Leading article: Carbon emissions are rising

Share
Related Topics

Our leaders have been telling us for many years now how seriously they take the threat of global warming. This was the week we asked them to prove it, by demanding the inclusion of an ambitious climate change Bill in the forthcoming Queen's Speech. The response of the Government to our challenge will determine how history judges its environmental credentials. A watershed moment is approaching. We will soon know whether Tony Blair and his ministers are truly engaged with the issue, or whether their many fine speeches over the past decade have been plain old hot air.

The in-depth report on climate change by Sir Nicholas Stern, the head of the government economic service, is poised to arrive at exactly the right time to increase the pressure on ministers. We are told the report, which will be released on Monday, will contain a stark message for ministers. Sir Nicholas will reveal that by the end of the century, global warming could cost the world economy 20 per cent of its GDP. Massive population shifts prompted by rising sea levels and flooding could cause the biggest global recession since the 1930s. Yet there is hope. By sacrificing 1 per cent of our GDP to fight climate change now we could avoid such a catastrophe. If ever there was an argument designed to engage the attention of our number-crunching Chancellor, it is one framed in such clear cost-benefit terms.

The report also promises to be an important challenge to the conventional thinking on climate change in business circles. Measures proposed to curtail climate change - raising carbon taxes, fining industry for excessive pollution - have traditionally been regarded as "bad for the economy". But we now see that carrying on as normal will itself wreck growth in the long term. Preventing major climate change is about economic self-interest. Thus the Stern analysis becomes as relevant in a global context as it is in a British one. The wakening giants of China and India will not wish to see their own hard-won prosperity crumble just as it is finally achieved. Nor will the US, the main obstacle at present to a binding international treaty, want to see its wealth destroyed.

If the global economics of climate change are in the process of shifting, the politics here in Britain have already done so. The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives are both calling for statutory annual reductions in carbon emissions. So too are 400 MPs, from across the parties. The public demand for action is growing too, as witnessed by the impressive response from our readers to The Independent's call this week for ideas on what should be in the Bill.

Mr Brown and Mr Blair have an unprecedented opportunity here. Yet both continue to resist tough action. The Prime Minister said this week that annual reductions would be "very, very difficult to deliver". The Chancellor is also reported to be unconvinced. Our leaders may not be in denial about the reality of climate change, but they are still very much in denial about the solution. Mr Blair and Mr Brown seem to believe that long-term targets, some minor tinkering with the tax system and the expansion of EU emissions trading schemes are enough to prevent disaster.

All the evidence suggests they are not. Only statutory annual limits on emissions will create an appropriate economic price for carbon - and genuine incentives for efficiency and renewable technologies. We are told that Britain will reduce emissions by 60 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050. How? The plain fact is that emissions are rising, not falling. It is time for a radical new approach. It is time for those who are serious about safeguarding the planet's future to stand up and be counted.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A sculpture illustrating the WW1 Christmas Truce football match in Liverpool  

It's been 100 years since the Christmas Truce, but football is still changing the world

Jim Murphy and Dan Jarvis
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there