Friday, 28 June 2019

What could be more important than BoJo’s mojo?

I wonder if the name Janet Barker means anything to you. It should – because she’s the Greenpeace protester who was manhandled and ejected from a London banquet last week by the now-suspended Foreign Officer minister Mark Field. (If you haven’t yet seen the video of the incident, click here.)

She and her fellow-protesters had intended to disrupt a speech being given by the chancellor Philip Hammond by making a speech of their own, calling for greater government investment and leadership in tackling the global climate emergency.

Emergency? Perhaps you missed the story the other day reporting that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere increased over the past year by the second highest amount of the past sixty years. Thirty years ago, the annual growth rate was around 1.5 parts per million; it’s now above 2.2 ppm and CO2 levels are at 414.8 ppm. If they reach 450 ppm, scientists say the earth’s climate will reach a tipping point beyond which the impact will be catastrophic and irreversible.

By my calculations, if current growth levels are maintained, we’ll be there in just fifteen years’ time. Words like ‘emergency’ and ‘crisis’ somehow seem inadequate.

So instead of fulminating against the latest idiocies emanating from both our main political parties – Boris Johnson’s new-found love of making model buses out of wine boxes, or Jeremy Corbyn’s insistence that there’s still plenty of time to make up his mind about Brexit – I’ve decided to pass on some extracts from what the Greenpeace protesters would have said at that Mansion House banquet if Mark Field hadn’t grabbed Janet Barker round her neck and marched her off the premises. (The full text of the speech they had prepared is here.)

‘The climate crisis cannot be fixed by stepping back and just leaving it to the free market. Nor will it be solved through simply fiddling around the edges with a few regulations. These things are too slow and ineffective for the speed of transformation required. Left alone, the market is not designed to bring us a green and prosperous future. It is time to step forward. It’s time to intervene.

‘The last five years were the hottest ever recorded. There are a growing number and intensity of extreme weather events. Millions of people are already losing their homes and livelihoods. Coral reefs are set to disappear. Crops are set to fail. People and animals are set to go hungry. But look at this banquet. Look at each other. You are dining out while the planet burns.

‘Sometimes we have to take action and spend more money now, simply because it is the only option. To stand a chance of saving the lives of millions of people here and all around the world, we must limit climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 1.5 degrees of warming gives us a chance of avoiding catastrophic droughts, crop failures, food crises, heat-waves, forest fires and flooding. Just a chance.

‘Yet just two weeks ago, Mr Hammond, you pretty much said “Please let us off the hook, otherwise it will cost too much.” What price would you pay to secure your children’s future on a liveable planet? What price to protect you and your families’ homes from irreparable flooding? What price to prevent millions of people worldwide from homelessness, statelessness and poverty? It’s time to change how the Treasury thinks. It’s time to redefine what it values.

‘If you want to know whether a policy is good, include the benefits as well as the costs. Here, the benefits include an economy fit for the 21st Century. Cleaner air. Warmer homes. Increasing the survival chances of civilisation itself. The Chancellor got his sums wrong. It’s time to change the Treasury’s models to fit with reality.

‘Policy decisions must no longer be hampered by the short-sighted logic of  “decarbonisation at least-cost.” Having a comparative advantage in the technologies that every country in the world will have to adopt is an economic opportunity, not a hindrance. Now is the time for a new approach. It must be about “maximising every decarbonisation opportunity.

‘The UK has been the birthplace of some of the greatest innovations, feats of engineering and cutting edge entrepreneurship in the world. We are now one of the leading creators and makers of the new technologies that can massively cut our carbon footprint, power our homes, factories and offices, and protect, harness and utilise the land, wind, waters and sun that are abundant on these isles. Talent, creativity and optimism are needed now more than ever before to avert the very worst impacts of climate breakdown.’

I think it’s a shame the protesters never got a chance to make their speech. If you agree, do feel free to share this with your friends and others. If nothing else, it makes a change from the latest antics of the mop-haired blond bombshell from Camberwell.


Anonymous said...

I completely agree with every word said

However, why do people think that using fewer plastic bags in TESCO is going to save anything at all. Yes, it's a nice principle & sets a pretty example. I'm sure it'll make Putin stop extracting gas, and Xi from building/sponsoring a coal-fired power station every week. Seriously, though, how does it stop this planet burning ?

(that's just an obvious example, btw, there are thousands more)

People want to feel good, so they "Do Their Bit" so they think the problem is solved. It isn't.

Politicians (and managers) want to feel good, too. They don't want problems that don't have an easy solution. Far easier to pick up litter in front of a camera (Thatcher, for the younger readers)

I have to criticise the Green movement a little, too. They aren't vocal enough. Why pick on "1.5 deg increase" instead of "1.4 deg increase" ? It looks like a number pulled out of the air

Why not highlight the increase in CO2 from pre-industrial times - it's gone up by 54% (270ppm -> 415ppm) - yes, you and I are currently breathing 54% more CO2 than we should be. This will reach 500 ppm by 2050, nearly TWICE the pre-industrial value

The UK's attitude to Climate Change isn't the biggest problem. Look at Russia's endless supply of gas; also Canada & the US. Look at population growth in Indonesia, India, China, Brazil, Mexico. Look at waste management in poorer nations. They need to look at non-carbon sources of energy to supply the world's rapidly increasing demand. There must be some good business there. Save the petroleum for plastics, medicines, chemicals, bitumen, etc, etc

So, who's telling them ?


Anonymous said...

Although we occasionally hear things about additional runways and the hidden cost of flying, there are few speeches or articles regarding the appalling damage done by shipping - and in particular the totally unnecessary cruise liners which outdo all that done by the cars on this planet. Plenty of advertising for them though, in addition to the television programmes showing just how wonderful they are. A shame they never show the real cost. But with billions of Pounds/Dollars invested in them, including even more billions in the pipeline, should we be surprised?

Tinkersdamn said...

Externalities are only "real" in theory and in ledgers. Unless, until, we internalize this, expect the grace of Eden to wither at our touch.

Beryl A said...

OH! How I agree with you. You are so right to say WE MUST DO SOMETHING NOW. PLEASE PLEASE Protest and have your say, go to Parliament House and fill the Square, with genuine "PROTESTER'S" People that will have thier say, this concerns not just BRITONS but the rest of the Commonwealth to which we all belong. We CAN make a change for the good. The British are well known to be the first at everything. We CAN make a change. Let this be your MOTTO "WE CAN MAKE A CHANGE" GREAT BRITON is the most Beautiful Country, you have to save it for generations to come, they will find it hard to forgive us if we do nothing to save it.
Saying that, every time I hear about 9/11 I think of you. I was listening to the BBC World Service here in Australia, the time was 22.55 AEST I was in bed, you were on Air, you said "You mean that there was a Plane that hit the World Trade Centre" it sounded as if you jumped out of your chair, I quickly got out of bed, and put the TV on as I thought it was Headlines,I was still listening to you, I heard you say in a shocked voice "You mean a second plane has hit the Towers"
Now how did it affect you at the time? Then I saw it on TV.
It was then I became an BBC WORLD SERVICE Listener. With you, Lyce Ducett and Owen Bennett Jones. You all have very beautiful voices, voices that people feel happy to listen to. But enjoy your Retirement from your day job. Have fun.

Garry Humphreys said...

Janet Barker for Prime Minister!
(I'm serious. Isn't it about time we had politicians serving the People, rather than themselves or their parties? What is to be done to bring these idiots to their senses?)