Friday, 5 February 2010

Jonathan Porritt @lsepublicevents 04/02/10

'The whole debate is in the wrong place' that's the stand out quote I took from last nights Jonathan Porritt talk at the LSE. He was referring of course to Climate Change, most specifically the UK debates around it. He is championing a positive approach to our communications. Acting on Climate Change can stimulate green jobs, innovative and marketable new technology, it can improve energy security and lastly (important to put this last) it'll help the planet. People just don't buy into doing something about Climate Change, people do buy into job creation, healthier lifestyles, money saving through ENERGY EFFICIENCY and energy security. This is what Obama is selling and the Americans are buying it! In the UK people no longer trust scientists and, unsurprisingly are not responding to scare tactics and the prophets of doom.

He's not alone in expressing alarmism over the alarmist language surrounding Climate Change. He pointedly attacked the governments horrendous 'Act on CO2' campaign, blaming it, in part, for the recent drop in the number of UK citizens who believe Climate change is caused by human behaviour. You could probably add 'The Age of Stupid' to this, but at least they have provided an antidote of sorts with the 10:10 campaign.

I put Energy Efficiency in block capitals above because it is staring us in the face and the environmental gains are potentially huge, Porritt drew our attention to the strong advocacy Dr Steven Chu (US Energy Secretary) gives to Energy Efficiency. Apparently the US could cut its energy use by 40% with improvements in energy efficiency alone, that is before anyone tries to do anything about the sacred American way of life. It is a no-brainer to invest in energy efficiency (unless of course your middle name is... Shell, Esso, Total, Texaco, BP, etc, etc).

CSP was also championed, Porritt very skilfully got us all very excited about it, then grounded us by saying the reality of installing the vast new infrastructure needed to power the whole of Western Europe would be costly: half a trillion pounds! He then asked us if that was a big figure, before answering for us, no. The UK, alone, managed to find 17 trillion pounds to bail out the banks, that is just the UK! Surely the EU can find the money to invest in CSP in a big way, so that the Sahara's sunshine can power all our homes and, because it is morally right, the homes of millions of Africans.

Prof. Mike Hulme from UEA (author of 'Why we disagree about Climate Change') was in the audience and during the Q&A the discussion swung eventually to whether we should be seeking political action at the International level at all?The situation at the international level is, as Porritt pointed out at the start of his talk, quite bizarre at the moment, the UN is really struggling to get us anywhere near a satisfactory successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the jury is out, maybe we should abandon the UNFCCC and concentrate on solving Climate Change through domestic politics. Porritt argues that we shouldn't make that leap quite yet, a lot has been achieved by the UN process and in the end Climate Change is a genuinely global problem, which in time of globalisation of economics, needs a global solution.

The evening ended with Porritt hypothesising that far from being a negative Climate Change might actually be the one thing that unites all the people of the world. Everyone will be or has been affected by Climate Change, it might just bring us together. We Britons are quite prone to scepticism and we get all awkward championing the ideas of entrepreneurial capitalists who might just have some of the answers to our plight, we'd much rather moan on and on, it is easier, but we have got to try and snap out of it and start 'selling the sizzle' a bit more!

P.S. I really wanted to highlight the conclusion to Porritt's talk where he discussed the findings of the truly fantastic work 'The Spirit Level'. This is getting a bit long now though, so I'll just say listen to the podcast when it gets uploaded and check out The Equality Trust website to understand why doing something about Energy Efficiency is a social justice priority. We live in a horribly, embarrassingly unequal country, we desperately need to do something about it!

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