Evening Standard comment: Act now to stop the Amazon’s destruction

EVENING STANDARD COMMENT

Today's warning by French President Emmanuel Macron that the record number of fires in the Amazon this year amounts to an “international crisis” that should top the agenda at this weekend’s G7 summit has provoked anger from Brazil’s leader Jair Bolsonaro. But it is justified and timely. As Mr Macron says, the Amazon basin is the source of 20 per cent of the world’s oxygen and a critical defence against the danger posed by climate change. Its fate, therefore, matters to all the world’s inhabitants and the sight of so much of it disappearing beneath flames is more than a domestic Brazilian concern, as Mr Bolsonaro, a Right-wing nationalist suspected of encouraging the destruction, claims.

What to do to prevent further loss is complicated, of course. Brazil and other developing countries have understandably complained in the past of Western double standards in calling for them to limit their own economic growth at a time when emissions of pollutants by the world’s biggest economies continue to contribute so heavily to global warning. That argument cannot be ignored and any measures to address the problems in the Amazon must be accompanied by far greater action in the West to curb our own emissions. In Britain’s case, that means ensuring this country hits the target, set by the outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May and endorsed by Boris Johnson, of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050: a task that is likely to require some sacrifices, including through taxes and reduced travel.

The public here is, it appears, likely to be supportive, with an opinion poll for this newspaper this week showing 85 per cent of Britons are “concerned” about climate change. These are findings that chime with the alarm shown today by the French president. The task now is to convince sceptics, who regrettably include President Trump, of the danger and for the G7 to respond to Mr Macron’s call by finding new methods, which might include financial or technological assistance, to achieve a global consensus and effective action in the Amazon and elsewhere. There is no time to delay and Mr Macron’s call must be heeded.

Coaches at Victoria

The announcement today that Victoria Coach Station is to remain the principal hub for coach services in and out of the capital represents a sensible compromise that recognises the practical needs of passengers at the same time as trying to alleviate the understandable concerns about the congestion and pollution that this historic central London site brings. As Transport for London suggests, even if the station at Victoria were closed, many coaches would still simply drive into London to make drop-offs and pick-ups on the street. At the same time, passengers wanting to reach central London but forced to use coaches terminating at an alternative, more distant, hub would face an inconvenient journey in via some other mode of transport at potential additional cost.

The solution proposed instead, of insisting that every coach using Victoria must from next year meet the Ultra Low Emission Zone standard, while searching for sites for smaller satellite bases further out for passengers happy to get off there, is therefore the right one. Vigilance to ensure the plan works will, of course, be needed. But if it works, it should deliver changes that will benefit coach travellers and other Londoners alike.

Enjoy a fabulous Carnival

The Notting Hill Carnival takes places this Bank Holiday weekend with a glorious forecast adding to the prospect of a wonderful weekend of entertainment ahead for the million plus people who go to celebrate the diversity and vibrancy brought to this city by the Windrush generation and their successors . A large police presence will seek to prevent disorder spoiling the fun, but we hope their involvement can be minimal and that all who attend enjoy a fine time at that this fabulous celebration of Caribbean culture.