Leading article: The time for prevarication and warm words is over

Share

A golden opportunity for Britain to lead the world in humanity's efforts to combat climate change is in grave danger of slipping away. At Prime Minister's Questions yesterday, Mr Blair confirmed that, even if there is to be a Climate Change Bill in next month's Queen Speech, it is likely to be severely watered down. When questioned on the subject, the Prime Minister came out strongly against the idea of annual UK emission reduction targets. Such a pledge, argued Mr Blair, would be irresponsible because it is impossible to predict the UK's energy needs in any given year. An annual target, the Prime Minister stressed, would be an unacceptable restriction on the nation.

What Mr Blair seems to be saying here is that we should trust him to get on with reducing carbon emissions in his own way. But the time for such unquestioning faith is over. What we need now is accountability. The stark fact is that, for all the Government's bold rhetoric on global warming, the UK's carbon emissions are rising, not falling. The Prime Minister points to his government's ambitious target of cutting emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 (and by 50 per cent by the middle of the century) as if merely outlining a distant target is evidence of serious activity. Yet Mr Blair will have left office long before he can be called to answer for these promises.

Without the discipline of annual targets, Britain's emission levels will continue to rise. That is why the primary demand of our climate-change manifesto today is for annual emission reduction targets, with the results to be monitored by an independent body. That is the only way to compel our leaders to take serious action.

Another central proposal in our manifesto is for a hefty rise in environmental taxes. There has been a good deal of debate in recent months about whether green taxes will raise enough revenue to cover tax reductions in other areas. But this has missed the point. The goal of these taxes is to discourage people from damaging the environment through unnecessary journeys and flights. This is the criterion by which we should judge such levies. Such an approach has been successfully used against polluters in the past. The Clean Air Acts in 1956 and 1968 worked on this principle. The result was a significant improvement in the quality of air in Britain. Green taxation can have the same effect if rolled out on a global scale. And Britain should take the lead.

This process will inevitably involve pain. The public will pay more to drive. The cost of flying will rise. But we should not lose sight of the gains our society will reap too. There will be new jobs as the renewable-energy industry expands. As Scandinavian countries have proved over the past decade, green economic growth is perfectly possible.

There is political space for the Government to act now. The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are both calling for annual reductions in emissions. A cross-party consensus is possible for the first time, if the Government could only find the courage to grasp this chance.

An opinion poll this week showed that two-thirds of the population is now concerned about climate change. And only 4 per cent of voters think Mr Blair has made effective progress on the issue. Public disquiet is growing. The message is getting through. Yet the Government looks out of touch.

The time for prevarication and warm words is over. Difficult decisions can be avoided no longer. The Independent's climate-change manifesto proposes measures we believe are necessary to safeguard the future of our way of life. The responsibility for action now lies with our leaders.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
With an eye for strategy: Stephen Fry’s General Melchett and Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder  

What Cameron really needs is to turn this into a khaki election

Matthew Norman
An Italian policeman stands guard as migrants eat while waiting at the port of Lampedusa to board a ferry bound for Porto Empedocle in Sicily. Authorities on the Italian island of Lampedusa struggled to cope with a huge influx of newly-arrived migrants as aid organisations warned the Libya crisis means thousands more could be on their way  

Migrant boat disaster: EU must commit funds to stop many more dying

Alistair Dawber
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace