Letters: Time to act on climate change

These letters appear in the November 5 edition of The Independent

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Your editorial (3 November) on the latest and most sombre report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cited questions of global competitiveness for carbon-rich nations such as China, Australia and Russia as a central obstacle to achieving the necessary global regime of fossil fuel reduction.

However, one policy which could be adopted unilaterally – already approved by the World Trade Organisation and looking increasingly feasible in the world’s largest economy, the US – would incentivise most other countries, with or without the “agreements” on carbon reduction which have proved so elusive.

I’ve been surprised not to hear more about this policy, termed “carbon fee and dividend” (CF and D), which is rapidly gaining support at high levels in the US. Proposed legislation is for a substantial and escalating fee on fossil fuels as they enter the economy, with the revenue returned entirely as a dividend to citizens – a market-friendly yet automatically redistributive process which stimulates the economy even as it dramatically reduces emissions.

Crucially, the policy mandates equivalent import taxes based on carbon content (termed “border adjustments”). Under this regime, any country interested in trading with the US would be faced with the choice of implementing and collecting a similar tax – or paying the same amount to the US.

In advance of the recent UN climate talks, representatives from Citizens’ Climate Lobby, who are promoting CF and D in the US, were invited by both the World Bank and the IMF economics staff to provide technical briefings on the policy’s potential for propagating strong carbon pricing even in the absence of a binding UN protocol.

Such a measure might yet secure a liveable world for our species.

Judy Hindley
Marlborough, Wiltshire


The cod fishery off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland was central to the European discovery of the Americas by the Vikings and Basques long before Columbus. It was vital to the economy of the east coast of Canada for centuries. The threat of overfishing was well understood. The best science that money can buy and the power of a unitary state with the sole interest of maintaining the fishery was brought to bear on the problem. The fishery collapsed, was shut down and has never recovered. Good luck dealing with climate change.

Sean Nee


While I share the opinions and fears of Howard Pilott and Sierra Hutton-Wilson (letters, 3 November) with regard to global warming, the fact that it is sunny and warm in October and November is indicative of very little. There will always be extreme weather events and records will be broken even in neutral climate conditions. To suggest that a sunny and warm November day is indicative of climate change plays into the hands of climate-change deniers who will gleefully point out it is of very little consequence (and they are right).

It is long-term trends on which we must focus, basing our claims for climate change on facts and evidence, not warm evenings or November sunshine.

Michael O’Hare
Northwood, Middlesex


Forgetting the real meaning of the poppy

P J Davison rightly decries the recent trend for celebrities to “out-poppy” one another and argues that the remembrance poppy is “a symbol of equality” (letter, 30 October). Since you published this letter, Nigel Farage has appeared on television wearing an enormous poppy that resembles a cross between a corsage and an election rosette.

Yet this is the party leader who has justified recruiting to his European Parliament grouping a Polish MEP from a party whose leader has a track record as a Hitler apologist and Holocaust denier, a move that prompted the Board of Deputies of British Jews to express its grave concern.

In wearing a poppy, the leader of Ukip insults the memory of those who died fighting Nazism. The fact that he chooses to wear the biggest poppy he can get his hands on only magnifies the hypocrisy that his poppy-wearing embodies.

David Head
Navenby, Lincolnshire


On the whole, the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War has been tastefully commemorated in this country, but regrettably the story that has been running in parallel with the commemoration – the UK’s future relationship with the rest of Europe – has been far less edifying.

The whining about the EU, a feature of every Conservative-led government since Ted Heath took us in when he was prime minister, has reached a climax in the past decade.

What they forget is that those who fought in the First World War were promised it would be the war to end all wars. When the fighting stopped, they were betrayed in the 1920s and 30s, leading to the return of world war in 1939. When that finished, visionaries established the UN, Nato, the EU and other bodies which together have fulfilled the “no more world war” promise for the past 70 years.

All these organisations, however, require members to share some of their sovereignty for the common good and they expect every member to play a full, active and committed part in the evolution of their organisations.

Standing on the sidelines, criticising every decision an organisation takes and threatening to leave if you don’t get all your own way is betraying every one of the people whose sacrifice is commemorated by the ceramic poppies at the Tower.

Geoff Harris


Warwick take discipline out of the classroom

Having worked for a large part of my adult life in education, most of it in teacher education, I was interested to read the survey of teachers who felt that they had not been adequately prepared to deal with disruptive behaviour in the classroom (report, 3 November).

To what extent should teachers be required to deal with disruptive pupils? In my view, the role of a teacher is to educate children, not to instil discipline where parents have patently failed.

A friend who is a maths teacher in France was amazed to learn teachers in the UK are required to discipline students. His comment was: “Do you not have people in your schools with that specific role?”

Perhaps this could be  the way to make the vastly overworked teachers in our schools less inclined to leave the profession in droves in the first few years of their teaching career.

David Felton


I read the Sutton Trust report, “What makes great teaching?”, with a mixture of delight and dismay. Delight because it confirmed my view that we at Haileybury (and many other schools I know of) are very much on the right track in our approach. The importance of subject knowledge, skilful questioning and developing pupils’ analytical skills are all confirmed in Robert Coe’s report.

However, I still feel a sense of dismay because the teachers at Haileybury, and all schools around the country, will have to park this excellent advice for now in order to focus on the more pressing issue of public examination reform.

Next week my heads of department will, rather than addressing this report, continue to discuss how we implement the dog’s dinner that is the Government’s  A-level and GCSE reforms.

Government reforms are, allegedly, designed to raise standards. I wonder how much higher those could be if teachers could be left as professionals to focus on implementing the advice of researchers rather than having to act on the whim of politicians (on both sides of the House) who confuse assessment with learning.

Simon Smith
Deputy head (academic)
Haileybury, Hertfordshire


Searching for a judge without connections

With all due respect to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (3 November), I cannot recall a single inquiry which has lasted 20 years. All that is required is to listen to the victims’ representatives: they want a senior judge to act as chairman, and one who is not part of the London establishment. Is it beyond the wit of the Home Office to find such a person? If it is, Theresa May should resign too.

Laura Kaufman
Horsmonden, Kent


Don’t let work inch into our home lives

It is with dismay I read that 28 per cent of adults have an office in their homes. Our sanctuaries should not be intruded upon by companies seeking to reduce their operating costs by turning our homes into their free storage.

Ian McKenzie


Remembering Bilk over a glass of acker

According to The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, the word “acker” has been used since 1952 as Cockney rhyming slang for milk, as in Acker Bilk = milk. There can be few greater indications of popular esteem, ranking him alongside Vera Lynn, Alan Whicker, Barney Rubble, Brahms and Liszt, Hank Marvin, Jimmy Riddle, Rosy Lee, Tommy Trinder and Edward Heath.

Patrick Walsh