Morning Call: pick of the comment:

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers.

1. There's real hope from Haiti and it's not what you expect (Independent)

Johann Hari writes that the good news from Haiti is that the IMF backed down and agreed to work to cancel the country's entire debt. This is the first sign that exposing and opposing the body's agenda works.

2. Between the bomb and the barricades (Financial Times)

It's a relief that Iran's uranium centrifuges keep breaking down, says Philip Stephens. No one in the west knows how to punish Iran for its nuclear programme without playing into the hands of the regime.

3. My heart refuses to race to this cross-Channel love-in (Guardian)

Martin Kettle argues that while logic supports an Anglo-French defence partnership, a combination of cultural mistrust and divergent national interests means it isn't going to happen.

4. 1997 revisited (Economist)

The Economist's Bagehot writes that Gordon Brown's deathbed conversion to electoral reform reflects his nostalgia for 1997. It is an attempt to turn back the clock -- to a time when Labour seemed capable of being a force for change

5. The smell from Westminster hasn't gone away (Times)

Martin Bell writes that although most of the worst offenders of the expenses scandal will be gone after the next election, it is vital that voters watch the class of 2010 with an eagle eye.

6. The public sector could save the economy -- if only politicians let it (Daily Telegraph)

Andrew Haldenby claims that public-sector managers know that spending can be cut by 20 per cent without harming actual services; it's just the government that is holding them back.

7. The market has failed over bankers' pay (Times)

The City minister, Paul Myners, argues that it's time for fund managers to come out of the shadows. They have invited public scrutiny of their failures.

8. Scientists, you are fallible. Get off the pedestal and join the common herd (Guardian)

Simon Jenkins says that climate scientists need to rediscover the virtue of self-criticism -- or others will continue to question their evidence.

9. Stench that will linger long after stables are swept (Independent)

Andrew Grice predicts that the expenses scandal will play a prominent role at the general election, not least because candidates are bound to milk it at local level.

10. Britain has been hit harder than you think (Financial Times)

Samuel Brittan argues that anyone who bases their vote on the latest GDP figures should be disenfranchised. These initial estimates are not exact enough even to say where in a range of plus or minus 1 per cent the change occurred.

 

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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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