The story of the Stern Review, and the sequel

This is the story of the Stern Review Mr Nicholas Stern, a former banker and economist, was employed by Gordon Brown when Mr Brown was in charge of the Treasury, to write a report about the economic impact of climate change. The report in essence said that we all have to act now to prevent worsening climate change because the cost of acting later would be much more expensive.

Mr Stern’s review was hailed throughout the United Kingdom as a work of great insight and moment. Mr Stern warned that climate change would shrink the global economy by 20%; Mr Brown promised to lead the way. At the time he said


“In the 20th century our national economic ambitions were the twin objectives of achieving stable economic growth and full employment,” Mr Brown said.

“Now in the 21st century our new objectives are clear, they are threefold: growth, full employment and environmental care.”

Mr Brown argued that becoming green would mean great opportunities

 “for new markets, for new jobs, new technologies, new exports where companies, universities and social enterprises in Britain can lead the world”.

“And then there is the greatest opportunity of all, the prize of securing and safeguarding the planet for our generations to come.”

You would expect that the UK would thereupon become leader in green technology, invest billions of pounds each year in developing it, invest many more billions in stalling it and thereby reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that Mr Stern warned us would be so expensive to reduce if we acted later. A grateful nation should then honour Mr Stern for his excellent work.

Well the only thing that the grateful nation actually did was to honour Mr Stern.

Mr Stern (who was at the time a humble Knight of the realm) was promoted to a Lord, (sorry, “ennobled”) and was put in charge of the Grantham Institute of Climate Research, because of his insightful and important report.

Mr Brown became Prime Minister and therefore capable of implementing his new green vision having reached the highest office in the Kingdom. That is all there is to this story; the end.

There is a sequel, but the sequel is nowhere near as exciting. In the sequel Mr Stern keeps issuing warning after warning that emissions must be cut, but everyone knows that emissions can only be cut by measures. There are very few measures, very little money spent on measures by the Government from the taxes its raises, very few new green jobs – indeed the economy is losing green jobs due to the recession, because the Government prefers to support the car industry and international speculation of banks rather than the environmental. The climate is left unprotected; the United Kingdom is not a leader in green technology, having installed almost none of it.

It is an odd story, isn’t it? The UK may not lead the world in green technology and environmental protection but let it never be said that the UK does not lead the world in…writing reports.

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