15,000 scientists write to say this is our last chance… and offer 13 things we humans can do to stave off even worse climate change.
Instead of feeling even more scared, I am cheered… So the secret is nearly out! There will come a point, soon, when people will demand that governments move. And it may be in time.
The Green Party, at its spring conference, passed a new policy on climate change including our controversial target for the UK: net Zero Carbon emissions by 2030.
This can only be done (if it can be done) by abandoning the idea of ‘business as usual’. The British Labour Party is still talking about growth, and the lack of it.
This week I went to a conference to sum up 10 years work by the ETI (the Energy Technologies Institute).
This was set up by the government ten years ago ‘to act as a conduit between academia, industry and the government to accelerate the development of low carbon technologies’ with a budget of 500 million. (No wonder the lunch was so good).
Put it down to my inexperience, but I’ve never been to an environmental event with so many men in suits, including guys from Shell and BP (who turned out to be some of the more radical of those I chatted to). These scientists, engineers and academics, not to mention the PR people, business people and politicians, have been researching the necessary steps towards a low carbon economy over these ten years, making timelines, investigating sites, building prototypes of vessels to store heat, planning small nuclear reactors that could send hot water to every house in a city, working out how to integrate current, outdated energy networks into the ones we need for the future, including hydrogen.
The exhibition was full of good news about renewables and hope about overcoming the intermittency problem of wind and tide, and hope for the future expansion of carbon capture and storage.
It is exciting to hear what is known, what can be done, what could be done on a massive scale if there were the political will. But while with one hand the government gave a bunch of businesses and universities 500 million, with the other it continued to subsidise aviation and encourage fracking.
I don’t think we can be saved by science plus the market, with a bit of government nudging.
Yet the entire ETI conference, while full of confidence, also felt unreal. It was based on ‘business as usual’ assumptions. Catastrophic climate change will not happen. The UK will be able to keep out the inevitably increasing numbers of climate refugees. We need not change our way of life, we can be rescued by science plus the market. For instance, the speakers in the session I went to on nuclear (which is expected to meet a big chunk of future energy needs) said that their brief excluded public acceptability and safety! They discussed where to site big and small reactors without reference to these.
Last week, at COP 23, my organisation Sustaining All Life approached our human crisis in a different way.
The future depends on people, people organised, united, connected. That’s what will make governments move and keep them accountable. Feelings about our histories divide us, and the tools we offer through co-counselling enable us to unite with our own people (whoever we feel those are) and with others (whom we may have been set up to mistrust or dislike). These tools allow us, through being listened to, to process unbearable experiences, which are sabotaging our personal and collective power.
You can view our livestream of the Forum we ran for African voices on Facebook (follow link above). Also look at the article on young people at COP 23 (‘Stop Saying we are the Future, we are the Present’) in the ‘Bright Green’ blog.
Interestingly the COP 23 organisers described our ‘listening project’ (in which we offer to listen to people on a theme) as a ‘protest’ requiring 24 hours advance notice, so we weren’t allowed to carry our usual posters. These particular ones asked ‘How has racism affected your life?’ We left the posters, but found plenty of people who wanted to be listened to on this subject.
I believe the work we do in Sustaining All Life strengthens the environmental movement. Without people united demanding more rational policies to stop further climate change, all the hard work of the people behind the ETI projects cannot be enough.