An Unsquared Circle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In her Easter message, the Prime Minister spoke of ‘the opportunities that lie ahead’ for post-EU Britain. Neither she nor any of her Ministers have ever set out exactly what these opportunities are. Nor have they ever explained why we were unable to take them as members of the EU. Most economists remain doubtful that the value of these ‘opportunities’ will exceed the losses from our self-expulsion from the Single Market.

Be that as it may, the Government has been clear that taking these opportunities will require a ‘deep and special partnership’ with the EU. It will also demand the negotiation of an array of free trade agreements with other countries. Top of the Government’s targets for such an agreement is the United States. Hence the Prime Minister’s rather unseemly rush to be among the first to hold hands with the newly installed President.

As we have now learnt, one consequence of our forty year membership of the EU has been the loss of any significant pool of expertise on trade policy. This flowed from the Commission’s ‘sole competence’ on trade matters. All trade negotiations are handled by the European Commission acting on a mandate agreed by the member states.

This prevents any attempt by trade partners to play one country off against another. But it also means that there was no need to any of the member states to retain a large body of trade experts. This was an opportunity to cut civil servants we couldn’t resist. An often overlooked benefit of EU membership on this and other issues was the ability to share the cost of regulation with the other 27 members.

The downside, however, is that there is no political understanding in Britain of the impossibility of simultaneously negotiating free trade agreements with both the EU and the US. In the headlines free trade agreements are principally about tariff barriers. In the real world these are now much less important than the so called non-tariff trade barriers.

These are the regulatory hurdles on public or animal health or the environment which goods and services must jump to get access to markets. The EU, for example, bans the import of beef that has been fed growth hormones and chickens that have been treated with chlorine, both of which are legal in the United States. One of the most fiercely fought trade issues of recent years was the EU’s eventually unsuccessful effort to ban the import from North America of oil produced from tar sands because of its higher carbon burden.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has been clear that one of the key conditions for a future UK free trade agreement with the EU will be the inclusion of ‘safeguards against unfair competitive advantages through…..environmental dumping’. Essentially, Britain will have to conform not just to the existing environmental aquis as the price of a free trade agreement but will also have to keep up with future development of EU environmental policy.

For Britain to secure a free trade agreement with the US, the Congress will have to agree to it. It is not hard to see what the UK might get, economically and politically, from such an agreement, but far less easy to see where the advantages are for the US. The negotiations will inevitably be somewhat lop-sided.

Even an environment friendly fully Democratic Congress would have been expected by its businesses to strike a hard bargain.

This would likely have required some compromises over environmental standards. The current Congress, egged on by an Administration rolling back environmental safeguards as fast as it can, will be looking for something closer to total surrender to US levels of environmental protection. This will not be acceptable to the EU.

One of the enduring lessons from my time as a Special Advisor was of the extraordinary elasticity of the English language. This can be used as a cosmetic to conceal a whole host of policy infelicities. However, such is the gulf between current EU and US approaches on the environment that it is likely to prove stretch too far for even this legendary skill.

Britain will have to make a choice. We can have a free trade agreement with the EU or we can have one with the US. We cannot have both. Contrary to their rhetoric, political leaders do not relish making clear choices. Like our present Foreign Secretary, they prefer to have their cake and eat it.

Faced with the unpalatable prospect of actually making a choice the first reflex of Ministers is to produce a fog of ambiguity. The intent is to delay the choice for as long as possible. This is bad for both business and the environment.

For business it prolongs uncertainty, threatening regulatory instability and freezing investment. For the environment, it prolongs the suspicion, fanned by the Daily Telegraph’s anti-regulatory campaign, that the Government intends to sell out the environment for a free trade agreement with the US.

The belief that we can have comprehensive free trade agreements with both the EU and the US is a delusion. Both British business and its environment would be better off if we decided clearly which one to pursue. The Government thinks this circle can be squared. It needs to explain how.

