UK economy for net zero benefit ?

    • November 19, 2020 11:44 am

      But is anyone telling that to Boris?!

      • Ben Vorlich permalink
        November 19, 2020 5:14 pm

        Certainly not the de facto PM Carrie

    • November 20, 2020 12:04 pm

      Boris doesn’t care. He’s irresponsible and weak. And he will be long gone before the consequences of this have to be dealt with.
      But what a betrayal of the people in the Red Wall constituencies who voted him in and will suffer the most from this insane ban on petroleum cars.

      • Peter F Gill permalink
        November 20, 2020 12:12 pm

        What you say of Boris may be true but the main fault goes a lot deeper. In fact you would get the same or worse policies from Labour or the Lib Dems. Only Nigel Farage’s old Party would have dismantled the Climate Change Act from which all of this nonsense flows.

  10. Stephen Bazlinton permalink
    November 19, 2020 11:42 am

    According, it seems to the recent petition ‘to Scrap Zero Carbon from the gov which some of us responded too, it does seem that the Climate Assembly just does want us to scrap importing the fripperies of life, we must make do and mend our cathode ray TVs, not eat meat……..

  11. CheshireRed permalink
    November 19, 2020 12:09 pm

    There’s a massive problem with going all-electric for our domestic energy supply.
    When renewables were first promoted a central claim was that we needed an ‘energy mix’ yet this proposal would do the exact opposite, putting our entire residential heating, hot water and cooking ‘eggs’ into a single, all-electric basket.
    System failure or hacking could deliver disastrous consequences for literally millions of people and leave the country seriously exposed.
    Terror, sabotage, malfunction or any other unexpected failure represent huge exposure to risk. This decision cannot be allowed to stand.

  12. November 19, 2020 12:14 pm

    “There is nothing wrong with the general direction of the policy contained within the government’s ten-point plan to cut carbon emissions announced today. Who doesn’t want clean energy and more energy-efficient homes and vehicles”.

    I have to say I take issue with both Mr Clark and the government based on his first paragraph.

    1. What is the definition used for “Clean Energy” because there is ample technology available to remove particulates and nox to produce clean burn of coal gas petrol and diesel so what is the definition? I ask understanding the general presumption which is applied to that term and also actively promoted by media, politicians and other assorted weasel and chancers with an eye for easy money.

    I ask also in light of the fact I challenge this term in it’s current form by pointing out that the process of creating and disposing of devices claimed to provide “clean energy” is anything but “clean” if the demonized CO2 is the point of reference. Those processes are also users and emitters of not only the demonized CO2 molecule but some very nasty substances. This term “clean energy” is woolly like all the others used in the climate fraud and that is deliberate because it means what people think it means and that interpretation differs widely Each person has their own vision of their god or villain.

    2. The general understanding of course is that “clean” means no CO2 and I challenge anyone in government to provide evidence to support the reverse of that term “dirty” being applied to CO2, the gas of life and the source of the oxygen we breath. This is NOT about emissions which the West has been exceptionally good at cleaning up over the past 50 years and continues to improve on. This is about climate and the claims that locked up CO2 put back into the Carbon Cycle by the actions of man is dirty and directly controlling the planet temperature knob and pressing some climate change accelerator peddle.
    3.Energy Efficient homes. The ONLY reason people would want energy efficient homes is if the consequence is that they save money. The same issue of saving money applies to vehicles as the technology for clean burn exists and continues to be improved BUT it is all about cost benefit.

    As this is being done relative to a claim about a GLOBAL process it is reasonable to expect to see empirical data produced to support the cost benefit per £million wasted, sorry spent IN TERMS OF GLOBAL BENEFIT were the UK to embark on this fools errand. I will say that another way. How much will this action taken unilaterally by the UK benefit the planet per £million spent? There have to be numbers….right?

    Doing all of the this especially retrofitting homes and scrapping perfectly functioning vehicles with no consideration for cost as Nigel Lawson puts it is economically illiterate.

    I would be more forceful and call it wilful and asinine economic criminality against the good people of this land.

    • Gas Geezer permalink
      November 19, 2020 10:22 pm

      Agree , however expressing any of this stuff in polite society is now socially unacceptable so where does one go from here ?

  13. MrGrimNasty permalink
    November 19, 2020 12:20 pm

    Will people accept only seasonal and storable locally grown fruit and veg these days?

