When car speed meets bicycle speed, with lots of hot air
It would be nice to have some good environmental news to report. Unfortunately there isn't any:
Anyone for Yes Minister? The Guardian today reports that as row between the Department of Trade and Industry and the environment department (Defra) has paralysed for seven months a decision on carbon emission targets.
Labour has pledged in three successive manifestos that by 2010 it will cut the UK's CO2 emissions by 20% below 1990 levels. The promise has reached almost totemic status in the party.
But publication of a programme to meet the targets has been held up, with the Department of Trade and Industry arguing that emissions have risen at such a rate over the past two years that it is unlikely Britain can meet the target. The DTI's latest projections show that, on current measures, CO2 will have been reduced to "only around 10% below 1990 levels by 2010".
But the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, armed with less statistical and economic modelling firepower than the DTI, is contesting the figures, and insists the target can still be met by vigorous action.
Ministers are frustrated by the delay since the postponements reduce the government's chance of meeting its 2010 target. They fear that the UK's claim to international leadership on climate change is being undermined.
It must be time for Tony Blair to make another "Green" speech, just to "prove" his credentials.
The government's inaction is demonstrated by the latest transport figures:
The total distance travelled by Britain’s cars has doubled since 1979 to 247 billion miles a year, and the number of private cars has risen by 12 million to 26 million.
Last year cars accounted for 85 per cent of the total distance we travelled. The average person spent 221 hours in a car and covered 5,500 miles at an average speed of less than 25mph.
There are now more homes that possess two or more cars than homes that do not have a car. One in 20 homes now has at least three cars, up from one in 50 in 1980. The typical family no longer shares a car but has one for each adult member, with 60 per cent of cars on the road containing only the driver.
Of course when the congestion gets a bit worse, it will be quicker to go virtually everywhere by bicycle. I can manage about 10mph average on a reasonable urban run, and I'm no athlete.
What should pupils read before they leave school? A survey comes up with the usual dead white males, with an odd smattering of Bronte. Who says the canon is dead?
But cheers to Zoe Williams for defending the current abortion time limit of 24 weeks. At least the Guardian seems not to have gone anti-abortion, unlike its Sunday sister.