Leading article: A potentially dangerous legacy

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The Independent Online

We have said that, when it comes to policies on climate change, Gordon Brown is all bag and no shopping. Now the UN has said the same thing. Its Human Development Report yesterday warned that, if other nations follow the policies the UK has set for itself, the world will soon enter the climate change danger zone. What Britain, and the world, need is action, not words. And the report suggested what some of those actions should be. Binding emissions-cutting targets. A tax on carbon. An EU cap-and-trade scheme that auctions allowances instead of granting them. The rapid retirement of old-style, highly polluting, coal-fired power stations. The accelerated introduction of zero-emission coal plants.

And it goes on: a vast increase in production from renewables, with accelerated development of wind and tidal power. Changes to vehicle excise duties to hammer gas-guzzler cars. A tax on aircraft fuel. Strict energy efficiency criteria on new houses (around one third of the homes that will be occupied in 2050 are yet to be built). A windfall tax on the large electricity generators that raked in £1.2bn through the emissions trading scheme.

We also need a huge hike in the transfer of low-carbon technologies to poor nations suffering because of the climate change the rich world has caused. The $86bn increase in global aid to pay for that should be on top of the Gleneagles commitments. And it will still total less than 1 per cent of global GDP.

Unless our politicians break free of the pressures of the short-term electoral cycle, the bill we will leave behind for our grandchildren will be too high even to contemplate.