Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. What MPs must know before they vote to wreck the NHS (Guardian)

The Tories' ideologically driven NHS bill deserves a backlash. The Lords would be well within their rights to block it, says Polly Toynbee.

2. For the good of rural life, we must build houses in the countryside (Daily Telegraph)

Planning reforms can shape the landscape to suit our needs and still maintain its beauty, insists Charles Moore.

3. No need to outsource kindness. Tories do it too (Times) (£)

It's not a coalition of Lib Dem foot-draggers and go-for-it Conservatives, writes Matthew Parris. This rightwing idea has to be killed.

4. What Ed must do to shake the Kinnock analogies (Financial Times)

The Labour leader still has much to prove, writes Matthew Taylor.

5. A few sex education lessons might benefit Ms Dorries (Independent)

The best way of cutting the number of abortions must be to cut the number of conceptions, writes Chris Bryant.

6. Famine in Somalia: a man-made crisis (Guardian)

Starvation in the Horn of Africa is not only a natural disaster - conflict rages and international aid is hampered, writes Unni Karunakara.

7. Hands off our land: The Eden that is England (Daily Telegraph)

Despite England being an urban nation, our rural self-image is fundamental to English identity, says Roy Strong.

8. Leaders of today: do crises demand craziness? (Financial Times)

If mentally healthy leaders crumble in crises, big countries in the west are in trouble, says Christopher Caldwell.

9. Guess who's become the Tories' secret weapon? (Daily Mail)

Ed Balls delights the Tories, and daily reminds us that this Labour Party is not fit for office, writes Stephen Glover.

10. The best future would be the one imagined by Doctor Who (Independent)

Doctor Who is far more than a kids' show about a time traveller, writes Laurie Penny.

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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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