    Beauty of Bath is an attractively named apple, but it is actually pretty horrible, only palatable for a day or so if caught just right, and doesn’t keep. Its only redeeming quality is that it can be ready as early as July. In the old days, months since the last apple was seen, even a horrid apple was welcome and grown commercially!

    The reality is we will never reach an honest ‘net zero’ and people will never accept the compromises necessary to their lives to get anywhere near. The attempt is a futile squandering of health and wealth and happiness achieved through the exploitation of fossil fuels to date.

  14. November 19, 2020 12:25 pm

    What Boris thinks of Ross Clark

    One of the great unsung talents of journalism’ – Boris Johnson

  15. Harry Passfield permalink
    November 19, 2020 12:29 pm


    Hope you get to pop in here, Broadlands. I had a comment over at Conservative Woman which was discussing carbon capture. I pointed out what you said about 1ppm=8B tons. Someone sent me a link to a carbon capture website where they even discussed putting CO2 scrubbers on lamp posts or burying charcoal that had absorbed CO2!!
    Link here:

    • Broadlands permalink
      November 19, 2020 1:28 pm

      Harry… ” …laid down in the Climate Change Act, to cut carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050.”
      This is another misuse and misunderstanding of NET-zero. Carbon emissions are NOT cut. Emissions are withdrawn from the atmosphere or at the source and transported to burial sites for permanent geological burial. The folks at Columbia avoid discussing the Net-zero goal in terms of tons or parts per million CO2 to achieve some yet-to-be-quantified amount that can keep global temperatures in check. They prefer to talk in terms of costs for individual pilot studies or BECCS, which is not permanent carbon storage. Trees and algae die and the oxygen they help create recycles them as part of the natural carbon cycle. I have written to several of them about all this and they bob-and-weave. The fact that one ppm of CO2 is 7,800 million tons has yet to sink in. The Hansen/McKibben goal of 350 ppm is now 65 times 7.8bn or 500 BILLION tons to capture and bury. Totally absurd. The problem of course is that too much has been invested by too many to want to understand the numbers that would put them out of business. So, on we go like lemmings over the cliff to reality.

  16. Harry Passfield permalink
    November 19, 2020 12:43 pm

    I have adopted a new slogan: ‘NiET ZERO!’

  17. November 19, 2020 12:55 pm

    Surely the “fatal flaw” in all this gibberish, is that Carbon Dioxide is a great benefit to the planet and mankind. Carbon Dioxide is quite clearly not a pollutant as a clean, transparent, odorless, tasteless gas which is barely detectable. To top it off, our planet has been cooling quite rapidly recently, and has not yet exceeded the mid-1930’s temperature highs at any time since.

  18. Daniel Earley permalink
    November 19, 2020 1:45 pm

    To mis-quote Blackadder, “It’s all bol***ks”.

    • Peter F Gill permalink
      November 19, 2020 4:06 pm

      Are you sure it’s a misquote? If sounds very accurate to me.

  19. Adrian, East Anglia permalink
    November 19, 2020 2:54 pm

    Apart from a few notable exceptions, politicians around the world have demonstrated their complete inability to understand and effectively manage the current natural challenge posed by the emergence of the Sars-CoV-2 virus.

    And these same politicians really expect us to believe that they are capable of understanding and controlling the complexities of the global climate?!?!?

    • Broadlands permalink
      November 19, 2020 3:07 pm

      Adrian… It should be obvious that when it comes to scientific studies the politicians are little more than puppets. Just like little Greta, they have no backgrounds that would allow them to comprehend these problems. The need is to find out who the puppeteers are who advise them as to what to believe and what to say about climate and CO2. Expose them. Not an easy task as there are many, some of whom are themselves puppets.

      • Adrian, East Anglia permalink
        November 19, 2020 3:42 pm

        Broadlands… Exactly my point!! The current epidemic clearly illustrates the fundamental problem: the advisors advise, the politicians decide. The flaw, of course, being that politicians are rarely qualified or otherwise equipped to understand or interrogate the advice being given, or to take appropriate reasoned decisions.

  20. Mack permalink
    November 19, 2020 2:56 pm

    If Boris had stood for election and said, “I’m going to be honest with the electorate now and tell you that my government intends to spend hundreds of billions of your money on green gimmicks that will make the majority of you poorer, colder, more miserable and less free for decades to come but, on the bright side, it could possibly make 0.045% difference to global co2 emissions and make me and a few lefties and tree huggers feel all warm and fuzzy inside and, of course, a very few chosen troughers very rich indeed”, do you think he’d be PM today?

