Today, the Government's Climate Change Bill will return to the House of Lords, where it started its legislative journey at the beginning of the year. The Bill has been one of the Government's flagship pieces of legislation, and has received strong support from all parties. But it returns to the Lords with a fundamental flaw; one that undermines the whole ethos of the legislation and what Government says it wants to achieve.
The core proposition of the Bill is that the UK should reduce its carbon footprint by 80 per cent by the year 2050. An admirable objective, and one where the Government claims global leadership. But look a little more closely and the story is rather different. What the legislation actually states is that the UK's "carbon budget" must reduce by 80 per cent. What is the UK's carbon budget? Simply put, it is our own carbon emissions plus or minus any emission permits that we buy or sell from or to the wider world.
In other words, the UK can meets its own tough targets by just buying in carbon-emission permits from the rest of the world, relying in particular on developing countries to do the hard work while we remain a dirty carbon-based economy.
When the Bill left the Lords earlier in the year we inserted an amendment that limited the amount of carbon reduction that could be bought in rather than earned at home. The Government decided to remove that restriction in the Commons.
If the UK really does want to be lauded internationally as leader in the fight against climate change then it must take this last chance to think again. Developing countries will not be impressed by being asked to do the work while Britain attempts to take the credit – and nor will the rest of the world.
Lib Dem spokesman on Energy and Climate Change, House of Lords
Help economy and the environment
It is clearly correct to stimulate the economy. The more this can feed cash into local economies, the more it is likely to lead directly to employment of labour.
We are also eager to help cut carbon usage: here is a suggestion to contribute to both aims.
I have just installed a ground-source heat pump. In the process I used two local contractors for labour-intensive excavation and installation, in addition to the main supplier. I expect to save about 3,000 litres of oil a year. Thousands of rural properties could benefit in the same way.
Heat pumps qualify for a maximum grant of £1,200, but this represents less than 10 per cent of the total cost. Grants for this kind of work – as well as for small-scale wind and hydro-electric schemes – feed directly into local infrastructures in just the labour markets where they are needed.
Grants for such projects should immediately be raised to levels which will enable those without substantial capital resources (like most small farmers) to go ahead and install these carbon-saving technologies.
The good news is that all the parties are now talking about tax cuts – at last. The bad news is that they want to cut the wrong ones, tending as they are to either VAT or income-tax rates.
What is required is to get more low-earners out of paying income tax at all. This will encourage more indigenous UK people to work, will reduce the cost and the administration of employing them, and will give them more money to spend in the high-volume, low-cost end of the markets; the ones that really impact on economic turnover. Critically, it will take pressure off the biggest employer of low-paid labour, the public sector, for a while and so defer the need for tax rises.
Therefore the change we need is to raise the lower tax band entry point and release a couple of million people more from paying income tax and reduce the pain on a few million more. Now that would be good news.
The recession has nothing to do with a lack of need, or demand. Nor to a lack of industrial capacity. Responsible lending of money can be in place already, and perhaps is.
What that leaves is a lack of confidence, making people cut back on spending, thereby creating the unemployment they fear, with consequent loss of income and perhaps also of their homes.
If wage earners can be sure their income will be maintained, they will continue spending on goods. Industry will continue to produce those goods and there will be no mass unemployment.
East Preston, Sussex
The G20 summit's pledge to work together to restore global growth underlines the fundamental incompatibility of world economic policy and any thoughts of saving the planet. The one positive to come out of the crash and the subsequent decline in world trade is a slowing in the use of the earth's resources and a temporary dip in the greenhouse-gas graph. But we can't have that! Not while we can still kick-start the world-trade engine and accelerate ever faster towards the brick wall that awaits us.
In the old days, the Tories won general elections by engineering pre-election booms. Voters were clearly optimists. Gordon Brown hopes to win on a pre-election bust. The assumption is that we are now driven more by fear than hope, sad cases who really do believe that Nanny knows best.
Whatever voters' political views, all of us need Brown and Darling to be successful by extracting the best possible outcomes for us from this ongoing crisis. Literally, we cannot afford failure or serious mistakes being made by them. We will be best served by Cameron and Clegg reducing the confrontational pressures on Brown vis-a-vis the crisis. The attitudes and contributions by Vince Cable and Ken Clarke are much more useful for all of us in these uncertain times.
The Women's Institute maligned
Alan Aitchison likens John McCain's election campaign to something the Women's Institute had cobbled together on a wet Wednesday. (letter, 11 November) I find his knowledge of the workings of the WI puzzling, as men cannot be members. Perhaps Mr Aitchison should visit their web site and see that their "cobbling" extends to campaigns involving global warming, food wastage, and the loss of Post Offices. The WI is foremost in educating women at their own college and seeking to better the lives of women worldwide.