 

Tom Burke

London

April 17th 2017

 

An Unsquared Circle was first published in Business Green

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Britain’s first 24 hours without coal for 135 years – Sky News

 

 

 

 

It was a real birthday present for the earth yesterday that we saw the first day in 135 years when Britain wasn’t producing any electricity from coal. I think that is a pretty remarkable day, and it really does point to the future, which is a really low-carbon future, in which we are basically using renewables, smart meters, and a much more efficient system, which will be good for the economy, good for consumers, good for the climate, and incidentally good for the National Health Service.

 

 

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Socking The Puppet – The decline in the legitimacy of Britain’s political parties

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Government is increasingly seeking to constrain dissenting voices from civil society organisations by limiting their ability to inform the electorate, constraining their role in the planning system and closing off access to judicial review of government decisions. This is a recipe for conflict and confusion that will damage  Britain’s economy as  well as its environment. Paradoxically, it is doing so at time when political parties are becoming increasingly unrepresentative of society as a whole.

 

SOCKING THE PUPPET

 

One of the most striking features of public life in today’s Britain is the decline in the legitimacy of our political parties. Just after the war about 1 in 12 of us was a member of a political party. Now it is just 1 in 120.

At the same time membership of voluntary organisations has grown dramatically. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has twice as many members as all the political parties combined. The National Trust is three times bigger than that. Some 15 million Britons volunteer at least once a month. Volunteering contributes about £45 billion a year to the economy, the same as we will spend on defence this year.

These numbers raise an interesting question of who is best placed to speak for the people of Britain. Neither elected representatives nor unelected editors have anything like the intimate connection that civil society organisations have to the hopes and fears, needs and wants, of the public.

Furthermore, two decades of austerity have not only increased stress within society, they have also reduced the Government’s capacity to deal with this additional stress. Swingeing cuts in Departmental budgets mean that there is now often more policy expertise in the voluntary sector than within Whitehall.

Up until the election of the Coalition in 2010 there was a developing partnership between the state and civil society organisations. After WWII, the state took over the basic provision of welfare services that had previously relied on voluntary efforts. The voluntary sector filled gaps in that provision and became a source of informed analysis and innovation.

As a more affluent, confident and better educated citizenry emerged in the last quarter of the 20th Century the voluntary sector developed an additional role. It became an advocate. Expertise founded in practical experience gave voice to those failed by the state. New or neglected issues, such as the environment, were forced onto the political agenda.

This created a more complex, and somewhat tenser, relationship between the state and the voluntary sector. One the one hand there was close partnership in the delivery of services with the state often finding the voluntary sector to be a more effective vehicle than the public sector. On the other hand, voluntary sector criticism of policy and political failure became ever more vocal and well targeted.

For several decades this tension was managed by an explicit compact between the state and voluntary organisations. The state accepted that informed criticism of government policy was legitimately in the public interest and thus could be consistent with charitable purposes. The voluntary sector accepted that its commentary on public policy must be non-partisan. This allowed civil society to not only act directly on social problems but also to act on their causes.

This compact has begun to break down. There has been a sustained effort to constrain the room for the voluntary sector to intervene in both the formal and informal debates on public policy. Formal constraints have included major changes in the planning system to reduce public participation and limits on access to the courts for judicial review. Less formally, there has been a persistent effort by the Charities Commission to limit campaigning by charities.

Perhaps the most egregious step to prevent voluntary bodies giving potent expression to the public voice was the Coalition’s Lobbying Act. Intended to constrain the activities of commercial lobbyists, in which it failed, it tightly limits the role of non-governmental organisations in speaking out during elections.

These, and similar changes, are not fortuitous. They are being driven by a view emerging from the right in politics that political parties are the only legitimate voice in public policy debates. Voluntary bodies are increasingly seen from this perspective as a barrier to economic success and thus to be silenced.

This is view that is at odds with a long standing compact between governments of all complexions and the voluntary sector. It is also at odds with the deeply democratic reflexes of Britain’s political culture. As Britain moves further through one of the most disruptive social changes in its history, marginalising those voices that have a real connection to the base of society seems a recipe for turning dissent into disaster.

 

Tom Burke

London

March 7th 2017

 

This article was originally published by the Civil Exchange in a report called ‘A Shared Society?

