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Jump on board the climate change bandwagon

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Anyone who fancies a career of all-expenses paid trips to Alpine glaciers and Polynesian islands would do well to scan the Guardian for a job as a “climate change officer”.

Take the £26,372 salary on offer for implementing Ipswich’s climate change strategy. Among the achievements of the previous holder of this job? Making Ipswich Town “Britain’s first carbon-neutral football club”.

Or, on second thoughts, maybe this wasn’t such a triumph: it appears that the football club didn’t earn this honour by turning off its floodlights and playing matches in the dark. The bumf goes on to say: “3,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide have been saved by persuading more than 3,000 fans to make a total of 14,000 energy pledges for their homes”.

What it doesn’t say is whether any of the fans kept their oaths, nor how the club intends to police these pledges. In other words, it is complete nonsense, a farce funded by taxpayers to help Ipswich Council persuade itself that it is doing its bit to save the planet.

Devon County Council’s climate change officer has been very busy, too, organising a computer game for schoolchildren called “Are you a climate change hero?”, imploring them to switch off lights, and so on.

And any sprog who thinks they have got what it takes to spread the word on a larger stage can apply to become one of England’s “Climate Change Champions”, who, according to the climate change minister Joan Ruddock, will “spend a year in office communicating their ideas to homes and businesses by leading regional awareness campaigns”. Says one of last year’s champions: “The best bit was visiting a glacier in Switzerland”.

There are, of course, some adults who could do with a lesson or two from children in cutting their carbon footprint, not least Tony Blair. After warning us that the world is in peril from global warming, he set off on yet another one of his long-haul flights to the Caribbean, saying he “wasn’t prepared to give up [his] holiday” to cut carbon emissions.

But why does the government think grown business people need lessons from children on the desirability of turning off unnecessary lights and using as little fuel as possible? Businesses live or die on their ability to contain costs.

Apart from a few public sector organisations – like the Whitehall ministries caught with their lights blazing in the middle of the night (when the regulations on working hours demand civil servants are safely tucked up in bed) – as far as real businesses are concerned, there isn’t a lot climate change devotees can add about energy conservation that isn’t already obvious.

Climate change has really become a bandwagon upon which public sector careers are built and policies advanced. City minister Kitty Ussher boasts that the City of London is going to become “the global centre for carbon trading”. “That’ll be good news for the financial services sector,” she added, “and will bring further jobs and opportunities to the UK, as well as helping to protect the environment. This concept of putting a price on carbon makes people… think about the emissions they are causing”.

You can see where the bandwagon is heading: big profits for banks, the traders of which will be able to afford even bigger Porsches – and yet more expense and bureaucratic burden for other industries as they are obliged to buy “carbon credits” from each other to meet government quotas.

If Ms Ussher hasn’t noticed, the government already puts a price on carbon: it’s called fuel tax, and is a punitive burden on any business rash enough to waste the stuff. Carbon trading has already led to the perverse situation in which NHS hospitals, having exceeded their allowances, must pay carbon credits to oil companies, which find it easy to cut their generous carbon allowances.

To place this extra bureaucratic burden on business is really just about creating careers for bureaucrats and for the government’s friends in the City.

To read more articles by Ross Clark, click here.

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