Who pays the price of world leadership?

13th Aug 2018


I’ve just come back from annual leave, and whilst travelling around the US, I did reflect on the fact that the UK is just so small by comparison.

In addition, it is a fair comment to make too, that the US is not as forward thinking as Europe when it comes to reducing carbon emissions (notwithstanding their achievements to date with gas substituting for coal).

So it does beg the question, how fast and far should the UK go compared to the rest of the world? Obviously meeting our international obligations should be a given, but at what pace?

I know there are some who want the UK to be a world leader in carbon reductions but there is always a price to pay for being first. Early adopters can get the benefits from exporting their knowledge (and products) but who pays the price for the early start? These are big philosophical questions that haven’t really been explored in the UK. We naively want to lead the world but our global footprint is so small that it might not be a price worth paying for that accolade. Especially if we see UK consumers footing the bill for this “world leadership” while their global counterparts do not.

I ask these questions at the time when bodies like the Climate Change Committee advocate action to meet carbon reductions, without ever establishing the costs of doing so (or the price to be paid by consumers). It is a debate that needs to be had and sooner rather than later.

Put simply, if UK consumers are to pay £12,000 just to switch their heating systems from gas to electric (as advocated again by Friends of the Earth last week) in order for the UK to be a world leader, should they not be asked first?

PS I’ll tell you about my meeting with US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke when in Washington another time.

Best wishes

Mike Foster, CE