People Don't Understand 'Just How Difficult Life Is Going to Be' Under Net Zero: Campaigner

Head of campaign group says that journalists effectively self-censor on Net Zero due to pressure of complaints made to regulators

People Don't Understand 'Just How Difficult Life Is Going to Be' Under Net Zero: Campaigner
Andrew Montford speaks to NTD's Lee Hall on British Thought Leaders in July, 2023. (NTD)
Lee Hall
Simon Veazey

The policy to erase Britons' collective carbon footprint—otherwise known as Net Zero—has been a matter of broad political consensus for decades and has been little challenged by the media or in the court of public opinion.

But that public support is "paper thin" and relies on people not really grasping just how much their lives will change as Britain heads into a Net Zero future, according to the head of a Net Zero watchdog.

"I think realisation is coming," Andrew Montford, told NTD's Lee Hall. "But I don't think people truly understand just how difficult life is going to be. So for example, people now fly off on their summer holidays, without thinking about it too much. In the Net Zero world—or in reality, the Absolute Zero world—that is really going to be something that is reserved for the very wealthy."

"You're not going to go away for your two weeks in the sun, the way you do now," Mr. Montford, director of Net Zero Watch, told the British Thought Leaders programme, which is broadcast on EpochTV.

By law, all new cars will have to be electric by 2030—with the suggestion that the government may bring that date forward.

With the growth of electric cars, ownership of cars is expected to drop by half, says Mr. Montford, according to modelling by the national grid.

"It's not just that people won't be able to afford cars, but the grid won't—isn't built to—deliver that amount of power."

Mr. Montford's Net Zero Watch is a campaigning organisation set up in 2021 to challenge the government's New Zero policies. The group is the successor to GWPF, a campaign group skeptical of the government's position on the science of global warming that was established almost a decade ago.

Mr. Montford says that with the UK accounting for only one percent of carbon emissions, "anything we do will make absolutely no difference."

"Every year, China's emissions—the increase in emissions—vastly outweighs our total emissions."

Britain has been "driven by this idea that the UK should be a leader on climate policy on decarbonisation—and there's absolutely no reason for it," he says.

"We're not super wealthy, we're not emitting very much carbon dioxide anyway, we have reduced our emissions a lot already, and have hurt ourselves in the process. The idea that we are going to make a difference is, it's for the birds really."

Cross-Party Consensus

Mr. Montford says it isn't clear quite why Britain has set itself up as a leader on Net Zero.

"The global warming science that is behind Net Zero, a lot of that was funded in the UK. And the UK has taken on quite a leadership role in pushing the idea that that we have a problem with the climate. I think that was probably the start of it."

"We had a series of politicians who, who were very keen on the idea. The Blair government, the Cameron government. ... Theresa May's government was very keen on it. Quite early on, UK politicians decided" that this should be an issue on which there was cross-party consensus, he said.

In recent months and years, Mr. Montford says that Net Zero and climate change are starting to be challenged here and there by journalists.

Previously, after politicians had rallied around Net Zero policies, the media "very quickly moved from allowing debate on it to actually closing it down completely," he said.

Self-Censoring Journalists

One of the reasons debate was limited was the self-censoring of journalists due to pressure from complaints filed with the then newly-minted press regulator, IMPRESS, castigating them for allowing "unscientific views on climate change."

"Essentially, the process became the punishment. So the complaints would go in and they would take six months for the journalist to respond. And eventually, journalists decided it was easier not to get into discussing global warming or Net Zero," he said.

Whilst polling suggests the public is broadly supportive of the government's policies on Net Zero, Mr. Montford says the picture would change if you compare that support with the potential costs of the policies.

"If you ask them if they support Net Zero, yeah, they'll probably still support it, " he says. "If you ask them whether they'd like to spend money on Net Zero rather than on the health service, they'll almost certainly say no. And if you ask them how much they want to spend on Net Zero—you know, 'how much are you willing to give a week? 10 pounds? 20 pounds?'—They'll say, 'no thank you. That's far too much.'"

"It's virtue signalling support. It's paper thin. The reality is people have other priorities. People will put the health service first. They'll build they'll put going on holiday first. They won't put decarbonisation first," he said.