Seeking sensible solutions to ‘climate hysteria’

This is written by Roger Helmer, member of the European Parliament.

AS SOMEONE who has lived and worked in Malaysia, I have watched with interest the growth of a nation that, in the 20 years since I left, achieved middle-income status, enjoying some of the most robust economic growth in the region. 

I am aware that much of this growth can be attributed to the success of plantation industries, first cocoa and rubber, and then oil palm.

Watching now as an elected British member of the European Parliament, I am struck by the challenges these industries currently face, challenges that originate in the developed West, based on an ideological belief in climate change.

The definition of and terms under which environmental sustainability is achieved in the developing world is dreamed up and pursued relentlessly by Western, taxpayer funded environmental groups, and prove both appealing and convenient for an increasingly protectionist European Union.

In collaboration with domestic industry, media and academia, the EU confidently extends the hand of “green colonialism” in Southeast Asia. For my views, I am identified as a “climate sceptic”.

For their views, may I suggest anti-development, anti-growth, anti-prosperity, anti-business, anti-capitalism?

The EU has decided that it wants to set a target for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the EU by 20 per cent by 2020, while some call for targets of 30 per cent and higher. The EU can do all it wants to call for 20 per cent or 30 per cent reductions, but what we are actually going to see is an increase.

What I term “climate hysteria” will, in the long term, cost worldwide industry and the taxpayer dearly.

Even the EU’s energy commissioner, Günther Oettinger, has rejected these higher targets which, he has said, will result in a faster process of de-industrialisation in Europe.

Perhaps Oettinger is aware that the small changes in mean global temperatures which we’ve seen over the last hundred years are entirely consistent with well-established, long-term natural climate cycles, and do not serve as a basis for the EU to pursue business damaging, green protectionist policies.

And there is going to be great demand for palm oil, whether for food or for fuel.

I am convinced that in 10 years, the issue will no longer be climate change. The issue will be energy security and energy availability. The pressure will then be to diversify supply and technologies and to use every available source of energy. So, I see a great future for biofuels and palm oil as a biofuel.

However, despite the role commodities such as palm oil could play in global long-term energy solutions, the apparent consensus is that such industries should be limited.

How then is this second school of thought driving Western policy towards palm oil?

It is what Europe calls “participative democracy” and it wields great influence in the hands of non-governmental organisations. It is the opposite of what we call “representative democracy”, with the people electing their representatives and representatives making their decisions. There are a number of voices within the EU saying that representative democracy has had its time, and we need a new model.

But what is participative government? Instead of going to the people, you go to “civic society”. Civic society simply means NGOs. What is fascinating is that virtually every NGO that engages with EU institutions is actually funded, in part, by the European Commission itself.

The European Union has created is its own Hall of Mirrors. It has paid for its own set of interlocutors who reflect what the EU wants to hear.

Think of the incentives and motivations of an NGO. They are driven by the need to survive and the need to fund themselves. They also need to get funding from the public. And so their story must be alarming.

If you said last year that the sea level is going to rise by 10 feet, that is not a story. You have to say that the sea level is growing to rise by 20 feet. Each time, your prediction has to be more dramatic and alarmist than the last one.

A recent report by the United Kingdom Taxpayers Alliance found that in 2009/10, green NGOs received from the EU and the British government a total of £10 million (RM49 million) — three quarters of it from the EU and a quarter of it from the UK.

Now, why should we worry about that? By taking the public out of the loop, you are actually producing an anti-democratic structure. A structure designed to reinforce the prejudices of EU institutions. It means that the nexus of the NGOs and EU are pursuing the interests and preoccupations of a narrow elite.

As you may be aware, the NGOs have an enormous place in EU decision-making. The European Commission, when it is developing a legislative proposal, may talk to the industry, but it will also have Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the World Wildlife Fund talking to them as well. And that is in my view profoundly anti-democratic.

Certainly, in the UK, you get little old ladies leaving money to the World Wildlife Fund in their wills. You get two million people contributing to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the bird protection organisation. They are interested in conservation, not environmental advocacy. And yet their money is used for that purpose.

When we look at some of the more aggressive and strident of the green NGOs, people are neglected. They do not consider the needs and aspirations of real people.

How can you influence the work these NGOs are doing and the criticisms that they are levelling against your industry? You have to keep telling the truth over and over again. We have a phrase in politics — sunlight is the best disinfectant. The best way to deal with lies is to tell the truth.

But it does really matter that you respond with the facts in a targeted way. Public opinion is very important but, of course, it is people like the members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and the European Commission who are creating the misguided regulations.

The word is getting around, but a presence, probably in Brussels, where the decisions are being made will be key to navigating and influencing the complicated legislative process.

The task is difficult but not impossible. I believe that demographic changes and energy shortages and, indeed, food shortages mean that sensible solutions will have to prevail because we need the food and we need the fuel.

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