Theresa May is deceiving us, either deliberately or through ignorance, with regard to the goal of reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2050 (May puts 2050 zero emission target into law, 12 June). This is impossible for any economy based on mass consumption.
Over decades, most British manufacturing has shifted abroad, in particular to Asia where labour is cheap. These items are usually produced with high carbon outputs, with electricity supplied through coal. For an accurate figure of Britain’s emissions, our consumption of goods produced overseas must be included. As Britain’s consumption has increased enormously over the past 30 years, this carbon addition will be substantial.
It is a nonsense for rich countries, with increasing consumption that is excluded from carbon calculations, to pretend they are cutting carbon emissions. A British child during their lifetime may produce at least 200 times more carbon than a poor African child. And it is the poor child who will suffer first from climate change.
For a successful response to climate change, reality must take precedence over public relations. Nature cannot be cheated.
• Now that the government is claiming bragging rights on carbon emissions, would this be a good time to reprint in a prominent position the report, hidden in last Monday’s business section, which reveals that the UK gives £2.5bn per year to developing countries in support of fossil fuel projects (Government criticised for funding fossil fuel-burning plants abroad, 10 June)?
• We welcome plans announced to cut the UK’s emissions. To achieve the target, the Committee on Climate Change estimates we will need a 10% shift away from travel in cars towards walking, cycling and public transport. That means thinking radically about how we design our towns and cities, the requirements on developers and how we target infrastructure investment towards schemes that prioritise active travel. But we can’t afford to wait.
Our charter for walking neighbourhoods sets out steps to encourage walking, such as making cities greener, implementing default 20mph speed limits and involving communities in the design and maintenance of public spaces.
The benefits reach beyond mitigating climate change: neighbourhoods that are green and walkable inspire people to be more active, promoting physical and mental health, improving air quality and creating places where people want to live and work.
Head of policy and advocacy, The Ramblers
• On consecutive days last week we heard political commitments about the crisis caused by climate change and the impact of the UK’s progress on the sustainable development goals (SDGs). But neither announcement was linked to the other. Theresa May’s introduction of a legally binding agreement for the UK to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 was preceded in parliament by Rory Stewart introducing a debate on the government’s approach to reporting on progress on the SDGs to the UN in July.
The 17 SDGs represent an opportunity to tackle the root causes of climate change and biodiversity loss, eliminate extreme poverty and put the world on a more sustainable path. Yet four years after the goals were agreed, the government has not provided a coherent plan on how it is going to achieve them. It is due to report to the UN in July, but the international development secretary and a coterie of ministers were unable to tell parliament last week when this report would be published.
We can only hope the new prime minister will put as much energy into achieving the UK’s obligations on the SDGs as they do in promoting their Brexit solutions during the Tory leadership race.
Visiting professor in learning for sustainability, University of the West of England; president, Change Agents UK
• Join the debate – email firstname.lastname@example.org
• Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters
• Do you have a photo you’d like to share with Guardian readers? Click here to upload it and we’ll publish the best submissions in the letters spread of our print edition
Radical action needed to hit UK’s zero-carbon target – The Guardian