Richard North, 30/10/2021  

Well, after three days, we've managed to top 3,300 signatures on our petition demanding a referendum on whether to keep the 2050 net zero target, adding over a thousand to yesterday's total.

To get this far is an achievement. Currently, there are 1,706 active petitions listed on the website. Our current level puts us at number 161 in that list, on page four of 35 pages of entries. Of the total, only 12 have reached the magic 100,000 target, some of the mere 44 that have so far topped the 10,000 mark.

By any measure, the odds are very much against us, so it will be a real test of our skills for us to stay the course, especially as the big numbers seem to involve either football or animals, with two referring to Palestine.

What strikes one reading through the listings is the poverty of ambition. There are relatively very few petitions which directly challenge the conduct of this government, even though Twitter and much of social media is crammed with criticisms of Johnson and his administration.

Almost certainly, this reflects a lack of confidence in the petition process. Even if it does make the magic 100,000, parliament will only "consider" a debate. Those that are held get a perfunctory, poorly attended showing in Westminster Hall and rarely have any impact at all.

I have no doubt that, should we get to the 10,000-stage, where we are entitled to a government response, we will get a length of extruded verbal material from the government press office, which will not address the central issue – which is not about climate change but the very essence of democracy.

There are times when I weary of pointing out the obvious, but there are two parts to the etymology of the word democracy, which stems from the Greek word demokratía. Those parts are: demos, the people, and kratos, power. Without a demos, there is no democracy. But people without power is not democracy either.

For the Johnson administration arbitrarily to impose on us a far-reaching policy such as "net zero", costing us a fortune to implement and having far-reaching effects on our lifestyles, without our direct, explicit and informed consent simply does not constitute an democratic act. It makes not the slightest difference whether the government was elected or not, this is a dictatorial act.

It is all the more objectionable that the effect of the policy, even if it was wholly successful, would be minimal. The UK produces less than one percent of the global emissions of CO2 and, when it comes to domestic energy usage, this contributes around 15 percent.

Thus, for the sake of 15 percent of one percent of the world's emissions, Johnson would shut down the nation's domestic natural gas supply and coerce into "investing" between £250-400 billion on heating systems which are not as good as the equipment they replace, with additional insulation – much of it inappropriate for the dwellings to which it will be applied.

Yet the purpose of the UK's vainglorious "net zero" target is not to achieve a reduction in global temperature. Even if it was, the impact would be scarcely, if at all measurable, amounting to 15 percent of one percent of 1.5 deg C – a meagre 0.00225 ºC.

The real purpose, it seems is to cast Johnson in the leadership role at the CoP26 summit which starts on Sunday, giving him the "moral authority" to broker a global deal which will have the major emitters agree to match the UK's self-imposed target.

In this endeavour, Johnson is almost certainly destined to fail. Although he may get a largely meaningless headline promise from president Biden – who will then have to go cap in hand to Congress for their approval – he will get nowhere with the other big emitters.

China, for instance, is still increasing its coal usage. It opened three-quarters of the world's newly funded coal plants and accounted for more than 80 percent of newly announced coal power projects last year. Currently, it produces about 28 percent of the world's total CO2 emissions, compared with 15 percent produced by the US, 7 percent by India and roughly 5 percent by Russia.

As for Russia, the very idea that Putin might agree to cuts is palpably absurd, when, we are told, the entire evolution of Russia’s foreign policy over the last 20 years has been predicated on leveraging Russia's pole position as the leading fossil fuel producer in the world.

But even in the unlikely event that Johnson was able to close the deal, he does not have the consent of the British people to hold the economy hostage to his ambition. He is prime minister of the United Kingdom, not World King, and these climate change treaties – for that is what they are – have even less legitimacy that the EU treaties from which we have only recently extracted ourselves.

Thus, there is far more to this petition than just the challenge to Johnson's fatuous "net zero" policy. It is really about who holds the power in this nation, the politicians or, ultimately, the people. This is about the right of the British people to veto policy or laws of which they disapprove.

It is no good arguing that a general election is the means by which we exercise that power, especially where there is consensus between the parties, so that no meaningful choice of policies is on offer.

Nor is it sufficient to judge governments on the outcomes of their policies – by the time the full effects of many policies are felt, the terms of office of the guilty politicians have long been over. And, in any event, the whole purpose of pre-emptive consent is to prevent damage being done. It is wholly unsatisfactory to wait for the effects before punishing the perpetrators.

Without the ability to exercise power in this manner, through the ballot box, we open ourselves to precisely the situation being exploited by Insulate Britain. Speaking for the group, ringleader Liam Norton talks of how Britain should be leading the world at CoP26 "with radical plans to decarbonise our society".

"What we have instead", he says, "is a budget that is yet another act of treason by this government upon its own people. It is a plan that facilitates mass murder. The citizens of this country should be in open revolt. We need change and we need it quickly".

Illustrating the sort of demonic rhetoric which prevails in the absence of democracy, Norton goes on to say that, "It is clear that this Government has no intention of getting on with the job that they were elected to do. No intention of protecting the country from climate collapse. Our children’s futures have been trashed. Our country sold out".

If there was a proper system of consent, the government could slap down the likes of IB, which demonstrably is not representative of the nation's viewpoint. Instead, Norton is able to concludes with a call to action, claiming: "We have been betrayed by the traitors now in power. We ask all decent ordinary people to join us, to rise up and take part in nonviolent civil resistance against tyranny".

Of course, despite the failings of our system, masses of people are not going to rise up, not just yet. That is not our way, unless provoked to such extremes, the last example of which might be considered the General Strike of 1926, when the government put tanks and armoured cars on the streets of London.

The balance of power in this nation is badly skewed. Politicians have become complacent and arrogant, confident that their manipulation of the electoral system gives them almost dictatorial powers, prey to lobbyists and single-issue factions, and entirely neglectful of their democratic responsibilities.

Either we stop this now, in a civilised fashion, or we stop it in the streets, where blood will flow. That is what is at stake, and it is – for the moment – our choice to make. If we leave it too long, the choice will be made for us.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

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