Letters: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

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Sir: As partners in the Community Carbon Reduction Programme (CRed) in the United Kingdom and the United States, we were pleased to see the G8 participants produce their commendable Gleneagles Plan of Action: Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainability. It is an important step forward for these nations to make a commitment to the reduction of atmospheric greenhouse gases. We offer two cautions, however.

First, while the Plan of Action lays out a commitment to research and investment in strategies to reduce climate change, it is quite short on targets. This is in stark contrast to the commitment of the government in the UK to a 60 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions. No planning exercise should be without such targets to measure success. Sustainability is not only a social process, it is a particular condition of the world in which CO2 is emitted at an acceptable rate. It is our hope that the US and the G8 will follow the lead of the UK in moving to this next stage.

Second, the plan focuses largely on reductions in greenhouse gas emissions per unit energy use. Movement in that direction is sorely needed. The plan does not, however, address one unfortunate fact of life: while efficiency of energy provision has been improving, this is being outstripped by energy demand. In the end, what matters is not the efficiency with which we provide energy, but the amount of CO2 we release in generating, transmitting and using that energy.

So, the G8 is to be applauded for this step, and encouraged to take the further steps needed to move us all from a programme of sustainability to an objectively sustainable world.


Tony Blair, another Chamberlain?

Sir: Andreas Whittam Smith's perception that Blair is another Neville Chamberlain (Opinion, 25 July) is spot on. We are now cursed with suicide bombers, mainly because of Blair's appeasement of Bush's neo-cons by participating in the their brutal occupation of Iraq: a neocolonial outrage reminiscent of the Boer War.

Having brought this upon us, Tony Blair might have the decency to reassure and protect vulnerable and fearful commuters by installing security guards on our Tube and railway trains and buses, but instead he continues to fuel the terrorist problem with billions of pounds from our taxes to fund the occupation.

A logical way out of this shambles would be to release the finance and manpower necessary for our own protection and reduce the motivation for terrorism in the UK, by a substantial withdrawal of our armed forces from Iraq.



Sir: Andreas Whittam Smith is right to compare Tony Blair with Chamberlain, but he does not take the comparison far enough. Both connived in the acts of a powerful state bent on aggression. But at least Mr Chamberlain's desire was to keep the peace. His promise when he returned from Munich was " peace in our time". That may have been naive, but as far as it went it was honourable. When Poland was invaded in 1939 he declared war on the aggressor. In doing so he effectively admitted his previous mistake.

But Tony Blair actively supports President Bush's acts of aggression. Moreover, he has persistently dissembled to the British people about his aims, actions and motives.



Sir: Of course Tony Blair is unlikely to acknowledge that it was a mistake to join the invasion of Iraq. But Andreas Whittam Smith is wrong to suggest that doing so would mean acknowledging that he had taken the country into an illegal war, or that in any other way he had acted in bad faith.

Even if Blair did perform such an abrupt about-turn, it would not be prompted by acts of mass murder in London. If the war were justified in the first instance, the threat of terrorism should make no difference to this judgment. If anything should prompt Blair to change his mind, it is the ever-increasing evidence that he got his assessment of risk and reward wrong: risk, because he over-estimated the danger of inaction regarding Iraq's WMDs, which turned out to be non-existent; and reward, because all the war has achieved to date has been to deliver the long-suffering people of Iraq out of the frying pan of brutal oppression into the fire of violent anarchy.

It is the daily news of dozens of civilian deaths in Iraq that should give Blair pause to reconsider, not domestic terrorism. One can only hope that time proves this assessment prematurely pessimistic, and that one day the Iraqi people will enjoy the fruits of democracy in security, with knock-on benefits throughout the Middle East. But in the meantime, it is looking increasingly like Blair, faced with a difficult, complicated decision, made an error of judgment in deciding to follow the US into Iraq.



The shooting at Stockwell Station

Sir: Contrast the many eulogies to the innocent Londoners killed on 7 July with Bruce Anderson's brusque dismissal of the life of an innocent Brazilian man (Opinion, 25 July). He was apparently the author of his own misfortune. Without waiting for any inquiry, Mr Anderson is already certain of the correctness of the policeman's action. He is equally certain that he must be exonerated.

Is it not a central tenet of the type of society which Mr Anderson claims to support that, at all times, justice must be done and be seen to be done? Without a full inquiry this is not possible. I suggest that Anderson's judgement is premature and his callous sentiments inappropriate. I genuinely appreciate the breadth of opinion in The Independent and usually reading Mr Anderson reminds me of why I am on the left. However, I found his latest column to be offensive and disgraceful.



Sir: What is your natural reaction when a couple of tough looking guys start chasing you? My son knows the answer: you run like hell.

This is what he did in the early hours of one morning four years ago. He was a student at University College London, walking home from a party close to campus with a damp pair of trousers slung over his shoulder because someone had spilled drink on them. Terrified and running as fast as he could to elude his attackers, he was cornered and arrested by plain-clothes policemen who mistook his wet pants for stolen goods. He was taken to a police station, threatened for resisting arrest, kept in a cell overnight, then released next day without charge after promising not to make a complaint!

