The Guardian’s take on climate policy: Net zero must remain a policy | Editorial

Jhe danger posed by heat waves in Europe must be taken more seriously. On the mainland, the securities relate to forest fires. In the UK, the story is about the country coming to a standstill. Both views mask a deadly truth. High levels of heat are a killer, a killer seen retrospectively in data on excess deaths and hospital admissions. It wasn’t until 2008 that statisticians concluded that as many as 70,000 people died as a result of a heat wave in Europe in 2003. By foolishly telling people to ‘enjoy the sun’, Dominic Raab , British Deputy Prime Minister, has proven that there is no challenge he would not take up.

It is disappointing that the next British Prime Minister is chosen by members of the Conservative Party who care very little about managing the climate emergency. Global warming will make deadly summer temperatures more common and more extreme. In cabinet, Alok Sharma remains a rare conservative voice of reason. It is worrying that at least one of the Conservative leadership candidates thinks the choice for the Conservatives is either to be a net zero party or a low tax party.

Any high-profile politician who thinks this compromise is right – especially during what could be record-breaking heat in Britain – is not fit to be prime minister. However, this may not be the biggest problem facing the world. Joe Biden had a plan to put the United States on a path that was an improvement on Donald Trump’s antagonism, but it wasn’t good enough. The United Nations warns that it is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5°C to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. But Mr. Biden has put the United States on the path to 2C. However, even this modest goal was met with opposition from Republicans and centrist Democratic politicians. Last week, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who took more campaign money from the oil and gas industry than any other senator, sunk Mr. Biden’s climate agenda.

The United States represents less than 5% of the current world population, but is responsible for a fifth of greenhouse gases. That the world can burn to ashes because West Virginia’s economy runs on fossil fuels is further evidence of the anachronism of American democracy. Pursuing net zero policies will not dampen economic growth or fuel inflation. But it will lead to political realignments. This should be a warning to British voters. Mr. Biden’s plan was to invest in green technologies. However, in states like West Virginia, voters seem wary of economic transformations after industrial jobs disappeared and never returned. They cling to what they know: oil, coal and gas.

In Britain, Boris Johnson won in 2019 with an electoral coalition that included former Labor strongholds gripped in part by the idea that they could be leveled off by potentially switching from carbon-intensive industries – with a plus great risk of reducing emissions to net zero by 2050 – thanks to decarbonisation. Some of Mr Johnson’s would-be successors have bluntly signaled that this could mean taxing wealthy southerners – who are disproportionately represented among Tory members who decide the direction – to pay for the transformation of the north. Hence the hints that net zero goals could be abandoned. It’s the mark of an unscrupulous thug to say anything to get ahead. Britain does not need a leader who will fail to meet the existential challenge of the climate emergency.