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News Every Day |

A backlash against Net Zero has begun… and politicians need to listen to the people

IT may not have touched the consciousness of people here (why would it?), but across 27 countries of Europe, there was, two weeks ago, an election for the European Parliament.

On the back of it the French President, Emmanuel Macron, called a snap election, which takes place on Sunday, with a second round a week later.

Getty
A backlash against Net Zero has begun… and politicians need to listen to the people[/caption]

The reason for his decision is very simple. The Far Right, across many European countries, did extraordinarily well.

From Italy through Austria and Germany, into France and the Netherlands.

A combination of discontent with the establishment, a long-standing resentment about migration into Europe and a substantial push back on moves to decarbonise the economy into what is known as net zero, has shaken the political tree.

The outcome of the French election could make things much more complicated for an incoming Starmer administration.

Much more difficult to negotiate further joint arrangements in terms of stopping the boats. Even more complex in terms of negotiating tweaks to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement implemented after Brexit.

But it is the message in relation to tackling climate change which should be taken very much to heart.

Quite modest measures in France and Germany have led to resistance from the electorate.

In Germany in particular, removing the option of gas for domestic use without the preparation and dialogue with those people affected has had a genuine counter reaction.

Here, with just seven days to go until our General Election, it is clear that already challenging circumstances for finding solutions to genuinely difficult problems — including financially — are now substantially worse.

The world has turned upside down during the campaign.

Nigel Farage has entered the fray, and taken over leadership of the Reform party.

Rishi Sunak, after a terrible start, made matters worse by coming back from Normandy early during the D-Day commemorations.

This might not have made a difference if it weren’t for the fact that the Conservative Party — who were not only way behind at the beginning of the campaign, but also guilty of displaying their divisions in public — appear to have given up any expectation of winning.

So, just for a moment, let’s presume that Keir Starmer will be in Downing Street on July 5.

It is true that Labour’s manifesto picks up the potential downside of tackling climate change and promises not to “rip out” people’s gas boilers.

Dismissing hydrogen in more refined form would be a great mistake.

The proposed experiment to homes in Redcar and Teesside was quietly dropped before the election was called.

Getty
Supporters of the far-right Alternative for Germany party gather for campaign event for European election[/caption]

Small, modular nuclear reactors will be vital, not least to protect communities and regions from disruption to the National Grid, which itself is currently woefully inadequate to meet future demand.

Without the rollout of reliable electric power across the country, motorists are left uncertain and manufacturers unwilling to make the big commitment necessary on a timescale which makes the transformation to all-electric vehicles a realistic prospect.

But it is one thing to avoid elephant traps in a General Election, and quite another to face the reality of the kind of backlash on achieving net zero which is emerging across the world.

Cars can’t be charged, the internet goes down and daily life and work grinds to a standstill.

This has implications beyond anything debated in the election so far for an incoming government, and for a Conservative Opposition dealing with the continuing challenge of Farage and Reform UK.

Hence, the truth remains that the more dependent we become on electricity, the less choice people have, and the more the issue of transition will become politically toxic.

Not only will people resent higher costs and disruption to their lives, but it will gradually dawn on them that without alternatives we all become more vulnerable.

Vulnerable to natural disasters such as storms that take down power lines and leave hundreds of thousands of homes without heat, light or cooking facilities. Which, of course, has happened to us over recent years.

Politics at sharp end

Reaction to finding that should there be a security attack, ground and air source heat pumps, which require electricity, don’t work.

Cars can’t be charged, the internet goes down and daily life and work grinds to a standstill.

Yes, it’s a doomsday scenario, and getting this right will avoid such catastrophe.

But it needs to be thought about now, discussed in terms of timescales beyond measures to provide “clean” electricity.

Getty
The outcome of the French election could make things much more complicated for an incoming Starmer administration[/caption]

This is about hearing people, responding to their fears and taking them with us.

For the lessons from the rise of the far Right in Europe, as so often in the past, need to be understood here in the United Kingdom.

Respected, not dismissed, by the comfortable middle class, with solar panels linked to long-life batteries.

This is about politics at the very sharp end in the lives of those who, after austerity and Covid, need a government which is genuinely on their side.

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