For those who think, like Ken Livingstone, that slapping a £25 congestion onto Ford Mondeos is a good thing and will save the planet, I have news for them. Frankly, it doesn't really matter what we do in this country on global emissions if we can't persuade India and China to follow suit. Take this piece from The Economist...
Over the next few decades, one of the main determinants of increased oil demand will be higher car ownership in emerging economies. At present there are only two cars for every 100 people in China, against 50 in America. Goldman Sachs forecasts that China's car ownership will rise to 29 per 100 by 2040. The total number of cars in China and India combined could rise from around 30m today to 750m by 2040 (see chart 10)—more than all the cars on the world's roads today. Even so, car-ownership rates in those two countries would still be only half those in America today.
Many people worry more about the environmental damage resulting from emerging countries' rising energy demand than they do about rising prices. Rapid industrialisation has already caused an alarming increase in emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollution. China has 16 of the world's 20 most air-polluted cities. America is still the world's largest spewer of carbon emissions, but China is expected to overtake it within a decade or so. A report by Zmarak Shalizi, an economist at the World Bank, forecasts that on current policies carbon emissions in China and India will more than double by 2020—though that would still leave China's carbon emissions per person at only one-third of the current level in America.
So our efforts on climate change are misdirected. What we should be doing is convincing India and China that they will be the main part of the problem within half a generation, and then persuade (or even help) them to take the requisite action. We can all have windmills on our roofs and install solar panels, but if Indians and the Chinese do not cut their emissions too we might as well save ourselves the bother.