Here's a graph to marvel at: it's the DECC modeler's view of how UK CO2 emissions will decline in the business-as-usual case. Impressive, huh ? A 60% reduction over 20 years and set on a downward trend beyond that - quite a contribution to cleaning up our act. So why is Crapper Huhne insisting we reduce emissions still further - by 80%, no less over the same arbitrary period - at astronomical expense?
Partly, I'd say, it's because he's a machine politician and he was set on by hug-a-husky Cameron to do just this. Just as with new nuclear power - which before the election he gave good reasons for rejecting - like a good soldier he's happy enough to go against his better judgment if that's what he's told to do.
But when it will be pain every step of the way, there is something willfully perverse about pushing even harder than your orders require. For Huhne is pressing Europe to adopt an even more extreme target for the earlier milestone of 2020 (a 30% reduction) than is required for the UK to meet its self-imposed 2030 goal (20% by 2020 is all that's needed to achieve 80% by the later date according to the same DECC modeling). In other words, he's not just lobbying for everyone else in Europe to follow us down this steep, rocky and most probably infeasible path (which one could understand: we might as well enjoy some fellowship on the long road to Hell). He wants us all to go further still.
Which is where the good Günther Oettinger comes in. Reported by the Grauniad:
The EU's energy commissioner dealt a heavy blow to member states that have been pressing for a target of slashing emissions by 30% by 2020, against the current 20%. He said the tougher target would force industries to move to Asia. "If we go alone to 30%, you will only have a faster process of de-industrialisation in Europe," he said. "I think we need industry in Europe, we need industry in the UK, and industry means CO2 emissions. We are willing to go to 30 % if big global partners will follow us, but if not we won't."
Herr Oettinger is from a land where they treat industry with the respect it deserves. Plenty of people advocate scrapping Vince Cable's Business Department and him with it, but if there's one last thing he should do before he packs his bags, it is to point out firmly that the only way these targets will be met is with wholesale de-industrialisation.
Oh, and of course with a net increase in CO2 emissions, which is the ghastly irony. Such large-scale manufacturing as remains in Europe is pretty energy-efficient these days. Which is more than we can say for a lot of the overseas industries that will cheerfully step into our (foreign-made) shoes.