    • Gamecock permalink
      November 19, 2020 10:26 pm

      “it could possibly make 0.045% difference to global co2 emissions”

      Thank you for getting that right. Man’s contribution to CO2 emissions, as opposed to natural emissions, is <4%. Britain's portion of that is around 1%. British CO2 emission reduction is angels on the head of a pin.

  21. Harry Passfield permalink
    November 19, 2020 3:16 pm

    Going back to Broadlands’ point that ONE ppm of CO2 in atmosphere is equivalent to approx 8 Billion tonnes, is it then the case that the 460 Million tonnes of emissions in 2017 is really only equivalent to approx 0.05 ppm?? (I am assuming that emissions are not cumulative of the overall atmospheric content).

    BTW: I have noticed a fairly new argument appearing on warmist blogs or in discussions: asking Sceptics to prove that CO2 does NOT warm the climate. Up to now, they seemed happy to go along with the Greenpeace/XRs of this world and just accept that it does: it is an axiom which they now expect us to disprove rather than them disprove the null hypothesis.

    • Broadlands permalink
      November 19, 2020 3:33 pm

      Harry.. The world emitted about 40 billion tons of CO2 last year. With ~8 billion people involved that would be ~5 tons apiece…per capita. Tons that we would have to capture and remove if the goal is to lower atmospheric CO2 to prevent higher temperatures (supposedly from the greenhouse effect). 40 billion tons is ~5 ppm. Divide 40 by 7.8. Clearly, much more than 5 ppm would be required to move the needle back toward some past year’s value such as the climate of 1987 when CO2 was 350 ppm. It is simply out of the reach of humanity. Let the warmist activists do the math?

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        November 19, 2020 8:05 pm

        This is where I get problems with understanding: (variable) dynamic emissions versus (background) atmospheric CO2 – the 400+ ppm.
        I always understood that the CO2 emissions would just cycle through the carbon cycle and be absorbed in nature – etc with the residual stuff added to the 400 ppm (now at 415 ppm?).
        So, am I correct to see it as net zero wants to remove emissions rather than reduce the background level – or both? Either is a big ask. which is it?

      • Broadlands permalink
        November 19, 2020 8:31 pm

        Harry… Here is one definition of NET-zero: “a target of completely negating the amount of greenhouse gases produced by human activity, to be achieved by reducing emissions and implementing methods of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”

        I read that as both lowering CO2 emissions and taking CO2 out of the atmosphere. But, it has to be permanent. Otherwise tons of dry ice or barrels of soda-pop, vodka? would do it. It is a big ask for humanity to put 44′ tons’ of CO2 back into the 12 ‘ton’ carbon bag it came from.

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        November 19, 2020 9:37 pm

  22. MrGrimNasty permalink
    November 19, 2020 5:27 pm

    Even the people promoting ASHP can’t make it sound sensible.

    If you go from GCH it’ll cost you more in energy bills, it requires an enormous upfront bill for the hardware/insulation/underfloor heating, in cold weather when you really need it you’ll need expensive direct electric backup heating – as it loses efficiency below 7C and provides least when you most need it……..

    List of pros is a joke, seems they were struggling, might as well add ‘will not murder all your family in their sleep’………. And list of cons is pretty concerning.

    • Lorde Late permalink
      November 19, 2020 7:21 pm

      Good evening
      Reading the two green energy sites mentioned.As you say some kind of back up may be required for cold weather, perhaps like an oil or gas boiler? or are we to have plug in electric fires around the house like our grandparents?
      not really moving forwards is it? my only experience of underfloor heating was in my father-in-law’s house in remote Italy where it managed to empty the extremely expensive calor gas tank in under a month. got a wood stove now.

  23. November 19, 2020 5:30 pm

    This is the price we pay for hosting the COP 26 Climate Jamboree next year.

  24. JBW permalink
    November 19, 2020 8:23 pm

    General election cited for Thursday 2 May 2024

  25. Ben permalink
    November 20, 2020 7:21 am

    Nothing wrong with the general direction. What!!! attempting to power a country with wind power. A huge experiment in greenomics, which if it goes wrong will be a disaster. Then add in the elitist push to electrics cars, almost guaranteeing a two tier transport system of the haves and the dirty highly taxed have nots.

  26. Phoenix44 permalink
    November 20, 2020 9:10 am

    The analysis is correct but in what way does it make us “poorer”? There’s nothing intrinsically wealth-creating in “manufacturing ” versus services nor wealth-destroying in importing commodities such as food, steel or cement.

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