 

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A WAR ON REASON

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below is a paragraph everyone should read. It will seem quite familiar, if slightly out of true, as if from a half forgotten newspaper article. It is in fact from a 35 year old book. Even so, to grasp the full depth of the nightmare that is Trump you need to read it.

“It had really begun. The issues were drawn, false issues; the real issues were post war fear and uncertainty. Around the country he flew, reckless and audacious, stopping long enough to make a new charge, to exhibit a new list, a good newsworthy press conference at the airport, hail fellow well met with the reporters, and then on to the next stop, the emptiness of the charges never catching up with him, the American press exploited in its false sense of objectivity (if a high official said something, then it was news, if not fact, and the role of the reporter was to print it straight without commenting, without assaulting the credibility of the incredulous, that was objectivity). It was like a circus; he was always on the move, his figures varied, his work was erratic and sloppy, he seemed to have no genuine interest in any true nature of security. It sometimes seemed as if he too were surprised by the whole thing, how easy it was, how little resistance he met, and so he hurtled forward to newer, larger charges. But if they did not stick, and they did not, his charges had an equally damaging effect: they poisoned. Where there was smoke, there must be fire. He wouldn’t be saying these things unless there was something to it. And so the contamination remained after the facts, or lack of them, evaporated; long after the specifics had faded into obscurity, the stain remained.” 

This is from David Halberstam’s book “The Best and the Brightest”. He is writing about Senator Joe McCarthy. McCarthy led the notorious campaign against alleged communist traitors in The United States at the beginning of the fifties. The populist poison he fomented is as virulent today as it was then.

Indeed it is the same poison. The vicious manipulation of fear and hatred practised by McCarthy then and by Trump today share a lineage. The witchfinder general of McCarthy’s assault on reason was a young lawyer named Roy Cohn. When McCarthy’s campaign imploded from its surfeit of excess the young lawyer withdrew to New York.

There, in the seventies he became a friend and mentor to rising real estate mogul Donald Trump. Cohn was both gay and homophobic – an unusual combination. He had a clear philosophy: always deny, never settle, always countersue. As we see, it has been fully absorbed by his apprentice.

Cohn died of AIDS in 1986. His place as a Trump guru has been taken by Stephen Bannon, now the chief political strategist in the White House. Bannon is reputed to be the intellectual driving force, such as there is, of the Trump Administration. Journalists have taken to reporting the books he reads.

Among them is Halberstam’s “The Best and the Brightest”; which is how I came to be re-reading it and so discovered the paragraph above. A New York Times journalist spotted him reading it at an airport. “I’m having everyone in the transition read it” said Bannon. Ironically, the book is an 800 page treatise on why fervour and confidence is no substitute for expertise for those in high office.

The Trump we see is the one we are going to get for the next four years. The American people have played a monumental joke on their own history by reincarnating Joe McCarthy as President. Trump will not change. McCarthyism is written into the DNA of his Administration. But like his doppelganger he will fail, drowned by his own excesses.

However, if we permit it, his failure will leave an indelible stain on the world. He has declared a war on reason. It is a war that could last well beyond his years in the White House. Churchill believed that in war “truth must wear a bodyguard of lies”. To win this war on reason we must build a wall of truth, a bodyguard of facts, to contain the toxic vomit of doubt and confusion, nacht und nebel, which is Trump’s preferred weapon.

We can start by being direct about the things he says that are not true. They are deliberate, witting, attempts to divide and mislead. Editors and politicians, priests, professors and the rest of us should not be squeamish about calling them what they are: lies. A war on reason is a war on democracy. It is not one the environment and those who speak for it can afford to lose.

 

Tom Burke

London

March 19th 2017

 

 

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Debate with Myron Ebell on Trump and climate policy – BBC World News – 21 FEB 17

 

 

BBC World News: President Trump is preparing two executive orders, aimed at scaling back Obama era policies on climate and water pollution, according to reports that we are seeing in the US media. Over the weekend hundreds of scientists, young and old, rallied because they were concerned over President Trump’s disregard for science and his denial of the impact of climate change. There is lots of talk about this, all over the world, about what a Trump administration is going to mean now for the environment and for our planet.

