Day: 17 October 2021

News Round-Up

Leaked Documents Reveal Chancellor’s Concerns about Cost of Moving Towards a Zero-Carbon Economy

Leaked documents obtained by the Observer reveal deep concerns within the Treasury about the economic cost of moving towards a zero-carbon economy. The Chancellor is worried that additional costs from green initiatives would push companies to move production elsewhere.

As Johnson prepares to position the U.K. at the head of global efforts to combat climate change and curb greenhouse gas emissions as host of the Glasgow COP26 meeting, the documents show the Treasury is warning of serious economic damage to the U.K. economy and future tax rises if the U.K. overspends on, or misdirects, green investment.

Green experts said the “half-baked” and “one-sided” Treasury net-zero review presented only the costs of action on emissions, rather than the benefits, such as green jobs, lower energy bills and avoiding the disastrous impact of global heating. They said the review could be “weaponised” by climate-change deniers around the world before COP26, undermining Johnson’s attempts at climate leadership on the global stage.

The internal Treasury documents say that while there may be economic benefits to U.K. companies from swift and appropriate climate action, there is also a danger that economic activity could move abroad if firms found their costs were increasing by more than those of their overseas competitors.

The leaked papers are understood to have been produced to accompany a slide show given confidentially to key groups outside Government in the last month. The documents state: “The investment required to decarbonise the U.K. economy is uncertain but could help to improve the U.K.’s relatively low investment levels and increase productivity.

“However, more green investment is likely to attract diminishing returns, reducing the positive impact of ever more investment on GDP. Some green investments could displace other, more productive, investment opportunities. If more productive investments are made earlier in the transition, this risk may be accentuated later in the transition.”

On the risk of additional costs to companies from green initiatives, the documents say: “Climate action in the U.K. can lead to economic activity moving abroad if it directly leads to costs increasing, and it is more profitable to produce in countries with less stringent climate policies.”

On the fiscal implications, the documents say the cost of moving towards net zero could mean tax rises because of “the erosion of tax revenue from fossil fuel-related activity”. They say: “The Government may need to consider changes to existing taxes and new sources of revenue throughout the transition in order to deliver net zero sustainably, and consistently with the government’s fiscal principles.”

Worth reading in full.

Premier League Has “Worst Vaccination Rate” in the World of Sport

Government and sports officials continue to apply pressure on Premier League football which is said to have the “worst vaccination rate in the world”. They have been left wondering how else they can increase uptake now that suggestions of rewards for clubs with high jab rates and an ‘education campaign’ featuring Professor Jonathan Van Tam, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, appear to have fallen flat among players. The Mail on Sunday has the story.

Mail on Sunday survey has found that almost all other top leagues have a much higher vaccine take-up rate than English football.

Even tennis – which has had a similar issue with vaccine hesitancy – is threatening to outstrip English football, with the take-up rate on the ATP Tour having improved by around 20% over the past six weeks.

Rival sports have attributed their success to reasons that include top athletes promoting the jab and tougher restrictions for unvaccinated players, neither of which have happened in the Premier League.

This has been done in some American sports such as the NFL, who have more than 95% of their players and staff fully-vaccinated despite a number of high-profile refuseniks with some franchises as high as 100%.

They credit star players and coaches coming out as strong vocal advocates for vaccination as a key factor in their high number, such as Superbowl-winning coach Bruce Arians.

“That has had a huge impact in dressing rooms,” NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills told the Mail on Sunday. “Young and less experienced players look up to them and want to be as successful in the same way. It speaks to have people who have the trust of the players. That has been incredibly important.”

The Premier League has lacked such a spokesperson among top players with conspiracy theories about virility and heart defects being shared amongst WhatsApp groups.

They were unable to persuade its players to take part in a similar publicity campaign despite myth-bunking [sic] videos from… Jonathan Van-Tam. …

The Premier League still lags behind. Of its 20 clubs, 13 were understood to have vaccination rates of less than 50%, according to a letter sent to clubs in September. This figure is likely to have risen slightly.

The most recent set of Football League figures, revealed by Sportsmail last week, had just 49% of players fully vaccinated. A quarter of EFL players effectively said they were not planning to get jabbed.

Worth reading in full.

Dozens of MPs Set to Join Campaign Demanding That the Government Permanently Rules Out Vaccine Passports

Campaigners from the Together Declaration group which opposes the introduction of vaccine passports will soon meet with members of the parliamentary Covid Recovery Group (CRG) along with other MPs and will together demand that the Government never imposes these passes, including under the pretext of an “exceptionally difficult winter“. The Sunday Express has the story.

Campaigners for the Together Declaration petition, already signed by almost 110,000 people, fear that the U.K. Government will be pushed into agreeing to a so-called ‘Plan B’ to bring in new restrictions over the winter.

It follows warnings by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty last week that the NHS will “experience an exceptionally difficult winter” this year. …

Already, Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the 1922 Committee, which represents backbench Conservative MPs has signed the declaration.

