The Corner


Less Meat for You

(rez-art/Getty Images)

Back to the kitchen again, I fear. In recent posts, I have written about the war on (mainly) meat.

Here, via Ryan Bourne, writing for Conservative Home, is more news from the front:

Whatever your position on the desirability or consequences of lockdowns in this particular crisis, however, it’s clear that suspending economic and social liberties today brings with it the temptation for politicians to utilise such powers again – and for businesses and individuals to suspect that they could.

Given the way that politicians throw around terms such as “emergency” or “epidemic,” it is not an intellectual leap to imagine future leaders demanding similar measures for other ambitions. And therein lies a source of economic discontent—an incalculable drag or doubt for a generation.

Already, the economist Mariana Mazzucato has pitched the idea of “climate lockdowns,” should governments not deliver the green revolution she desires. In the service of mitigating the “climate emergency,” the “state would limit private-vehicle use, ban consumption of red meat, and impose energy-saving measures, while fossil-fuel companies would have to stop drilling.”

Of course, we can avoid all that, she says, if we are willing to “reorient our energy system around renewable energy” and “evict fossil-fuel interests and short-termism from business, finance, and politics”—the goals Mazzucato wants to achieve with her threats warning of what might be needed otherwise.

Now, it might seem far-fetched to imagine a world where one could face fines or jail time for driving too much, or eating steak frites. But before this year, one could have said the same about meeting four households on Christmas Day, or not eating at least a scotch egg with your pint.

Back in March, I wrote about the precedent that was being established by the measures taken by the current pandemic:

[P]eople may reassure themselves with the thought that an extraordinary threat requires extraordinary measures: Once it has passed, everything will return to normal. But to believe that is to believe a great deal, not least that our notions of “normal” won’t have changed substantially for the worse.

This is more than a matter of the historical fact that governments have been reluctant to give up powers that they have been handed — or, as during this crisis, put to use. To imagine that large swathes of America could be shut down by administrative order would, six months ago, have been no more than the stuff of prepper paranoia, and yet here we are. And powers that have been used once can be used again, perhaps not in the same way, and perhaps not to the same extent, but they will be used. After all, an “emergency” can be a conveniently flexible concept. Those, for example, who talk of a “climate emergency” will be paying close attention to the precedents that are now being set…

Mazzucato writes what Bourne says, but it’s worth noting these comments from her too:

To achieve this, three obstacles must be removed: business that is shareholder-driven instead of stakeholder-driven, finance that is used in inadequate and inappropriate ways, and government that is based on outdated economic thinking and faulty assumptions.

Say what you will, but it’s striking how often “stakeholder capitalism” features in arguments of this type.

And Mazzucato is no fringe figure. Here she is, speaking to the World Economic Forum (“Davos”) earlier this year (on the need for stakeholder capitalism), and this is by no means her only appearance, whether in print or otherwise, at that august body.

Meanwhile, Brits could read this good news from the Financial Times on Tuesday:

Sales of new gas boilers should be banned by 2033 and Britons will need to reduce their meat and dairy consumption by a fifth in just nine years to set the UK on a path to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, according to the government’s climate advisers.

Britain will also have to match US president-elect Joe Biden’s pledge to decarbonise the power system by 2035, according to a detailed plan from the Climate Change Committee on Wednesday, which recommends sweeping changes for every sector of the economy to “almost entirely” phase out fossil fuels in less than three decades.

The new CCC road map spells out in detail for the first time the significant role consumer behaviour will play in the UK’s efforts to end its contribution to climate change. Until now most emissions cuts achieved since 1990 have been “invisible” to the public as they have largely come though the phase-out of coal-fired power plants.

“More than ever before” future emissions cuts will rely on choices such as slashing meat consumption — which will have to be reduced by nearly 35 per cent by 2050 — driving less and choosing to limit flights, the CCC said. These changes should be encouraged via moves such as public sector bodies offering plant-based options at all meals before alternatives, “such as pricing”, are considered, it added.

The advice of the CCC is not legally binding, but has exerted a strong influence on the decisions of the UK government, which has always followed its advice when setting the five-year “carbon budgets” required under the Climate Change Act…

And, yes, this is coming over here.


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