The entire world seems to be making the usual Guardian opinion pages mistake of thinking that investment is a good thing. It isn’t, of course it isn’t – it’s a cost.
Yes, clearly, it’s possible that good things come from investment. We do generally note that at least some investments make the future richer. There are benefits to useful investment that is. But it’s still true that the investment itself is a cost:
The report proudly boasts the UK was the first major economy in the world to legislate a net zero emissions target by 2050. That’s true, but Britain hasn’t yet matched that lofty legal ambition with real financial clout – and rivals are catching up fast.
Across the North Sea, where windmills are gradually replacing oil rigs, Norway, Sweden and Denmark are racing ahead with plans to turn decarbonisation into the biggest emerging industrial opportunity of the coming decade.
They don’t just see it as a cost – but a chance to build their future prosperity on new, greener foundations.
Norway, for example, is investing more than double the sum unveiled yesterday by Kwasi Kwarteng on a single £2bn mega project to commercialise Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in the North Sea.
D’ye see the mistake there? The assumption is being made that more investment is better. Which isn’t how it works at all.
Sure, it could be true that a big project will produce better returns than a small one. But that’s the part we’ve got to prove – the larger investment in and of itself is a higher cost. Think on it, say we could cure climate change for $1. Or we could cure it for $1 trillion. So, which is better, investing $1 to solve it or $1 trillion? If we run about shouting that investment is, in and of itself, a good thing then we end up, absurdly, insisting that the higher price tag is better.
Which would mean that we’d solve climate change at that high price and not come up with that damn flying car I’m still awaiting.
Meanwhile, as Britain ponders whether to build a gigafactory for electric vehicle battery materials to keep its struggling car industry afloat, Sweden has already built one at Skelleftea in Lapland with oodles of government support doled out by both Stockholm and Berlin.
The aim of investing sensibly is to gain the output without having to put the oodles in. Miss that and madness lies in our decision making.