Letters: Carbon emissions

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The Independent Online

We need to limit our carbon emissions to help the poor in Africa

Sir: I refer to the inclusion of climate change in the International Development White Paper ("Global warming 'will cancel out Western aid and devastate Africa", 13 July). Poverty and human well-being are already crucially threatened and it is now a matter of urgency that poor countries be supported in their efforts to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Let there be no doubt however that the poor are, of necessity, continually adapting to changes in weather and climate just as they always have. Supporting efforts by the international community must recognise local wisdom on such matters.

In prioritising future carbon emission reductions, we should distinguish between the need for basic energy services for welfare and energy use for modernity, such as the recreational use of personal transport. For example 2.4 billion people worldwide currently rely on wood and other biomass sources for cooking. Used on traditional stoves this results in 1.5 million premature deaths per year through exposure to indoor air pollution, particularly amongst women and children. In seeking solutions to this problem, which are already quite well understood, we should not additionally burden the poor in developing countries with emissions mitigation obligations. And let us not think that solar panels are the answer to all their problems.

A key long-term strategy to assist the poor and vulnerable in Sub Saharan Africa should be to limit future carbon emissions associated with increasing affluence in the developed world and rapidly developing countries such as China and Brasil. By so doing the worst future climate impacts, to which those already in poverty are so vulnerable, could be avoided.



Menezes shooting must be unlawful

Sir: I am incensed by the public response to the CPS's decision in the Jean Charles de Menezes case. Most commentators, including your leader writer (18 July), express the view that the decision not to bring homicide charges is justified because "the police marksmen believed they were tracking a suicide bomber".

It cannot be lawful nor reasonable to allow the authorities to kill someone merely on the a basis of such a belief, however genuine it may be. To even begin to justify killing someone without legal process, those responsible must be able to show that there was a genuine belief in a real and imminent danger to the life of other people. Otherwise, everyone currently charged (presumably in good faith) with terrorist offences might as well be shot now without further ado.

Even if there is a genuine belief of an immediate threat to life, there must also be some ground for that belief. If it is true, as the publicly available evidence suggests, that it was clear that Mr de Menezes was not carrying a bomb or other weapon, there can be no possible ground for a belief that he was an imminent threat.

The CPS announcement suggests that the officers who pulled the triggers feared that he would "blow up the train, killing many people". But what was the ground for any such belief? As far as we know, there was none. A belief that someone has killed, albeit very recently and in a terrorist crime, is certainly not enough to justify shooting first and asking questions later.



Sir: You're quite right (leading article, 18 July) to call for a separate legal category to convey the full gravity of police failure in the Menezes shooting. As things stand, not only does it look ridiculous to treat the whole tragic episode as an offence against Health and Safety at Work legislation, but, worse, any sanctions imposed will be entirely unjust. If a fine of "millions of pounds" is imposed, Sir Ian Blair and his colleagues will simply reach into the public purse and be troubled no further. That way they get off, and we pay.

If, however, prison sentences were imposed for such murderous negligence, we would not pay, but they would.



Sir: Mark Steel's feature "Shooting people is both unhealthy and unsafe"(19 July) is predicated on his - mistaken - belief that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is prosecuting the police for the death of Mr Jean Charles de Menezes.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) made clear in its statement that the circumstances of Mr Menezes' death were investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Its evidence was passed to the CPS who made the decision to take a prosecution under health and safety law.

HSE took no part in either the investigation, or the CPS decision, and we do not expect to be involved in the conduct of the legal proceedings.



Sir: It is a year now since the horrendous killing of the totally innocent Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell. One of the most appalling facets is that it appears that the police were apparently following an agreed procedure - that a suspected bomber would be executed on the spot before he had a chance to detonate any device. Or on the other hand to surrender, or plead his innocence. It is incredible that a procedure like this should be approved.

It's immoral, reckless and dangerous. We have seen the awful consequences. It could be any one of us, or the son or daughter of any of us.

Added to which it's ineffective. What would have happened if Jean Charles de Menezes really had been a suicide bomber? Everyone in the carriage would be dead. There was plenty of time to detonate a device. In any such situation how likely is it that police would be able to aim and fire accurately enough to kill the bomber before he could detonate a device?



Sir: It seems we rush to condemn the police shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, without using our imagination. Put yourself mentally into the officers' shoes. Terrorists have blown themselves up on the Tube days ago. The police are being criticised for not being more vigilant. The officer has been told that Menezes is about to do the same. He knows that a suicide bomber when challenged is liable to detonate his bomb at once. He also knows that a badly wounded suicide bomber would want to do the same. Can any of us truthfully say we would be more calm and restrained in that situation?

Let us put the blame for this tragedy where it really belongs, with the terrorists who in their warped minds think they can improve the world by blowing it to pieces.



Sir: If the police feel they should not be prosecuted for making a fatal error, why do they charge and send to jail doctors, nurses, teachers, bus drivers, and anyone else who makes fatal errors when doing their job?



