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Thursday 18 December 2008
Letters: EU climate deal
Biofuels undermine EU deal on climate
Your report on the EU climate deal (13 December) omitted to mention the effect of the 10 per cent target for "renewable energy" in vehicles that it contains.
By some estimates the deal as a whole may only lead to a 4 per cent domestic cut in emissions over the coming 12 years. But the vehicle "renewable energy" target, expected to be fulfilled largely by biofuels, may cost considerably more in indirect land-use change emissions than it saves. Joe Fargione, lead author of a highly influential study, has said: "From a climate change perspective, current biofuels are worse than fossil fuels", while the EU Joint Research Centre (JRC) has warned that the indirect land-use change emissions resulting from biodiesel, being the lion's share of EU biofuel, are likely to exceed any emissions savings from all EU biofuels combined.
However France, representing the Council of Europe, has obtained the removal of a requirement drafted by MEPs to account for the indirect land-use change emissions of each biofuel, so thwarting also the UK's claimed aim for such accounting. So much, also, for the Council's original wording that a binding vehicle target would be "subject to sustainable supply" of biofuels.
The move also confounds UK's supposed leadership against deforestation at the Poznan talks. Last week also, a Swedish study showed that forest protection funding cannot compete with the incentive to deforest for oil palms to satisfy bioenergy demand.
By reaching agreement on both its climate-change package and economic recovery plan, the EU has paved the way for a low-carbon economic future. The deal demonstrates that economic growth and environmental responsibility need not be mutually exclusive.
There is enormous potential in the green industries. Some estimate that the value of the low-carbon energy sector could be $3 trillion per year worldwide by 2050, entailing 25 million jobs. In the UK, in 20 years' time, there may be over one million people working in environmental industries. Through leadership on climate change, the EU can become a world leader in building a sustainable economy.
Chairman, Business for New Europe, London EC2
Why the police killed Menezes
Tim Hinchcliffe (letter, 16 December) claims that Jean Charles de Menezes was not "murdered" but "killed by mistake". His death was not an accident. He died because police officers were sent to kill him. Policemen gunning people down was declared necessary to protect us from terrorists. That some of the people killed turn out to be innocent is a logical consequence of not waiting to have a trial.
We must get used to the idea that we have, as a society, decided to murder innocent people along with guilty ones. Otherwise shoot-to-kill powers will be of no use in fighting terrorism, since the police won't feel free to use them.
As one of the irresponsible minority who argued that shooting people who look a bit shifty is a bad idea, I'm amazed at the outcry this case has generated. This isn't an aberration or accident. Shooting innocent people is an unfortunate cost of any shoot-to-kill policy, and de Menezes is merely one of many. That was the deal.
It is getting tiresome to keep hearing that the police marksmen who killed Jean Charles de Menezes thought they were dealing with a suicide bomber intent on maximum carnage (letters, 15 December).
Where did this belief spring from? They "thought" they were following Hussain Osman, who had failed to explode a bomb on the Tube the previous day. To believe there was no choice but death would mean that having failed to construct a working bomb in a large rucksack at his leisure, Osman, within 24 hours, had built a more powerful bomb that could be hidden underneath a denim jacket without arousing suspicion and triggered with the slightest of gestures.
De Menezes carried no bag and wore a light jacket. Where exactly was the bomb that was about to be detonated? Did not one single police officer involved in the tracking of Jean Charles ask this question? Why did they think he carried a bomb? Unless a good answer is given, then unlawful killing was the only verdict possible.
Charles de Menezes was deliberately targeted and deliberately killed. The question is, was that killing lawful, and the answer as the inquest jury clearly saw was no. Mr de Menezes had done nothing to cause any reasonable observer to think that he presented a threat.
Did the honest belief of the police officers involved, that they were dealing with a potential bomber, and their undoubted bravery in the face of that supposed threat make their actions lawful? Consider what would happen if I conceived a sincere, honest but mistaken, belief that the person next to me on the tube was a bomber and proceeded to bash his brains in with a handy brick - does anyone really believe that my belief or my bravery would be any defence against a charge of murder? The law in this country applies equally to me and to police officers: what is illegal for me is illegal for them, or should be.
Mr de Menezes was not lawfully killed and therefore his killing was unlawful; there is no half-way house. The decision of the coroner to prevent the jury considering that verdict is a disgrace.
Mary Dejevsky's projected assumption of the good intentions of police officers (Opinion, 13 December) comes from an advantaged white middle-class background and, I presume, no experience of the repeated stop-and-search that tends to sour Britain's ethnic-minority experience of policing in this country.
Does the good-heartedness of police officers include briefing the press that De Menezes was acting suspiciously, appearing to hide something like a weapon beneath his clothing and that he had leapt a ticket barrier? Who, for example, has been spreading the rumour that De Menezes had quantities of cocaine in his bloodstream – even if true not an offence worthy of the death penalty? So it's a bit late for police supporters to complain about the harshness of the blame game.
