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Benn announces ‘stronger’ climate change bill

Rosalind Ryan, Elizabeth Stewart and agencies, Guardian
The government today announced a “stronger, more effective and more transparent” climate change bill, following a period of public consultation and scrutiny.

The environment secretary, Hilary Benn, said in a speech at Kew Gardens that the amended bill was a “ground-breaking blueprint” to help lower Britain’s carbon emissions and would strengthen the country’s position in response to climate change.

Mr Benn said: “We need to step up the fight against climate change and we need to do it fast. The draft bill we set out earlier this year and have now refined is a ground-breaking blueprint for moving the UK towards ea low carbon economy.”
(29 October 2007)
Related from the Guardian:
Q&A: Climate change bill
Politicians cannot combat climate change by themselves, says Benn

Climate change cannot be bargained with

Larry Elliott, economics editor, Guardian
Our half-hearted measures are as dangerous as the 1930s appeasement of Hitler

It was a year ago this week that Gordon Brown and Tony Blair shared a platform to launch the Stern report on the economics of climate change. The then-prime minister said it was the most important report released in his time in office. The then-chancellor said his ambition was for Britain to lead the world in creating a stable and sustainable economy based on low carbon.

Green lobby groups lapped it up. At last, they said, the government had got the message about the dangers of global warming and was prepared to take the necessary measures to first halt the rise in greenhouse gas emissions and then turn the tide.

For the environmental lobbyists, fans as they are of Tolkien, it was like the moment Theoden, the wizened king of Rohan, decides to take a stand against the evil wizard Saruman – a turning point in the life and death struggle between good and evil.

The response was somewhat different last week when documents confirmed that ministers were seeking to wriggle out of a commitment, not just strongly backed but insisted upon by Tony Blair, that Europe produce 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

When they heard the talk of “severe practical difficulties in hitting the target” or watched the energy minister Malcolm Wicks say that other European countries could do a bit of Britain’s heavy lifting, green groups heard the voice of Theoden’s treacherous servant Wormtongue, not that of people ready to stand up and fight.

Ministers say this is an unfair picture of what is happening. They argue that next month’s climate change bill putting ministers under an obligation to cut carbon emissions, coupled with reforms of the planning laws to allow more wind farms to be built, show that they are tackling the issue head on, but that it will take time to reach the 20% renewables target from such a low base.

Groups such as Friends of the Earth say this is poppycock, and that Labour lacks any real ambition when it comes to climate change.
(29 October 2007)

Now with 50 percent less truth

Editorial, Boston Globe
WHEN THE top public health official of the United States addressed the Senate last Tuesday on the health impact of global warming in this country, the senators – and the public – had a right to expect Julie Gerberding’s full, unvarnished thoughts on this important issue. That’s not what they got. In another case of the White House censoring what the public learns about climate change, the administration cut her testimony in half.

As a result, Gerberding, who heads the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, did not tell senators, as she had planned to, that “the public health effects of climate change remain largely unaddressed.” Nor did the senators learn that areas in the northern part of the country “will likely bear the brunt of increases in ground-level ozone and associated airborne pollutants. Populations in Midwestern and Northeastern cities are expected to experience more heat-related illnesses as heat waves increase in frequency, severity, and duration.”

All of that information was included in the six pages stricken from Gerberding’s original draft of 12 pages. The White House says it made the deletions because the information “didn’t align” with a report this year from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In response, Senator Barbara Boxer of California released a comparison of the UN report and phrases stricken from the Gerberding draft. Both raise the threat of heat stress on vulnerable populations, increased respiratory diseases, and more waterborne infectious diseases.
(29 October 2007)
Coverage at the Voice of America: “White House Criticized for Editing Climate Change Testimony”.

Editorial from the New York Times (“(Still) Muzzling the Climate Scientists”):

The Bush Administration long ago secured a special place in history for the way in which it distorts, manipulates, or censors science for political ends. But now the habit – and it does seem to be a habitual failing – has come to haunt President Bush himself.

… Lately, though, Mr. Bush has been sounding more forthcoming about climate change. At a recent two-day summit of the big emitting countries in Washington, a summit Mr. Bush convened, he promised a major effort to develop greener technologies. “Our guiding principle is clear,” the President declared. “We must lead the world to produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions.” This was hardly a full-throated endorsement of the kind of mandatory caps on emissions that many people feel are necessary. But it was something.

Then, as if on cue, came yet another example of science-tinkering that seemed to undercut Mr. Bush’s sincerity.

Canadians want action, vision, leadership on climate change

James Hoggan, Vancouver Sun
Canadians are cranky, and they have every right to be. They’re cranky about the environment — about its current state and its likely trajectory. And they’re cranky that industry and government seem to be trying to spin the public on issues like climate change.

Worse, from a personal perspective, they’re cranky with the public relations profession, which Canadians think is complicit in this campaign of deception.

All this pent-up anger became apparent in the course of the most comprehensive research project on sustainability and the environment ever undertaken in Canada.

Jim Hoggan is president of public relations firm James Hoggan & Associates, a trustee of the Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education, and chair of the David Suzuki Foundation. This speech, however, reflects his personal opinion and not that of any of those organizations.

Excerpted from an address given at the Nature Trust of British Columbia’s Oct. 23 Sustainability Speakers Series event.
(27 October 2007)