Perhaps Mr Aitchison should give a talk at his local Yorkshire WI about the Art of Cobbling but, be aware that Tony Blair found the WI quite a daunting group to speak to.
Lewes, East Sussex
Children's right to refuse treatment
Dr Lesley Evans (Letters, 14 November) is confused about 13-year-old Hannah Jones's rights to refuse a heart transplant. Her decision has nothing to do with the burdens or benefits of assisted suicide.
Hannah chose to refuse a life-sustaining treatment. For people over 18 years, this right is already protected in law through the Mental Capacity Act in England and Wales, and the Adults with Incapacity Act in Scotland. For younger people, their right to refuse such treatment has been established for many years in English case law. Under the "Fraser guidelines" children under the age of 16 who have sufficient maturity and judgement to enable them fully to understand what is being proposed are allowed to make decisions about medical treatment for themselves.
It is wrong of Dr Evans to pretend that Hannah's courageous decision supports the case for assisted suicide. The right to refuse treatment, even if death is the outcome, is already protected under law.
Dr Claud Regnard
Newcastle upon Tyne
Baby P: another inquiry won't help
Do we really need yet another inquiry ("Baby P", 15 November)? Will its recommendations be followed on the ground, or merely incorporated into tick-box forms? Would the money not be better spent on raising social-work salaries to attract high-quality front-line staff and reduce overwhelming workloads?
As a child in a poor area of Bow, east London in the 1930s and 1940s, there were regular visits from the "welfare lady". These women, to my child's eyes, seemed very professional, polite and courteous, but strict. They would inspect the baby, ask the mother about its general health and weight, look round the dwelling and ask where the baby slept. These visits were random and unexpected and the ladies would recognise neglect immediately.
The mothers were all quite nervous of these visits but it was a good incentive to make sure the kids were well looked after. I cannot remember any cases of child cruelty or parental abuse in that area at that time.
Long Melford, Suffolk
Crufts makes dogs' lives better
Jemima Harrison wants the BBC to pull out of Crufts (report, 10 November), but I doubt she has the welfare of all dogs at heart or understands what Crufts is about. It is partly a prestigious dog "beauty" competition, but most of those who attend go for the fun side, and the Kennel Club cleverly uses entertainment to educate the public with a view to making all dogs' lives better.
For example, Discover Dogs advises on 180-plus breeds, which is the right breed for the family, and whether to have a dog at all. Safe and Sound shows children how to behave with dogs to reduce incidents of biting.
There are displays arising from the Kennel Club's own training scheme showcasing agility, flyball, heelwork to music, as well as pets as therapy and hearing dog displays. Obedience competitions, gundog work, RAF working-dog displays and more show the public that a dog that has something to do is a happy dog
The point has been made and taken on board by the Kennel Club that some breeds have exaggerations which cause health problems and need to be corrected. But the BBC should not give up televising Crufts; it's an amazing event with the welfare of dogs well to the fore.
SOUTH NUTFIELD, SURREY
Lawrence Crouch (letters, 13 November) says that the future of the apostrophe is secure. I say, especially in Leicester. I recently attended a seminar delivered by the City Council in which one of the dreaded PowerPoint slides was headed: DO'S AND DON'T'S. Why use one when you can use three?
As an English teacher who works with Spanish scientists, and who translates Spanish medical papers into English, I hope that Professor Thompson, who is so proud of having got the expression "elephant in the room" into an OUP paper (letters, 14 November), does not expect that paper to be understood by the many geologists around the globe whose knowledge of English is limited to scientific matters and does not extend to popular British clichés.
The answer to Bill Oddie (Pandora, 14 November), who worries that the Humanist Association's "atheist bus" advertisements may provoke extremists to blow one up, is that giving in to extremists only provokes yet more outrageous demands. Totalitarian Islamists (a tiny but dangerous minority) will stop at nothing short of total theocracy – remember the Taliban in Afghanistan? How long before Oddie says we should stop educating girls in case extremists blow up a school?
European Humanist Federation
In relation to your "news" item (14 November) concerning noisy shrimps, it is nonsense to compare decibel values and loudness in different fluid media. A dog's bark in air at one metre could measure up to about 110 dB, but in no way can this said to be half as loud as the 218 dB of a shrimp in water. Loudness of sound in air approximately doubles for every 10 dB increase.
Emeritus Professor of Engineering Acoustics,
University of Southampton
A peach of a president
In Arabic it means "blessing"; in Hebrew, "a flash of lightning" (letter, 7 November); but in Hungarian, "Barack" means "peach", Thomas Jefferson's favourite fruit.
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