Dear Damian, I read your piece (published in full below) and felt the need to put a different point of view. You say “we need to take people with us” to get to net zero. I don’t think the government is aware of how deeply concerned a large proportion of the population already is. 

What we in ACAN are hearing on the doorstep is that people are indeed concerned and are now also confused because they see the government applying the brakes when all the reputable scientific sources, spearheaded by the UN, are telling us they should be speeding up.

As I say, the vast majority are waiting to be told what they need to do and to see the government taking a lead, not bowing to a very noisy but very small minority of car drivers who cannot see the long-term advantages of the many changes we need to make to address the climate and environmental crises.

I suggested a while back that what is missing is a public information programme, perhaps in the form of weekly or monthly briefings similar to the Covid briefings. This would have many benefits:

  1. Showing the public the government is taking the climate crisis seriously.
  2. Explaining why we all need to take it seriously.
  3. Explaining what the government is doing by way of funding and regulation.
  4. Explaining what businesses can do and are already doing.
  5. Explaining what individuals can do.

You are right – the government does need to take the people with them, but please, let’s just get on with it.

Many business leaders have already pointed out how easy it would be to lose inward investment while we dither about. 

We were once world leaders in offshore wind but that crown has already been lost. We will soon be bringing up the rear and losing the economic benefits of leading the field thanks to these backward steps from our leaders.

You are also right when you say “leadership is about making tough calls at the right time and being able to flex and adapt to changing circumstances”.

We in ACAN urge your government to hit the accelerator on climate actions, not the brake. 

After all, the illegal war, trading turmoil and global pandemic that you refer to are all making addressing the climate crisis more urgent, rather than less. 

As you also said, “global warming responds to what the world does as a whole” – and what is certain is that war adds significantly to greenhouse gas emissions with exploding bombs and the need to rebuild afterwards. 

This is where we can be good neighbours to Ukraine and pick up the slack on cutting greenhouse gas emissions while they are in no position to do so.

By Eleanor Hill 

Alton Climate Action Network


Damian Hinds: Our fairer path to achieving net zero (first published on September 29)

It won’t surprise you to hear the announcement last week of a delay in the ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars prompted a flurry of emails to my inbox.

Some people were horrified that we are reneging on our net-zero commitment (we aren’t) or that we are abandoning the key measures to get us there (again, we aren’t). 

I understand why the newspaper headlines would generate that reaction. It seems counter-intuitive to slow things down, given everything we read and hear about.

The imperative to act on climate change remains as acute. And it continues to require concerted parallel action around the world.

I have always said we should concentrate on the things that will have most impact; we need to take people with us, go with the grain of people’s lives and not impose unreasonable cost. 

We have been global leaders on decarbonisation, with particularly strong performance on decarbonising electricity. I am proud our country is a leader in the field, but the way the world works, global warming responds to what the world does as a whole.

The decision to delay the ban of petrol and diesel car manufacture by five years brings us into line with others like France and Germany.

A lot was made of the reaction of the Ford Motor Company – but there were very different reactions from others like Jaguar Land Rover and Toyota who saw it as pragmatic. Ultimately automotive is a highly international sector.

And car makers here will still be subject to stretching electric vehicle production requirements, with 22 per cent of cars sold needing to be electric in 2024, rising incrementally to 100 per cent in the decade beyond.

Home heating does remain an important area to address, but for many households – and especially those off-grid including many in East Hampshire – moving back the boilers ban gives these homeowners a bit of breathing space. The lowest income homes will be exempted.

Less remarked upon last week was what the PM said about reforms to ensure we have grid infrastructure sufficient for the switch to lower-carbon electricity. This will be controversial, no doubt, but it is a fundamental enabler.

That complements changes to the planning system earlier in the year that will allow more onshore wind developments. 

The UK is already a world leader in offshore wind, and there is scope for more lower-cost onshore production, where it has local support.

And there are lots of, as yet untapped, opportunities with nuclear power and carbon capture technology too. 

Key to reaching net zero is public support. You can’t guilt people into changing their behaviour or buying habits – at least, not successfully and sustainably.

I first wrote in my column about the need for a ‘measured approach’ on climate change 13 years ago. Since then, much has changed.

That has been positive change in many ways, including technology availability. But no-one could have foretold the effect of an illegal war and trading turmoil on top of a global pandemic, and the exacerbating effect on the ‘trilemma’ I wrote about here recently.

Leadership is about making tough calls at the right time, and being able to flex and adapt to changing circumstances. 

Last week, the prime minister recommitted the UK to net zero by 2050 but pledged a fairer path to achieving it, one that eases the burden on families.

By Damian Hinds

MP for East Hampshire