A personal carbon allowance was first proposed a decade ago – but leaders haven’t been brave enough to take up this idea
Are we doomed, or is there still a chance to save civilisation? It’s easy to veer between despair and slender hope, when the UN says emissions that need to fall by half this decade are only on course for a cut of about 7.5%. How helpless we feel when big emitters refuse to attend Cop26. What an unconvincing “one minute to midnight” call to action from Boris Johnson, who is cutting foreign aid and the cost of domestic flights while mulling a new coalmine and a Shetland oilfield. The absurd Brexit fishing spat makes a mockery of exhorting other world leaders to lift their sights to the horizons of the climate crisis.
The scale of what’s needed is politically unfathomable. Yet Johnson pretends answers can be conjured up “without so much as a hair shirt in sight”. In thundering, prophetic form, a recent article from George Monbiot set him right: the world’s richest 1% emit 35 times what each individual should use to ensure global heating does not exceed a 1.5C rise. The super-rich use their fortunes to shape the political agenda, diverting our attention from the true climate culprits with the “micro consumerist bollocks” of ditching coffee cups and plastic bags. “We will endure only if we cease to consent,” Monbiot writes – and he’s right.
Polly Toynbee is a Guardian columnist