“We have said with an extraordinary post-imperial arrogance that we are going to show the world what it should do,” the former chancellor cautions. “We are going to be a great example. Well, we have been an example of what not to do - by damaging our own economy to no conceivable purpose.”
Western countries may be prepared to sign up to swingeing emissions cuts, Lord Lawson believes emerging nations, such as India and China, will never agree to them. It is arrogant of rich nations, such as Britain, to ask them to adopt a policy that might limit economic growth, he says.
He acknowledges that the world has grown warmer in the past 100 years, and that it is likely that man-made greenhouse gases “played a part” in that warming. But he believes the science is uncertain: “We need to get off this absurd carbon-cessation hook that will be hugely damaging to the economy and society. What we should be doing is monitoring what is happening very carefully and closely and preparing to adapt to any changes that might occur.”
The last round of United Nations talks on climate change in Copenhagen at the end of 2009 failed, but the issue came up again at the G8 last weekend, and the UN will resume talks at the end of this year towards getting a global deal. Despite support for a global agreement on climate change among his Tory colleagues, including the Prime Minister, Lord Lawson said it was misguided.
He also said domestic policy to cut greenhouse emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 would drive manufacturing abroad and limit growth.
However, Chris Huhne, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, has said Britain would continue the policy of the last administration by committing to cut emissions first before asking poorer countries to take action.
“Europe must take a lead in securing an international climate agreement, though we can’t just click our fingers and hope the rest of the world will follow. We’ve got to make real emission cuts at home, and work constructively with all other nations in achieving that ambitious deal,” he said.