‘We’ve had so many wins’: why the green movement can overcome climate crisis

 

 

The Guardian, 12 October 2020:

Leaflets printed on “rather grotty” blue paper. That is how Janet Alty will always remember one of the most successful environment campaigns of modern times: the movement to ban lead in petrol.

There were the leaflets she wrote to warn parents at school gates of the dangers, leaflets to persuade voters and politicians, leaflets to drown out the industry voices saying – falsely – there was nothing to worry about.

In the late 1970s, the UK was still poisoning the air with the deadly toxin, despite clear scientific evidence that breathing in lead-tainted air from car exhausts had an effect on development and intelligence. Recently returned from several years in the US, Alty was appalled. Lead had been phased out in the US from 1975. Why was the British government still subjecting children to clear harm?

Robin Russell-Jones asked the same question. A junior doctor, he quickly grasped the nature of the lead problem, moving his family out of London. His fellow campaigner, Robert Stephens, amassed a trove of thousands of scientific papers, keeping them in his garage when his office burned down – he suspected foul play.

Their campaign took years. But in 1983, a damning verdict from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution prompted the UK government to decree that both petrol stations and manufacturers must offer lead-free alternatives. Leaded petrol was finally removed from the last petrol pumps in the UK in 1999.

 

 

Caution and optimism over climate pledges

 

 

The Guardian, 8 October 2020:

Re Barbara Finamore’s article (What China’s plan for net-zero emissions by 2060 means for the climate, 5 October), it would be a mistake to get too excited about China’s announcement of carbon neutrality by 2060.

First, the date is far too late to limit global warming to 2C, let alone 1.5C. Reductions of 7.6% are required every year of the coming decade if we wish to stay within the 1.5C limit: China is planning to increase its emissions over the same period. They may now peak before 2030, but this is small comfort as China already contributes 28% of global carbon emissions.

Second, China’s Belt and Road Initiative is exporting an energy programme that relies on coal-fired power stations, with more than 300 planned or under construction.

Finally, it is looking increasingly inappropriate to define China as a developing nation, since emissions of carbon dioxide per capita already exceed that of the UK (7.0 versus 5.8 tonnes per year using the production-based emissions published by the Global Carbon Project).

The truth is that President Xi has picked a date out of the air that is far enough into the future that it allows China to continue with business as usual for at least another decade, if not longer.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Chair, Help Rescue the Planet