Your world. Your say: The great debate continues
Contributions to the all-party inquiry on climate change continue to pour in from 'Independent' readers. We report on the progress of the campaign so far and link to a further selection of your letters and e-mails
It's not quite people crying in the wilderness, but it's certainly people crying out for something - and as you read though the Independent readers' extraordinary three-day outpouring of feeling on the dangers of climate change, you quickly realise what that is: political leadership.
Believe it, politicians everywhere. People care now about the threat of global warming. They care very deeply. And they want you and your colleagues to act decisively to counter it, in a way that you have so far not yet done.
That is surely the major lesson of the phenomenal correspondence we have triggered with our invitation to readers to have their say on the greatest hazard the planet has ever faced. The cascade of letters and e-mails has been astonishing: in its sheer size; in its range (coming from all over Britain, and indeed the world); in its strength of feeling; and most of all in its demand for more action over climate change - action that often would involve self-sacrifice.
This feeling has exploded at a key moment - just as the Government's efforts to cut Britain's emissions of greenhouse gases have been shown to be glaringly inadequate. When a dispirited Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, disclosed on Tuesday that Labour would fail disastrously to meet its flagship green target of reducing Britain's carbon emissions to 20 per cent below their 1990 levels by 2010, her admission marked what may be seen as a historic turning point. For the failure of Labour's climate policy showed that the old ideas about grappling with global warming will not do.
We can see clearly now that tinkering around the edges of a strongly-growing industrial economy - some energy efficiency here, some renewable power there - simply will not enable governments to take control of emissions. We are all too strongly wedded to a carbon way of life - in driving our cars, heating our homes, playing our DVDs, for any adjustment, however great, to "business as usual" - to make a real difference.
However, on Tuesday morning, as Mrs Beckett was admitting the wreck of Labour's policy, we offered a way forward. In asking for readers' views, we highlighted the suggestion by the All-Party Climate Change Group, led by Colin Challen MP, that to combat global warming, business-as-usual has to be abandoned and radical measures will have to be taken - which might ultimately involved carbon rationing for both individuals and nation-states.
Mr Challen's starting point is that that the issue has to be taken out of party politics: parties seeking short-term political advantage could scupper radical initiatives at the ballot box. And now he is offering to harness the enormous concern and support for action that our mountain of comment has displayed.
"The correspondence is certainly humbling, because it shows the public are far more motivated and aware of the threat of climate change than politicians would like to give them credit for," he said. Mr Challen suggests that Independent correspondents now offer their views to the all-party group's formal inquiry, just beginning, on a cross-party consensus on climate change. It is asking the questions: Is it possible? And is it desirable?
All readers' comments are being forwarded to his group, and all who have full postal or email addresses will be sent the terms of reference of the inquiry, which will take evidence until 9 May.
Mr Challen and his colleagues believe a political consensus is both the only way forward and the vital first step, and that the strength of feeling displayed in this remarkable group of letters will be a tremendously powerful addition to the case.
People are convinced of the dangers of climate change now, and they want their politicians to take it seriously. They want the issue up there with health and education, and the pound in their pocket. And the reason is obvious: they want their children to have a future.
I think what The Independent is doing is really valuable because it shows how concerned people are becoming. A year ago in our survey of London, concern about climate change was at 11 per cent, just above abandoned cars. This year it is one of the top three concerns, on a par with concern for crime and the cost of living. Politicians have to show leadership and make it possible for people at all levels - from the corporate to the personal - to translate their concerns about climate change into actions on the ground.
Nicky Gavron is Deputy Mayor of London. She initiated the London Climate Change Agency, responsible for reducing London's emissions of CO2
I think it's been hugely encouraging to see that so many people care about climate change. I have always believed that people want political leadership on this crucial issue and what you have done has been to prove that, and I congratulate The Independent. This Government has been extraordinarily timid about tackling climate change; the Conservatives have already said we favour a cross-party approach, and perhaps that might help the Government to be less timid.
Peter Ainsworth is Conservative Shadow Environment Secretary
If politics is the art of the possible, political leadership is the art of expanding the realm of the possible. What The Independent's amazing outpouring of public opinion has shown is that this Government has not begun to explore the realm of the possible when it comes to action over climate change. Nobody doubts that Tony Blair's intentions have been good, but he has not been able to make the machinery of Government work for him. What you have done is to illustrate the hugely broad base of support for action.
Tom Burke is a former government green adviser, now visiting professor at Imperial College London
I think it's great that The Independent is the first national newspaper to have given climate change the prominence it deserves. It is the pre-eminent challenge of our time and the key is to start talking about practical solutions rather than wittering on with warm words and PR stunts. Your correspondence is extraordinary, and it confirms to me that public opinion is finally waking up to the seriousness of the policy problem that we face. This is going to be the key issue of the decade to come, as significant as education or health in the past decade.
Chris Huhne is Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Secretary
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