Sky News – Discussing COP21 and progress so far

 

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Sky News: Let’s talk to Tom Burke an Environmentalist and former Government advisor. Let’s be blunt. People have been droning on about climate change and global warming for so many years now, but nothing ever gets agreed and nothing ever happens, is that why we’re switching off?

Tom Burke: I think nothing every gets agreed and nothing happens in a way that makes good television, but it’s actually not true that nothing happens. We’ve now got about 840 pieces of legislation around the world, and emissions have gone down much further than they could ever have gone down without the agreement. So I agree with you, there is that sort of perception around, but that’s partly watching a process like this is a bit like watching paint dry, it does actually dry.

 

Sky News: But if so much has been agreed, then you could say why are we hearing Prince Charles talking and saying its all doom and gloom? Why do we still get the impression that not enough is being done and we are still heading for disaster?

Tom Burke: In terms of what needs to be done that absolutely right. Yes, we have made progress, we have made a lot of progress. Is it enough to make the world safe and our future safe? No it’s not. What I think is really interesting though, is that we are at a turning point where up until now we have tended to be a bit doom and gloom, a bit how do we stop people doing something bad? I think the debate is increasingly now about how do we get to do something good? How do we build a low-carbon economy, with lots of opportunities, lots of jobs, and lots of revenues for the smart companies of the future, for example the Elon Musk’s, the people who provide electric vehicles. So I think we are now looking at a much more opportunity driven debate.

 

Sky News: But you’re trying to pull together 175 different nations to come to some sort of co-ordinated agreement and that’s not easy is it? And this is the final year, they have set themselves this 2015 deadline.

Tom Burke: It’s actually 196 countries, and I think the expectation that they will come to an agreement are now quite high, so I’m not worried about whether we will get to an agreement, it’s whether the agreement is good enough, and I think that is still to be debated, and we will see at the end of the fortnight. I think the French have been very clever in getting the leaders to come early, because they are going to come, they are going to make a speech, declare victory and go home. That makes it very difficult for there to be a failure at the end of the fortnight.

 

Sky News: Is part of the reason why people are switching off because they are getting more savvy? Even if we have electric cars, you have to charge your car, that electricity has to be generated somewhere, and in the UK that electricity is probably being generated by burning coal. Is it just pushing the problem along to somebody else?

Tom Burke: Actually about a quarter of our electricity in the UK is generated from renewables, it’s much higher than people expect. So I think it depends on where you’re getting you electricity. But I think there is a sense in which people have heard the story for a long time, and there is still some confusion, there are still some politicians who say don’t worry this isn’t really a problem, there is still an occasional editor who wants to present this as if it is still a matter of opinion, rather than what’s actually happening, what’s fact. So I think that helps to create a little bit of confusion and people have got other things on their mind a lot at the moment. So I’m not surprised that we’re seeing a bit of uncertainty about how committed people are to getting this done. But you know, you’ve got the Pope, a hundred and ninety six world leaders every scientific academy in the world telling you that this is a problem we’ve got to do something about, and David Attenborough joined the crowd today. So I think that we shouldn’t be in any doubt about where we are going.