In Adam Tooze’s article (By pushing for more oil production, the US is killing its climate pledges, 13 August), he surmised that economic activity and fossil fuel consumption are hardwired together. It may be more that economic activity and energy consumption are hardwired together – and thus the need to move to renewables or low-carbon energy sources. That must be part of the strategy, along with as yet unavailable technical solutions such as carbon capture.
However, we seem to tiptoe around the consumption part of any strategy. Lower consumption results in lower carbon emissions. The government has managed to exert strong influence over personal actions during the Covid pandemic using a myriad of three-word slogans. We need a similar push linked to consumption and climate change.
Larry Elliott writes that China is responsible for 28% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with Britain, France and Italy each accounting for about 1% (Fairness will be key to successfully tackling the climate crisis, Journal, 12 August). A quick consideration of consumables in my home reveals the astounding number branded “Made in China”, from toothbrush and toothpaste via my morning radio to the fridge from which I take my breakfast yoghurt. This suggests to me a rather different allocation of responsibility; it is time to engage in the urgent political review of just how we in the west must change our addiction to cheap mass consumption and take action to assist China and India in reducing emissions.
Larry Elliott’s analysis of how to fight climate change is outstanding. Moving the nation to a war footing is the key approach. It will not only supercharge technological innovation but also mobilise the nation to make its vital contribution. There should already be an excitement, a frisson, about going to war to save the planet for future generations.
Instead, I see only politicians unable to meet the challenge that lies before the world, like the governments prior to the second world war which wanted to pretend Hitler wasn’t a threat. The longer they hid under the duvet, the worse the situation became.
Eventually, of course, our politicians will be forced to confront climate change, but by then it may be a war we can no longer win.
Larry Elliott correctly identifies the need for a different sort of political economy based around redistribution. He is also right that voters may be reluctant to accept personal restrictions if they are perceived to be unfair, and politicians wary of proposing them if they think they will be unpopular. Yet Labour have spent the last decade worrying about saying anything that might be unpopular and this has simply bred distrust in them (compared with the Tories, whom the electorate can be sure will lie to them).
Now is the time for politicians to be straight with the public, to act from moral conviction and empathy, not expediency, and to persuade us that we will all gain more than we will lose by flying less, eating less meat and requiring those who have more than they need to relinquish the surplus to those who have least.
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