How often does this occur? If it happened this week, the very act of running from perceived muggers would have been reason enough to kill first, ask questions later. Blair and Livingstone are encouraging Londoners to carry on usual, but this is not sound advice. London is now a very dangerous place. This will continue until British democracy holds the Prime Minister accountable the disastrous foreign policies of the past three years. This is the only hope we have to make London feel safe again.



Sir: It is clear that for some of your correspondents it is the police rather than the bombers who are the enemy to be resisted. Mr de Menezes was an innocent victim of a struggle that has already claimed many innocent lives around the world and it is certain that he will not be the last.

It is to be hoped that lessons will be learned from his death, but that these will not include the scapegoating of the officers responsible. If the police are to be prohibited from shooting those they genuinely believe are about to commit mass murder, then even the introduction of security measures on public transport will merely change the place in which Londoners get blown up from the tunnel or upper deck to the concourse or bus stop.



Sir: I sincerely hope that after the horrifying death of the Brazilian, Jean Charles de Menezes, a fund will be started in his name. We cannot restore his life, but we owe it to him to assist his family and perhaps underprivileged children in Sao Paulo where he lived for a time. This would be a small gesture of atonement for the grave mistake that cost Mr Menezes his life.



A way to reform the Upper House

Sir: Nigel Godfrey (letter, 25 July) is right: proportional representation, whatever its other merits, would not provide a fairer reflection of our diverse society. Unfortunately, his suggestion that "communities" should elect their own MPs is no answer, not only because determining the relevant communities would be hopelessly arbitrary but also because every citizen of our democracy is an autonomous individual, whose identity cannot be defined solely by membership

of any group.

There is a simpler solution: select the upper house by lot from all members of the public willing to serve for a single term. That would almost certainly produce an assembly which represented every section of society more fairly than any elected chamber, yet every member would be there as an independent citizen, owing nothing to quotas or other patronising and manipulative devices.



MPs need powers to veto arms sales

Sir: Your report on the criticisms of Britain's arms sales to repressive regimes ("Ministers accused of double standards over arms exports" , 23 July) reinforces concerns about the absence of effective parliamentary and democratic scrutiny of such sales. At present, Parliament can only question licenses for exports after the fact, when an annual report is published. By this point it is too late to challenge defence exports that might be used for internal oppression or aggressive external policies.

The Parliamentary Committee on Strategic Export Controls (the " Quadripartite Committee") takes a lively interest in the export regime and recently asked the government to be consulted in advance of major decisions being made. Patricia Hewitt, who was then the Trade and Industry Secretary, refused. But the Quadripartite Committee should have the ability to shape export policies in advance if there is to be any effective democratic accountability for arms sales. Only then can we try to ensure that the government is opposed to all forms of terrorism, whether carried out by our enemies or supposed allies.




'Militant' has always opposed terrorism

Sir: Andrew Grice's column of 23 July referred to Tony Blair's comparison of Militant Tendency's "infiltration" of the Labour Party in the 1980s with the presence of extremists in Muslim groups.

Blair's remarks are an outrageous slur. Militant Tendency, now the Socialist Party, has always condemned terrorism; the terrorism of individuals and groups in Britain, Ireland and internationally, and the state terrorism of the US and British governments in Iraq. It does not bode well for civil liberties in the wake of 7 July that the Prime Minister is prepared to malign socialists who have consistently opposed his neo-liberal, warmongering policies by equating them with terrorists.

To the nightmare of terrorism, the Socialist Party has always counterposed mass working class action as the only means to bring about fundamental change - to bring an end to this capitalist system which increasingly means poverty, inequality and national oppression. Unfortunately, the repetition of Blair's comments in the climate that is currently developing is not helpful.



The Goldfish Bowl

Sir: With reference to an article that appeared in Guy Adams' column, Pandora, on 21 July, the reference to Mrs Blair's book, The Goldfish Bowl, is not, as stated in the article, a recommendation for the book. It is listed as an acknowledgement that the book was one of the sources used for information for the Prime Ministers in History section on the Downing Street website, as is normal practice when using published material as reference. Seven other books are acknowledged in the same way. The reason that Norma Major's book on Chequers is not referred to is simple: the website does not carry any information about Chequers.



Caine and Cagney

Sir: Wiktor Moszczynski, in his letter of 25 July on the subject of famous misquotes, wrote: "As Michael Caine would say, 'Not many people know that'. Or is that a misquote too?" I had always thought it to be: " Not a lot of people know that". However, after some research, I discovered we were both wrong. It was in fact the late Peter Sellers, while doing a Michael Caine impersonation, who coined the phrase: "Not a lot of people know that" - or was it Mr Moszczynski's version?



Sir: Brian Viner was right to say that "You dirty rat" was never uttered by James Cagney himself ("When misquotes are better then the reality", 22 July). But it was the catch phrase of Cagney's most famous impersonator, the comic Frank Gorshin. As a result of Gorshin's act, many people came to think it was a genuine Cagney line.



Euro puzzler

Sir: With regard to the picture question in the quiz of 26 July, inviting readers to "name this former president", clearly rumours of Mr Barroso's demise have been somewhat exaggerated. Or did the French vote down more than just the Constitution?