Radomir Tylecote is a Partner at a Beijing-based green energy research company. He is also a member of the Tsinghua University advisory group on the financial development of Shanghai, and a founder member of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission.
Environmental legislation and its reform is fundamental to economic forethought, its neglect symptomatic of strategic malaise at the heart of government. Way back in 1991, in his now seldom-quoted book The Green Economy, Michael Jacobs wrote, "'command and control', which economists commonly use to mean regulation... is evidently intended to give the impression of a draconian bureaucracy coercing powerless firms and consumers". Anyone familiar with the atrophied attitudes to environmentalism held by some conservative thinkers in Britain, could quite reasonably have penned these words at the beginning of 2009.
At its crudest, conservative environmental scepticism portrays environmentalism as a left wing ploy and climate change as a deceitful third front from which to launch the Left back into mainstream politics. This is ironic, given the implication that capitalism and environmentalism do not mix; exactly the belief held by their adversaries. In any given week, one can still read scathing critiques of renewable energy for its apparent inefficiency, often suggesting that these technologies are in statis.
More ironic, despite scorning requests from renewable energy developers for better government support, these critics tend to support nuclear, which has always needed massive state subsidy. Tough anti-pollution regulations are apparently suspect as they constitute intervention "against" business. As Jacobs makes clear, this is wrong. Consumers in a market economy can respond to price penalties and incentives, while the government can adjust these incentives to prepare both economy and consumers for oncoming challenges. Imminent environmental degradation seems a reasonable challenge for which to prepare.