As Cop26 begins, it’s time to face inconvenient truths | Letters

The UK is failing to lead the way with its climate policies, says David Humphreys, while Michael Stone calls for a more realistic way to measure the country’s carbon footprint. Plus letters from Dr Steve Hyer and Drusilla Long

The budget represents a huge squandered opportunity for the UK to lead from the front as Cop26 begins. Particularly disappointing is the miserly support for low carbon energy. Energy companies have made some impressive investments in wind-powered and solar energy in Britain, but businesses will invest only where the risks are relatively low and the likelihood of profits relatively high.

That leaves a whole range of actions that must be taken to decarbonise the economy, but where the private sector will not venture. Only the government has the economic power to take the risks that business shies away from, but Rishi Sunak has failed to pledge government support for decarbonisation to industry.
David Humphreys
Professor of environmental policy, Open University

• In this week’s Cop26, countries will be urged to follow the UK’s “lead” in setting the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. This goal is impossible for any advanced economy based on mass consumption. The majority of British manufacturing has shifted abroad, where labour is cheap and items are mostly produced with electricity supplied by coal and other fossil fuels. For a real figure for Britain’s emissions, the consumption of goods produced overseas must be included.

It is a dangerous nonsense for rich countries, therefore, to pretend they are cutting carbon emissions. A British child during their lifetime may produce at least 200 times more carbon than a child born in Africa. For a meaningful response to climate change, reality must take precedence over PR. We may pull the wool over our own eyes, but nature cannot be cheated.
Michael Stone
Moretonhampstead, Devon

• Your print headline, “A thundering wake-up call” (Report, 26 October), highlights a recent UN report that the world faces a disastrous temperature rise of at least 2.7C if countries fail to strengthen their climate pledges. With the Cop26 summit, hopes are high for pledges that will keep the planet from warming by no more than 1.5C, but expectations are low. We can expect the “blah blah blah” (to coin a phrase) to include planting more trees, replacing diesel and petrol cars with electric vehicles, more insulation of homes, more offshore wind farms and solar panels. Not now, but by 2050.

The prime minister is looking for a pledge by developed countries for $100bn for less wealthy nations to help them adapt to climate change.

Here is an alternative suggestion: let the rich nations pledge $100bn to a climate crisis project group consisting of the world’s top scientists. A bit like the Manhattan Project (but not trying to make an atomic bomb), these scientists will be charged with developing new tools in the fight to save the planet, such as technologies to scrub the atmosphere of greenhouse gases and store renewable energy. In the face of a crisis, human ingenuity knows no bounds.
Dr Steve Hyer
Wellington, Surrey

• The sound of fiddles being tuned up and deckchairs scraping across decks are all we will hear at Cop26. It is left to us, citizens, parents and children, to fight for a future for the planet, and attempt to do all we can individually, as well as pressurising those who wield power, but are refusing to use it for the good of the children now being born into a bleak future.
Drusilla Long
Leeds

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