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Kyoto out, the fight against climate change is finally gaining traction

climate changeDavid Cameron, with his flair for hypocrisy, regularly claims that his government is the greenest government ever. Of course the opposite is true, with Osborne offering the biggest subsidies to fracking of any country, promising huge concessions to any company British or foreign prepared to build a new nuclear plant, stamping on wind power and renewables at every opportunity, and relishing downgrading emission reduction targets in favour of further fossil fuel development and industrial high-emission projects.

It was also assumed after the collapse of the Copenhagen conference in 2009 that the Kyoto project was over and that the fight against climate change was all but stalled, largely because of the foot-dragging procrastination of the world’s two major powers, the US and China. But now those two same countries, for very different reasons, are leading the way with major new emission reduction programmes which, given their unchallenged global dominance, are likely to reboot a new global wave of anti-climate change activity.

Putting Cameronian Britain to shame, Obama has promised a co-ordinated assault on climate change by deploying every green weapon at his disposal, from better insulation in public buildings to loan guarantees for clean energy. The centrepiece of his plan is a directive to the Environmental Protection Agency to limit CO2 produced by power plants. Since power plants pump out almost 40% of US greenhouse gases, this could dramatically reduce US emissions. Britain has no such plan. He also ordered tighter fuel-economy standards for lorries and buses.

In addition he offered $8bn in loan guarantees for technologies that check fossil fuels’ damage to the environment, such as carbon capture. He pledged to promote renewable power by incentivising the construction of wind farms and solar arrays on federal territory. He promised to tighten energy efficiency standards for federal buildings and to get nortgage lenders to give higher salience to energy efficiency in home sales. He further aimed to manage forests to trap more carbon and phase out HFCs used in air-conditioners and fridges which are far more potent greenhouse gases than CO2. Cameron-Osborne have done next to none of these things.

China doesn’t have a reforming President, but its subjection to air pollution is on such a scale as to compel urgent political action. In January of this year Beijing’s smog levels reached lethal levels. Concentrations of PM2.5 (minute airborne particles that cause extreme breathlessness, choking and for frailer persons death) were reported at nearly 40 times the daily average of 25 regarded as acceptable by the WHO and nearly 12 times higher the annual average level of just 3 years previously.

By comparison with Beijing’s level of 900 micrograms per cubic metre of air, London levels were recently measured at 13.5 and even Los Angeles at only 14.8. Though Chinese pollution levels are worst, conditions in many other countries are bad enough to prompt a whole range of measures such as congestion charging, driverless days, cycle paths, and mass public transport systems.

Where the US and China lead, the rest of the world will soon follow. Even Britain, kicking and screaming.

One Comment

  1. terry sullivan says:

    Meacher is always wrong–looking for a non-job??? look after the properties

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