Saving the planet or costing the earth

14 October 2010 by
Saving the planet or costing the earth

Having a green policy is good and we should be sensitive to the environment, but there is a worrying lack of debate about some of the consequences, says Peter Hancock, chief executive of Pride of Britain Hotels.

Ever since the explosion of satire on British television in the 1960s we have tended to view the pronouncements of politicians with a degree of scepticism.

That is, on every subject apart from the environment, where there seems to be a worrying lack of debate. Anyone who dares to question the notion that we can halt climate change by burning less fuel is slapped down with a triumphant "all scientists agree", bringing the argument to a close.

And I do not for a minute suggest we should ignore the good that can be done by reducing pollution or by acting with social responsibility. Indeed, I have been impressed by hoteliers' growing interest in behaving sensitively towards the environment as advocated by the Considerate Hoteliers Association.

Furthermore, measures to conserve energy, such as those adopted by the recently opened Coworth Park, make good business sense in themselves.

My view is that we are asking too few questions about the wider issues of green policy. The target to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 80% as stated in the Climate Change Act, for example, will have consequences, some of which are certain and some less so.

One certain outcome will be a shift towards renewable electricity generation, at massive cost to consumers because of the initial investment needed. Another will be the relocation of heavy manufacturing away from this country and into regions where such limits do not apply, such as India and China. Just as much CO2 will go into the world's atmosphere but without profiting the UK economy.

Less certain is that any changes we make will actually prevent the Earth from warming or, even more terrifying to contemplate, cooling. Were there not radical shifts in temperature due to changes in solar activity long before the industrial revolution?

So, let's be sensible, let's be virtuous and let's be careful with our precious resources. But let's also remember we are in competition with the rest of the world and could very easily end up at the wrong end of a less-than-level playing field. An extremely inconvenient truth.

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