Former Brexit Secretary Lord Frost has rounded on the Government over its “invented” net zero target.
He argued that the stated goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 was passed with “limited debate” and claimed it has had negative impacts on the energy sector.
Lord Frost’s comments were made during a debate in the House of Lords over what steps should be taken to support behaviour change as a pathway towards net zero.
He said: “We all agree that decarbonisation is a very desirable goal, but I would say that aspiration is different from the specific net zero 2050 policy.
“That target was essentially invented by the climate change committee in 2019, passed through secondary legislation in this Parliament with limited debate, and since then has been creating radical change to the economic structure of this country.
“And I think my own party is just as much to blame for this situation, and possibly even more so than members opposite.”
He argued that technical measures required to meet this target are expensive, both to install and in its impact on everyday life, that they increase the unreliability of the energy sector and have led to the destruction of reliable supply.
The Tory peer said he finds it “troubling” that behavioural change is being used to “fill the gap”.
He critiqued this method of decarbonisation, arguing it “reduces human welfare” because it “makes it harder for people to do things they would otherwise choose to do”.
Finally, he claimed that behavioural change measures are presented as being voluntary, but in some cases are actually achieved through “legal compulsion”, shrinking the private space of individuals.
He said: “The climate change committee in 2021 said that behaviour change comes through consumer adoption of low-carbon technology such as electric cars.
“Well, you don’t get any choice about that – in 2030, you have to buy an electric car.
“That’s not a nudging, that’s compulsion.
“Similarly, heat pumps in 2025, that’s compulsion. Closing roads for cyclists, that’s all compulsion.
“If people mean legal compulsion, they should say it.”
Lord Frost’s comments come after the Bishop of Oxford urged the Government to do more in terms of supporting behavioural change.
The Right Reverend Steven Croft referenced a new report from the Lords’ Environment and Climate Change Committee entitled ‘In Our Hands: Behaviour Change for Climate and Environmental Goals’.
The spiritual peer praised the Government for its stated commitment to net zero but argued there was a “significant gap” between what it wants to do, and the leadership actually being offered.
He argued that behaviour change was a “key element” of achieving net zero, an estimated 32% of change needed, adding: “We must all play our part”.
Another member of the climate change committee, Lord Browne of Ladyton hit back at Lord Frost’s comments about behaviour change, branding his warning a “groundless accusation”.
The former Labour Cabinet minister insisted that the role of Government is one of enabling people to make more sustainable choices, not compelling them to do so.
He said: “To address the concerns of those who feel that the cause of net zero is being hijacked by those who do wish this regression I encourage them, including with respect Lord Frost, to actually read the reports before levelling these groundless accusations.”
He added: “We do not wish this or any future Government to remove the power of decision-making from individuals, but we want it to fashion a context in which the gap between ethical and practical decision making is closed.
“For those who wish to preserve individual liberty, including Lord Frost, surely a context within which people can make the decisions they wish to make on an ethical basis rather than purely practical considerations is desirable.”