CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. The two-faced Tories can't have it both ways (Times)

If Britain really is on the brink of bankruptcy, we can't protect every spending programme, says Anatole Kaletsky. The Tories should say so, but their entire election strategy appears to consist of blatantly contradictory messages.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

2. I long for a real Labour voice to slam this City-fearing trio (Guardian)

Simon Jenkins says the Ask the Chancellors debate proved that Alistair Darling, George Osborne and Vince Cable still don't see that they were conned into propping up the banks at our expense. Without a true voice of the left, the argument is dead.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

3. It's the geriatrics wot will win the Ovaltine Election (Independent)

This is not a young country, but a very old one that is feeling its age more than ever. Matthew Norman discusses the chancellors' TV debate, and says Osborne's relative youth counted against him.

4. The Tories will be the only ones to benefit from public debates (Daily Telegraph)

Bruce Anderson agrees that Osborne looked too youthful, but defends "flashes of intellect and steel", saying that the government's spin and cynicism will ultimately be exposed by the TV cameras in the leaders' debates.

5. The ghost of Section 28 (Guardian)

Martin Popplewell, who conducted David Cameron's distastrous interview on gay rights with, says the Tories must do more if they want the gay voters who deserted the party to return.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

6. Why Germany cannot be a model for the eurozone (Financial Times)

Last week's European Council was not a solution but a fudge, says Martin Wolf. It shows a worrying unwillingness to accept default and, more importantly, that Germany's views on how the eurozone should work are wrong.

7. Women are at the heart of US foreign policy (Times)

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, writes about global women's rights, saying that America views the subjugation of women as a threat to US law and order and the common security of the world.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

8. Social care needs a rational and fair system of funding (Independent)

Present arrangements for care of the elderly are unworthy of a civilised country, says the leading article. Yesterday's white paper is welcome because it puts the argument about social care squarely on to the electoral agenda, but the question of funding must be tackled.

9. The pontiff is not so potent (Guardian)

Andrew Brown argues that the shape of the world's oldest living bureaucracy, the Catholic Church, is very much misunderstood.

10. Hermit economics hobbles Pyongyang (Financial Times)

Aidan Foster-Carter discusses North Korea, saying that the pariah state's decision-making is going from bad to worse. The path Kim Jong-il is on is patently a dead end.

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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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