So, let’s talk about it, I am Join from Washington by Myron Ebell who is Donald Trump’s former advisor on climate change, and a well-known climate change sceptic. And here in the studio with me is Tom Burke, chairman of E3G or Third Generation Environmentalism, an environmental think tank. Myron, if I can start with you, you advised Donald Trump on climate change before he was elected, during the campaign. We are still not sure what to expect from President Trump, can you enlighten us?

Myron Ebell: President Trump promised during the campaign to withdrawn from the Paris Climate Treaty, defund United Nations climate programs, and undo all the executive and regulatory actions that President Obama undertook on climate policy, without the approval or involvement of the US congress.

BBC World News: And you expect him to follow through on all of those, now that he is the president?

Myron Ebell: Yes, I don’t know that he will do everything today or get everything started today, but it has been reported that some of his promises will begin to be fulfilled with executive actions today, now that we have an EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, who was confirmed last week.

BBC World News: And Myron, can you confirm for us that Donald Trump is in fact genuinely a climate change sceptic? He doesn’t believe that it is man-made?

Myron Ebell: President Trump said a number of things during the campaign, ranging from it’s a hoax, which he later walked back from, to just saying that he is not a big believer in it. He doesn’t think that it’s a major problem, and he doesn’t think that it’s a crisis.

BBC World News: Ok, Tom 97% of scientists, we saw some of them on the streets of America over the weekend, disagree with the president, they are worried about the views that he has expressed, are you worried?

Tom Burke: It’s not just scientists, the whole of the American intelligence community is worried about it, and has put climate change as one of the top threats to security for the world going forward. Most American people disagree with both the President and Myron Ebell. In fact, most of Trump’s own supporters disagree, a recent poll from Yale showed. So, what I suspect we will see is even further walking back by the president. I doubt that he will leave the Paris Agreement, to do so he would have to over-rule his own newly appointed secretary of state, who said that America should keep a seat at the table. So, I suspect that there will be quite a lot of headlines, but not necessarily all that much action.

BBC World News: What about Scott Pruitt heading up the EPA, fiercely critical of the agency that he is now in control of.

Tom Burke: I think Scott Pruitt will do a lot of damage to the American environment, and I think that he will try to slow down environmental regulations, particularly those on climate change, as much as he can. But actually, what’s really driving the change in emissions is not so much government policy, it’s actually opportunity seeking, by people like Elon Musk, by the people who are wanting to build the low-carbon economy, and are making lots of money out of it. It’s a very interesting thing, that now renewable energy in the united states employs about four times as many people as the fossil fuel industry. That’s really what’s going to drive the change.

BBC World News: So, there is an economic argument there as well. Myron if we can come back to you, listening to Tom, and some of the figures that are being bandied about, about who does believe in climate change and who doesn’t, and the scientific community involved in that as well. People would really like to understand your thinking, and the presidents thinking as well, why are you a sceptic? What is it that you disagree with exactly?

Myron Ebell: I think that the ‘climate crisis’ is overblown, I don’t think that we have an imminent crisis. I think that we have very modest warming, with very modest impacts, I think that’s the scientific consensus.  I think that there is a small alarmist community that is pushing this on behalf of very large economic interests, the climate industrial complex, that is getting rich off the backs of taxpayers and consumers. Elon Musk is a classic example, his solar business is based on huge federal subsidies, and in many cases state mandates, that require people to have renewable energy. So, all of this stuff about employment numbers, yeah, a lot of people work in the renewable energy industry, but they don’t earn a lot of money, these are largely low-paid workers. So, this is not a booming renewable economy, if you take away the taxpayer subsidies and the mandates.

BBC World News:  What would you say to that Tom?