Stack the killing and the rumour-mongering alongside the shooting, and subsequent harassment of the Forest Gate victims, and you have a set of institutional practices which stink to high heaven. Yes blame, and root-and-branch reform, is required here.
The world doesn't owe us a living
The arguments of your correspondents bemoaning the fact that we did not join the euro while the going was good (letters, 13 December) can largely be boiled down to an assumption that the world (or more precisely the net-contributing northern European members of the Eurozone) owe us a living.
"We are not an exporting country" is one of the arguments. In which case, in the medium term, neither can we be an importing country, because the only way imports can be paid for is by borrowing, which cannot go on for ever.
The pitiful suffering of expatriates whose sterling income has been reduced is attracting sympathetic attention in your columns. These people, however, were not driven into exile; they made the choice to go when exchange rates were very advantageous and their resultant standard of living artificially high, in the full knowledge (unless they were extremely naive) that what goes up can come down.
If our poor foreign-exchange earnings are reflected in the fall of sterling to the extent that those who have been used to several holidays a year in Europe and further afield now have to make do with a rain-soaked annual fortnight in Skegness, then tough luck. As a nation we've had the good times on credit and now it's payback time.
If we had joined the euro, of course, it would be those dour Germans, busy successfully exporting their quality manufactured goods, and the bucolic Danes, hard at work selling other people their butter and bacon, who would be subsidising us. It's fortunate for them that we didn't, and in the long run it's probably good for us, too.
The meaning of thrown shoes
The letter from Nu'man El-Bakri (16 December) points up the cultural difficulty that the shoe-throwing journalist of Iraq is going to have in getting his message across to the West.
He and your correspondent, and millions of people in the Middle East, may consider this as an insult to and humiliation of George Bush, but I think that most Europeans and Americans, including Mr Bush, will see it very differently. However much they are told of the insulting nature of the action, most will look on with amused puzzlement; surely this is the action of a petulant child, not what you would expect from a grown man?
R J Hoskin
I wonder whether – given his light-hearted response to being bombarded by a journalist's shoes – it occurred to George W Bush that one result of his misguided, illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq is the current freedom of expression without fear of execution. The irony hurts.
When is Tony Blair's next appearance in the UK? And do we have to supply our own shoes?
We fail to stop the Congo genocide
Over a thousand people a day die in Congo's 10-year-old civil war.
Yet after saying genocide in Congo must be prevented, the British government is now refusing to contribute troops to an EU force requested by the UN to protect civilians and aid supplies to them by securing airports and refugee camps. The British and French governments suggest an expanded African Union force, which would lack enough equipment and transport for the mission.
UN and Human Rights Watch reports have found that British, EU and US-based firms have traded with Congolese militias and even helped them get arms in some cases. So we're involved in this war already.
Slavery is illegal now, but Congo's people are still massacred, raped and forced at gunpoint to mine minerals for our mobile phones, laptops and TV controls. Congo could be a rich, peaceful country with its mineral wealth.
This is the moment for Gordon Brown to show the moral courage he's written of.
Carluke, South Lanarkshire
I have just returned from the Post Office, where, having queued for 45 minutes, I was told that, 10 days before Christmas, they had run out of Christmas stamps. When I expressed surprise, the response was: "We have sold a lot lately." How unusual!
As well as heartily endorsing Terence Blacker's criticism of the BBC ("Ed Stourton and the new brutalism", 16 December) I wish to add how much I, and, I am sure, many others will miss Ed Stourton on the Today programme. One of the programme's strengths is the variety of approach by its superb presenters, and I always value the chance to hear Ed Stourton in action. He will be much missed.
Price of a Titian
Whatever the merits of Tom Lubbock's view of Diana and Actaeon as a "bad Titian" (17 December), we should be asking ourselves if the price tag of £50m holds good in the present economic circumstances.We might also ask if the Sutherlands, a family that played a central role in the Highland clearances and the betrayal of their clan, should benefit from an asset acquired by their forebears through an earlier form of "privatisation".
I had a lot of sympathy with your article "Sprechen sie Deutsch?" (16 December), since I am finding it impossible to learn German as fast as my four-year old Anglo-German daughter. However, I cannot be the only reader to notice that in the discussion on English words infiltrating German you translated Handy as "cellphone". That is American English; everyone I know uses the British English "mobile phone" or simply "mobile". I sure you did this to test how sharp we are.
I'm terribly sorry that Dr Venables (letter 16 Dec) has concerns about the overuse of the word "well" by young people, and I'm awfully glad that he's brought it to the attention of your readers.
Yardley Gobion, Northamptonshire
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