The National:

THIRTEEN years ago I was one of a small group of economists, environmentalists, accountants, and campaigners who produced what many now think to have been the first coordinated plans to tackle the economic impact of climate change. We called it the Green New Deal and published our report in July 2008.

Within months it was being talked about by a bright, young candidate to be President of the USA called Barack Obama (below). For a while it seemed as though something really exciting might happen. Then, in 2010, George Osborne brought austerity to the UK and all hope of reform died.

The National: Former US president Barack Obama

Until now that is. At the last gasp, and literally just before COP 26, the government has published its plans to turn the UK into a net-zero economy.

Having waited for 13 years, I read them with eager anticipation. To describe myself as disappointed would be the kindest possible interpretation of my reaction.

The plan is in several parts. What should have been the simplest is largely about housing, and has come down to the fate of the gas boiler. The government wants the 25 million domestic gas boilers in the UK to be replaced. In most cases it suggests that the alternative is a heat pump, although these will not suit many houses, particularly in Scotland. They have offered grants of considerably less than the cost of installation and its associated equipment for just 30,000 householders a year for the next three years.

What the other 24,910,000 households who will need to make this or some other transition are meant to do is anyone's guess.

READ MORE: Lesley Riddoch: Ignore Boris Johnson’s hot air, here's what UK heating needs

What is clear is that this is not joined-up policy. The biggest need with regard to the UK's housing stock was to massively increase the quality of insulation in our properties, starting with the windows and doors, working through to the walls when it is possible, and into the roof spaces where necessary. The biggest saving to be had in domestic energy is from cutting the leakages of heat from our homes, but about this the government has nothing to say.

The second part of their plan is for the greening of the financial services sector. It is just as incoherent.

The government is demanding that investment companies and pension funds must disclose how much carbon is being created by the companies in which they invest. This, they think, will influence investment decision making. But, yet again, they have entirely missed the point.

The big question to be asked of companies is not how much carbon they emit, but how much it will cost them to stop emitting that carbon - because that is what we want them to do. However, nothing that might provide this information, and so help us to decide which companies are best able to manage the essential transition to a net-zero economy, is to be demanded by the government. As a result no one is really going to be any the wiser as a result of what the government is doing.

The National: Chancellor Rishi Sunak

However, the most depressing document was published by Rishi Sunak's Treasury.

Admittedly, this document did not say that the Treasury does not believe in climate change. However, what it did make clear was that Westminster does not plan to fund the cost of tackling climate change.

In one of the more absurd claims included in the document, they suggested that: “Seeking to pass the costs onto future taxpayers through borrowing would deviate from the polluter pays principle, [and] would not be consistent with intergenerational fairness.”

Maybe they haven't noticed that everything we need to do is about protecting our children’s future. It is the greatest act of intergenerational solidarity. I am the father of two young men who most certainly think that this is the biggest issue that they are going to face in their lives. A little bit of government debt is something that they are more than willing to accept for the benefit of having the chance to quite literally live.

But the Westminster government thinks otherwise.

I was left with three impressions. The first is that, just as was the case with Covid, this is a government that cannot spot a crisis when it is charging head on towards it.

READ MORE: Douglas Ross denies UK's snub of Scots carbon capture project was political

Second, again as was the case with Covid, the government’s reaction to a crisis that they are still in denial about is wholly inadequate.

And, third, as ever, they are seeking to pretend that financial and commercial markets can provide a solution to a problem which only government can solve, as is now being proved by Covid. They have learned nothing. It now seems unlikely that they ever will. Thirteen years is a long time to wait to be left in despair.