Tom Burke: Well, I would say, if you took away the fossil fuel subsidies you would have a level playing field, coal would be gone, gas would be in trouble. Which is what we are seeing around the world now already…

Myron Ebell: This is rubbish…This is rubbish…

Tom Burke: Well, I’m sorry, just don’t be rude Myron, you will get a chance speak without being rude…

Myron Ebell: President Obama discovered four billion dollar per year for the oil and gas industry, total subsidy, four billion dollars…

Tom Burke: The fossil fuel industry receives ten million dollars a minute in subsidies, and that is an IMF figure. You can choose to believe your alternative facts if you like, but the reality is investment….

Myron Ebell: You’re confusing subsidies in countries that produce oil, like Saudi Arabia, that subsidise the price of gasoline for their consumers. That has nothing to do with what goes on in the West, in the United States and Europe. Yes, in Venezuela gas costs seventy-five cents per gallon, or something, but that’s what they do to buy off their own people in the petrostates. That has nothing to do with the subsidies in the United States or Europe, which are massive for renewable energy.

BBC World News:  Tom, I just wanted to leave with a final thought from you, about what the world feels about the US withdrawing from the Paris Agreement?

Tom Burke: It’s not that bothered, frankly. The rest of the world will go on doing what they are doing. What countries were doing by signing the Paris Agreement was pursuing their national interest, as they see it. It would be much better if America joined the rest of the world, but if America wants to be last, why should we worry?

BBC World News: Tom and Myron, I was expecting it to be feisty, it was indeed. Thanks very much for joining us.

 

 

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Toshiba scales back on nuclear – Channel 4 News – 14 Feb 17

 

 

Toshiba is basically bust, and it has been broken, in fact, by a nuclear project. So the idea that it won’t want to get rid of Moorside for whatever value it can realise, seems to be very, very unlikely.  They will try to sell it, I’m not sure that they will find a buyer.

What there is a real risk of here, is pouring good money after bad, because the headlines would be so awful if they just said that they were giving up.

 

 

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Discussing government failure in controlling air pollution – Radio 4 – 2 Feb 17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the consequence of complete failure by the government to tackle a problem that it has known about for a long time. It is now in breach of our own laws about controlling air pollution, and it has known about that and it has done nothing, even though Client Earth succeeded in a high court action for them to come up with a plan.

Compulsory purchase addresses the wrong end of the problem. You can’t blame the people and make the people pay for a problem that is a failure of government. I do understand the frustrations, not just in Cornwall, it’s in Birmingham, it’s in London, you have got councils that have been dumped with the problem by failure of government to take an action that it knows it should take.

The local councils are trying really hard to deal with the problem where they can, and where they can make a difference at the margin, lots of councils are doing that. The problem is now getting to a state where you have got to spend millions of pounds on a bypass, you are getting beyond what local councils can really be expected to do. With a compulsory purchasing order to move people away from the pollution, you are going beyond what local councils can do. So there are lots of local councils who should be applauded for what they are doing, but they can’t make up for the failures of central government.

The motor industry cheated on the air quality test standards, so you can’t go on blaming the people for a problem that government really does need to address. We have the technologies to produce vehicles, and all the mobility that people want, without killing them, and incidentally adding to the burden on the health service. We have the technology to do that, but government had to set a lead. It is failing to do that. On diesels, we could be shifting them over to liquid petroleum gas, to get rid of that particular problem.

 

 

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Ladybird Book on climate change by Prince Charles – Sky News – 22 Jan 17

 

 

The duty of a constitutional monarch in Britain is to advise warn and encourage, and that is exactly what he is doing with this book [on climate change]. He is advising us about a problem that we really need to pay attention to. He’s been doing that for about 40 years now, and the only people who have ever seemed to have objected to it are unelected editors and few politicians who disagree with him. Actually, I think that he has probably been more in tune with the public than most of our political leader and commentators.

I think that it will reach an audience that it not often reached by a lot of the other media and the other channels that are available, but also because it has got his imprimatur, this is probably, after Mr Trump, one of the most well known figures in the world, and the fact that he is speaking out on [climate change] at a time when all of the evidence in people’s lives is beginning to come through. Exactly what the scientists said would happen. We have seen the hottest winter in the arctic that we have ever seen. We have seen an extraordinary increase in floods and extreme weather events all around the world. We have our own flood events happening here. So all of the things that the scientists were telling us thirty years ago were likely to happen, we are now starting to see happening.

