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Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Miliband must aim to reduce inequality, not the size of your gas bill (Daily Telegraph)

Economist Thomas Piketty points the way for the Labour Party to win back votes from its traditional supporters, says Mary Riddell.  

2. Labour would put schools in local hands (Guardian)

The party's education policy would ensure local oversight of free schools and academies to drive up standards, says David Blunkett.

3. Only shock-and-awe sanctions will hurt Putin (Times)

War in Ukraine is growing closer, writes Roger Boyes. The west may have to accept the pain of lost business.

4. A vote for UKIP would be a vote for the very worst of Thatcherism (Daily Mirror)

There is only one party which truly understands the cost-of-living crisis, says Ed Miliband. 

5. David Cameron: intimations of political mortality (Guardian)

The prime minister's remarks on governing in a new hung parliament are a small sign of his wider political weakness, says a Guardian editorial. 

6. A ripple of hope in a stagnant world (Financial Times)

Excess supply and low interest rates go hand in hand and could put the recovery at risk, warns Martin Wolf. 

7. The rent racket: tenants are trapped in a game of Monopoly that won't end (Guardian

Private landlords enjoy an absurd level of power over tenants, writes Zoe Williams. Yet they reject even minimal regulation.

8. A huge UK-based company is the subject of a takeover by an even bigger US-based company. Should we be worried? (Independent)

If the Pfizer deal goes through, this isn't just yet another story of a British company selling out to a foreign one, writes Hamish McRae. It's about tax, too.

9. Cyril Smith and the ghost of politics future (Times)

The corrupt control of local institutions by a powerful celebrity politician could make a comeback in our times, says Daniel Finkelstein.

10. So why isn’t it racist when other parties talk about controlling immigration? (Independent)

The reason Labour is losing support to Ukip is because the working class have been hardest hit by Labour’s disastrous policies, says Nigel Farage. 

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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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