Something Greens are always very concerned about is marketisation and financial engineering around environmental issues. The UK has a long and dangerous track record of mismanaging this. In the same way that financial engineering around mortgages caused the 2008 financial crisis, there are risks that bankers will abuse the climate crisis as an opportunity to get filthy rich while destroying the very systems we are working to protect. It has been done before.
That is why we are concerned about concepts such as natural capital, which risks being a double-edged sword. If it helps policymakers to recognise the immense value of our natural capital and our natural world, it might be helpful, but if it simply creates new opportunities for bankers to get filthy rich, it is deeply dangerous.
For this reason, it is essential that carbon removals are genuine physical processes that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and lock it up. There cannot be any ambiguity or scope for financial markets to exploit for profit, or for our Government to claim success when no real carbon dioxide has been removed from the atmosphere.
I was at a round table last week; there were about 16 of us, and we were fairly evenly divided between scientists and parliamentarians. All the parliamentarians were from the Commons, apart from me. The scientists all agreed with each other and kept saying the same thing: that we must stop burning fossil fuels. However, all the parliamentarians, apart from me, said, “Oh, that’s quite difficult—I cannot ask my constituents not to fly”, and things like that. My concern is for the Government to be deeply behind the science. Even the UN is now saying that we must act urgently. You cannot, even now, talk about low carbon and net zero; we are past the point where they will have the impact that we need. Instead, we should be talking about carbon-negative measures. If the Government do not wake up to that very soon, I hope that we can replace them.
I have huge qualms about hydrogen and electric vehicles. Quite honestly, electric vehicles still clog the roads and their drivers still run over and kill people. If we are thinking about low carbon, we should go for public transport.