Trump is not in a reality TV show. He is in the real world, and in the real world the climate is not going to pay any attention to what Mr Trump thinks. What I am more concerned about is the fact that one this creates an enormous opportunity for the Chinese to fill the space left by the Americans, and therefore to build support for a country that you want to be careful about. But also, actually it means America last, because what is going to happen is that the rest of the world is going to go on taking the opportunities of building a low carbon economy, and he is going to slow down the effort of the united states to take on the new smart technologies, which is where we are actually going to go anyway.

I don’t think that there is a problem with the public. I think the public, by enlarge, ‘gets it’ on climate change. I think that there are some, very small groups of people who don’t get it. The public is a bit less alert to what it should do, and it’s looking to governments to do more than they are doing, to give a lead, as it were. I think ladybird will reach an audience of people who don’t spend a lot of time looking at news channels, and don’t spend a lot of time looking at newspapers, but actually will use the book and, partly because it is a Ladybird Book, will be using it with their kids.

 

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Donald Trump will have to deal with climate change – Sky News

 

 

 

Sky News: The adventurer Sir David Hempleman-Adams has called on politicians to stop stalling and keep their promises to slow climate change. It was after he witnessed the impact of global warming during an expedition to the Arctic. The journey, via the north-east and north-west passages, traditionally takes three years to complete but his team managed it in just four months and one day.

[…]

He has completed more than thirty arctic expeditions, and has just been knighted by the queen, but adventurer David Hempleman-Adams has today spoken out about the impact of global warming. Something he says that he has witnessed first-hand.

Sir David Hempleman-Adams: There will be just pure ocean at the North Pole in a few years time. I actually believe that. I have seen that change. I think it will be that radically different. And it is only then, I think, that politicians, once we get continuous flooding and continuous storms, and we are spending billions of pounds on repairs, that politicians will actually wake up.

Sky News: Last year David completed a four month expedition around the Arctic on this yacht, a journey that would traditionally take around three years. But, as these drone pictures show, there has been a significant loss of ice.

Sir David Hempleman-Adams: The north-west passage, we did that in literally fourteen days, and we were a sailing boat. If we had a speed boat we could probably to it in a few days. We didn’t see any ice what so ever, I mean, we didn’t even find enough ice for a gin and tonic. It was very, very scary.

Sky News: The impact of global warming had in recent years been very well documented, with the British government playing its part to try to reduce greenhouse gases. But Britain can’t work alone. There are now concerns about president elect Donald Trump’s views on the subject.

Donald Trump: “We are going to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement, and stop all payments of US tax dollars to UN global warming programs”.

Sky News: He has even chosen Scott Prewitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, who criticised President Obama’s climate change policies.

Tom Burke: I think that Mr Trump is going to discover that he is no longer on a reality TV show. He is going to run head on into the reality of climate change, and he is going to have to accommodate the facts and not the other way around. There is no doubt that he is very sceptical, and that he has appointed a very sceptical cabinet, but they are still going to actually have to deal with the problem.

Sky News: Ice has declined by more than 30% over the last 25 years, and there are now concerns about the impact that is having on animals like the polar bear. Sir David’s warning is that action must be taken now, before we all start witnessing greater flooding and famine around the world.

 

 

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The UK has formally signed up to the Paris climate change agreement – Sky News

 

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Sky News: The UK has formally signed up to the first climate change agreement that covers every country on earth. It comes as there is uncertainty over America’s role in the Paris Agreement. Donald Trump had described climate change as a hoax invented by China. I’m joined now by Tom Burke, chairman of Third Generation Environmentalism, and former senior advisor to the Foreign Secretary’s special representative on Climate Change. Good evening to you, Tom Burke. So the UK has formerly ratified this, signed up to today. What is the significance of the Paris Agreement?