He said: “‘Vaccine passports would set an alarming precedent where our medical records become public and some people are subjected to discrimination as they seek to go about their everyday lives. Surely that isn’t the kind of society that we want to create?”

Another senior Tory MP, Sir Desmond Swayne added: “It is contrary to all our values and traditions to have to prove that we have undergone a medical procedure to go about our lawful business.

“It is coercive and discriminatory, the abandonment of liberal values; a frightful precedent to set. I am appalled that a Conservative Government could contemplate such a measure. If we start down this road the future is dark.”

Campaigners will meet former minister Steve Baker, Deputy Chairman of the powerful CRG, and other Parliamentarians tomorrow before unfurling a 40m banner in Parliament Square.

Other confirmed supporters include MPs Esther McVey, Philip Davies, Chris Green and Henry Smith as well as Baroness Fox and Lord Sharpe from the Lords. …

The declaration is being organised by campaigner Alan Miller who fears that vaccine passports in England will come.

He said: “The U.K. Government has never taken Plan B off the table and now they have happened in Wales and Scotland it will be very tempting to introduce them.”

The petition has also been signed by leading scientists and medics including Professor Karol Sikora, leading cancer specialist; and Marcantonio Spada, professor of Psychology at London’s Southbank University.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: This event has been postponed for a couple of weeks because both houses of Parliament will be closed tomorrow following the tribute to Sir David Amess.

Third of Team Appointed by WHO to Investigate Origins of Covid Have Conflicts of Interest

The World Health Organisation is embroiled in a new scandal: at least a third of its team investigating the origins of COVID-19, appointed last week, have conflicts of interest due to research links or previous statements about the disease. Ian Birrell in the Mail on Sunday has more.

The team of 26 scientists, selected from 700 applicants, were named last week after the UN body had its initial efforts frustrated by China and was then widely criticised after they declared it “extremely unlikely” that the pandemic began with a laboratory leak.

Michael Ryan, a senior WHO official, said the new Scientific Advisory Group on the Origins of Novel Pathogens (Sago) had possibly the last chance to discover the origins of Covid-19 “in a collegiate, collective and mutually responsible way”.

Yet there is growing dismay over the inclusion of seven members of the discredited previous group, whose findings echoed the Beijing regime’s line – alongside others who have dismissed fears of a lab incident as conspiracy theory.

Tory MP Bob Seely, of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “Why does the new team include people who are compromised? Two whitewashes are not better than one. The world is owed a robust independent inquiry.”

The seven members of the previous study group include British professor John Watson and Dutch scientist Marion Koopmans.

Koopmans runs a viroscience department collaborating with EcoHealth Alliance, the US organisation headed by British scientist Peter Daszak, which funded high-risk bat-virus experiments in Wuhan.

She has published 27 papers with her colleague Ron Fouchier, one of the world’s most controversial researchers into ‘gain of function’ experiments, which aim to make animal viruses more transmissible and able to infect humans.

New members of the WHO team include German virologist Christian Drosten, who signed an influential Lancet statement last year that attacked “conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin” and praised Beijing’s “rapid, open and transparent sharing of data”.

One of the two biosafety specialists is Kathrin Summermatter, a Swiss scientist who has praised the security of Chinese labs and said the idea of a research incident is “a classic conspiracy theory”.

Filippa Lentzos, a biosecurity expert at King’s College London, has insisted that it is vital to keep all theories open, and said: “There appear to be many in the group who do not have an open mind – an essential quality in any scientific investigative team.”

You can read the story in the Mail on Sunday here.

The Flaw in the New ZOE Study Showing Vaccine Protection Better Than Natural Immunity

The ZOE Covid Study App (which recently changed its estimates again, which doesn’t exactly instil confidence) released a study earlier in the month (or rather a press release with no link to an actual study) which claimed natural immunity following infection “only gave 65% protection against catching it again”. This compared to 71% protection from the AstraZeneca vaccine (rising to 90% for those who had tested positive for Covid before) and 87% protection from the Pfizer vaccine (rising to 95% for the previously test-positive). The researchers say the results came from during the U.K. Delta wave.

This is a surprisingly low estimate for the protection given by natural immunity. Other estimates have tended to be more like 80% against testing positive and 90% against symptomatic infection. A recent study from Israel (not yet peer-reviewed) found natural immunity was 13 times better than Pfizer vaccination at preventing PCR positives during the Delta surge and 27 times better at preventing symptomatic infection.

The ZOE result is similar, however, to a recent (very flawed) study based on the ONS infection survey, which claimed to find just 55% protection from natural infection. A similarly flawed study from Oxford University, also based on the ONS survey, found natural infection just 66% effective.

The main problem with the ZOE study is that it only looks at infections from May and June 2021. This was mostly a time of very low prevalence, though with the beginnings of the Delta surge occurring in the latter half.