Libya: could ground troops be deployed?

William Hague says UN resolution “doesn’t exclude every type of operation”.

The bizarrely named Operation Odyssey Dawn is now fully under way. US and British ships have fired 112 Tomahawk missiles on to more than 20 radar systems, communications centers and surface-to-air missile sites. Libyan state TV has reported 48 dead and 150 wounded but we've had no independent confirmation of those figures.

While David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy have been keen to emphasise the breadth of the international coalition against Gaddafi (Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have confirmed that they will be contributing forces), it's worth noting that we heard some dissenting voices overnight. China and Russia, which chose not to wield their veto power at the UN, have now explicitly condemned the attacks.

A spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry said the country "consistently disagrees with the use of force in international relations". Elsewhere, the African Union has called for an "immediate stop" to all attacks and Hugo Chávez has predictably denounced the US and the UK as "the masters of war".

He said:

More death, more war. They are the masters of war. What irresponsibility. And behind that is the hand of the United States and its European allies. They want to seize Libya's oil. The lives of Libya's people don't matter to them at all.

It is deplorable that once again the warmongering policy of the Yankee empire and its allies is being imposed, and it is deplorable that the United Nations lends itself to supporting war, infringing on its fundamental principles instead of urgently forming a commission to go to Libya.

One of the most important questions remains whether British ground troops could be deployed at any stage. UN Resolution 1973 rules out a "foreign occupation force" in any part of Libya, but this doesn't prohibit the limited use of troops.

When pressed on this point during an appearance on The Andrew Marr Show this morning, George Osborne offered little clarity. But later on Sky News, William Hague said: "It is true, there can't be an occupation force . . . it doesn't exclude every type of operation." He added that there would be no "invasion" by ground troops, but made it clear that the government has some room for manoeuvre.

Should air strikes fail to dislodge Gaddafi, ministers may be forced to make a decision earlier than many expect.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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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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