Tom Burke:  Well the real significance of the Paris Agreement is the way that it represents a real turning point when the political risk equation is changing, for governments now the political risk of failing to act on climate change is increasing, meanwhile the political risks of acting is decreasing, as the cost of renewables goes through the floor. So the events that the scientists have been predicting are now happening with increasing frequency, and really driving home to political leaders everywhere that this is a problem that is going to have major political impact on people’s prosperity and their security, and at the same time we are seeing that the cost of dealing with the problem are really going through the floor, as the cost of renewables goes down, the cost of storage goes down, we are beginning to see people take up all of the opportunities in a low-carbon economy.

Sky News:  Yeah, what about the political risks, as you describe them, of Donald Trump?  Who is a climate sceptic, he has previously claimed that climate change didn’t exist and he has threatened to pull out of the Paris Agreement, and promised a coal revival.

Tom Burke:  Yeah, he is probably a political risk to more than the climate as well. But the reality is that there is not a huge amount that he can actually do to stop the momentum. He can certainly slow down the regulatory push. He can do things domestically that mean that legislation doesn’t drive a low-carbon economy forward faster in the US. He can’t really do much to stop the international community going forward. If you remember the Bush Administration pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, meanwhile the rest of the world got on with it and achieved the objectives. In that sense he can’t stop the world going ahead. The Chinese aren’t doing something about climate change because they care about what the President of the United States is thinking, they are doing something about climate change because it immediately affects their people, and they are going to go on doing that. So I don’t think that we are going to see a very dramatic change globally. Domestically, in the US, I think that we are going to see a slowing down of their efforts there. But you have to remember that in the US the reach of the president doesn’t run everywhere, there are going to be a lot of states, like California and other states, that are going to go on driving forward to take up the opportunities in a low-carbon economy, there are going to be a lot of cities going ahead and doing things, so I don’t think that we are going to see quite the same cataclysm that some people have said. I think we are going to discover that Elon Musk, the guy who is producing the electric vehicles at Tesla, is a much better businessman than Donald Trump.

Sky News: You talked about the costs of dealing with the problem of climate change, and I wonder if the economics might influence Donald Trump to change his position slightly, he is a businessman; he is a numbers man after all.

Tom Burke: I think that you are right about that. What might well influence Donald Trump, as it really should be influencing our own government, is the fact that the rest of the world really is moving on very fast with an energy transition, an energy revolution, that really is driving forward towards low-carbon. And because we have been a bit incoherent in our policy, are getting left behind, and there is a real risk that if Donald Trump does what he has been talking about, then the same thing will happen in the United States. So we will be surrendering massive amounts of market opportunities to the Chinese and the European countries, that are getting on with the energy revolution.

Sky News: How bigger challenge is it to meet this commitment that the Paris Agreement sets, and what changes will the UK and other countries have to make in order to do that.

Tom Burke: It is a very big challenge to meet it, and we are not going fast enough with what we are doing, so we are going to have to do more. Now that was recognised in the Paris Agreement, it was recognised that this was a start, and that we would have to keep upping what we are doing regularly. There is a so called ratchet mechanism that would drive things forward every five years. So we are going to have to go faster. What I suspect will happen is that we will end up making much better use of our resources in generating capacity, being much more efficient in the way that we use energy in our own homes, lowering our own bills, and in particular in many parts of the world it’s going to improve air quality, as we take out the emissions from vehicles and from power stations. So actually what we are going to see as we get on with this energy revolution, is lots of aspect of our lives improving, not just reducing the threat of climate change.

Sky News: And if we needed a reminder of why the Paris Agreement is necessary, we had the news this week that it is the warmest year on record.

Tom Burke: I think that is absolutely right, and we have seen this year, for instance, the hurricane season in the Indian and Pacific oceans was very aggressive. We are seeing a huge increase in the number of deaths and the amount of damage that is done by extreme weather events, and that is only one of the manifestations of an increasing climate. Almost every year this decade has been warmer than the year before, and that is a pretty alarming sign, as we what that scientists told us twenty years ago was going to happen, is actually happening a bit faster than they said.

Sky News: Ok. Tom Burke, thank you very much for joining us this evening on Sky News.

 

 

 

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