UK teachers work as volunteers overseas

Sir: Money alone doesn't buy a good quality education, at least not in Africa ("Billions in aid are failing to improve Third World schools", 14 July).

Foreign aid has enabled more children to go to school, but already stretched education systems have not had anywhere near the same help to cope with thousands of new students. Many teachers in the developing world go straight into the classroom without any teacher training because of the drastic teacher shortage. And teaching is not a valued profession - people become teachers as a last resort and not because they want to.

VSO's experience over the past 50 years has shown the value of a people-to-people approach where skills are shared to develop robust systems.

We are urging the Department for International Development to work with the Department for Education and Skills to introduce sabbaticals for senior UK teachers. By giving teachers from this country the opportunity to volunteer overseas, the UK government could provide years of experience to education systems in poor countries to help them improve management, administration, curriculums, training - the basics that any education system must have.

And aid in the form of skills is incorruptible. The more UK education professionals VSO can send, the faster education systems can benefit.



Israeli arms embargo would be hollow

Sir: I fear that many of the critics of the UK's "arms trade" with Israel are being misled ("Britain urged to ban £23m arms trade with Israel", 15 July). While the natural public perception is undoubtedly that all of the export licences issued for Israel will be for the supply of equipment to Israel for its own armed forces, in fact amongst those licences which have been approved will be those for the supply of components for Israeli companies to integrate into equipment for onward sale to other third nations (many of them in Europe), as well as for equipment for supply back to our own armed forces, and the return of equipment to its Israeli suppliers after trials and demonstrations in the UK to our Ministry of Defence.

Contrary to much misinformed public perception, British Government officials do not simply approve export licences for Israel (or anywhere else) after cursory assessment, but are highly professional and thorough in their detailed assessment of export licence applications against the stated criteria. I have no doubt that the current situation will result in even more detailed scrutiny of all relevant licence applications than was already the case.

However, prior to the much hoped for adoption of an international arms trade treaty, it must be recognised that any move to introduce a purely national arms embargo on Israel would be a totally hollow and empty political gesture, serving no practical purpose, except, perhaps, to make it more difficult for our own armed forces to equip themselves with the best equipment in the world, in many instances of which Israel has a leading technological edge.



Soya beans grown to feed livestock

Sir: It's a shame Daniel Howden's article ("Eating the Amazon", 17 July) failed to mention that about 87 per cent of the world's soybeans are grown and exported for livestock feed; of the 13 per cent sold for human consumption, the majority goes to make cooking oil and filler for a wide variety of foods commonly bought in supermarkets.

Very little goes to make soy sauce, tofu, tempeh, or meat substitutes. This is incredibly important information, because it allows the consumer to make an informed choice between supporting mainstream livestock farming (which is responsible for desertification and pollution on a massive scale) and supporting forms of agriculture and diet which minimise the damage we are doing to our life support system, Earth. It's the only planet we have.



Churchill's cigar

Sir: According to Pandora (18 July), the omission of the famous cigar from the new statue of IK Brunel has led to cries of "political correctness", and the pro-smoking pressure group Forest asks whether Sherlock Holmes and Sir Winston Churchill will be robbed of their smokes.

Why not? Holmes' other drug of choice, cocaine, has already disappeared from dramatisations of the stories, and Yousuf Karsh set up his most famous photograph by taking away Churchill's cigar. The resulting glowering expression of the thwarted tobacco user became the iconic depiction of the British bulldog spirit.



Railway networks

Sir: No wonder David Cameron is rethinking Conservative policy on the railways (The Big Question, 18 July). As I got off my train at Northampton this afternoon I heard the following announcement: " The 16.20 to Birmingham has been cancelled , we do not know why as Central trains have not told us".

Perhaps Mr Cameron will come to the same conclusion as many passengers have, that it's time to put the railways back together again.



Sir: It was interesting checking the map accompanying your rail item (18 July). Torquay, which until now has always been on a branch off the West of England main line, has apparently been relocated so that all trains to Plymouth and Penzance now pass through it. This is a remarkable quick win for Mr Cameron's policy review. Torbay Council has been pressing for better train services for many years. I imagine that an official civic letter of thanks has already been despatched to Conservative Central Office.



T-shirt etiquette

Sir: I would never consider buying my eight-year-old son any kind of T-shirt emblazoned with "bad and getting worse" and would agree that these garments sow the wrong seeds in kids' minds (Letters, 19 July). A 13-year-old however, should be capable of at least contributing to the purchase of his or her own clothes.

Of course then the teenager will be developing shock tactics and hopefully a keen sense of irony. So at what age do children develop this sense and have parents a role to play?



Hare habits

Sir: I enjoyed Peter Marren's piece on the fascinating brown hare (13 July). It's true that hare numbers are strongest in the South-east, but this is the area targeted for massive housing developments and two airport expansions. Surely it would be possible to relocate some surplus adults to the west to re-establish viable breeding stocks?



Uncharitable view

Sir: Interesting to note Bob Geldof's contempt for charity shops - "Shite clothes" (10 July) - when Oxfam has been trying to make poverty history since 1942.