Sky news: With me now in the studio is Tom Burke, a former senior adviser to the foreign secretary’s special representative on climate change, and now the chairman of third generation environmentalism, which encourages sustainable development. First of all, Mr Burke, what do you make of this documentary?
Tom Burke: Well I think that there is both bad news and good news, the bad news is that the climate is changing faster, and its impacts are nastier, than we used to think. The good news is, that the things that we need to do to solve it, decarbonising our economy, using renewables and getting more efficient, all those costs are going through the floor. It is getting cheaper and cheaper to do what we need to do. What I think that Al Gore is doing is putting his finger on the nub of the problem, which is not the technology, we have lots of that, which is not the economics, we won’t wreck our economy by solving this problem. It is getting the politics right, and that’s what I think he is setting out to do which this film.
Sky News: So how exactly do we now put that into action?
Tom Burke: Well, his part in that, is to mobilise lots of people in the base of society, in order to put pressure on parliamentarians, representatives and politicians, from their own constituencies, to take this problem seriously. At the end of the day politician pay more attention to the people who vote particularly for them than others, and that’s what I think is unique about the approach that Gore is taking here, but then you’ve got to build on that with the thousands and thousands of organizations there are. But what has really changed in the last 4 or 5 years, is the extent to which business has begun to get in on the act, and discover the extent to which the risks to the climate are also risks to business. So what we saw on the same day as Trump pulled America out of the Paris Agreement, was we saw the world largest investment company vote against Exxon, because it wasn’t putting enough emphasis on climate risk to the profitability of the oil company.
Sky News: But surely, on the whole, President Trump is a big problem?
Tom Burke: There is no doubt at all that President Trump is a problem. He is a problem not because he can stop us doing what we are doing, but what Paris did was set us on the right road, but it didn’t take us far enough, and we are not going fast enough, And I think that Trump will slow down the acceleration that we make, and how we deploy the technologies we have to solve this problem.
Sky News: Al Gore said the climate movement has seen an incredible surge because people were worried by what President Trump said. So you do not agree with that?
Tom Burke: I agree with what Gore said, there has been this enormous surge because people are quite correctly scared by having somebody as erratic as Trump in the White House. But I think that his direct effect on the progress that we are making, the day after Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement, 19 other nations at the G20 meeting, reaffirmed their commitment to going ahead, so he has no influence on other politicians, and in particular in the United States, he has no influence on business voices, and he had no influence on the states and cities that are going ahead with getting America to meet its commitments.
Sky News: What kind of situation are we in with climate change? What are we looking at 100 years from now?
Tom Burke: I think that if within 100 years we don’t solve this problem we won’t be having reasonable discussions on television shows like this. What people haven’t really grasped is the extent to which, if the climate changes at the current pace that it is, by the time we get to the end of the century, not even one hundred years away, we are going to be in a world that is full of conflict, in which a lot of the things that we take for granted, that make our economy work and keep us secure, all of those things will be put a risk. We are seeing already the effects of climate change in places like Africa, and part of south America, it is driving people of their lands as they become uninhabitable. We are seeing that effect now, not in huge numbers, but we go on changing the climate at the rate we are now, we are going to get more of that. We have already seen just how difficult it is if you get lots of people trying to move around on the planet. So you have problems like that, and problem with the fact that it will alter the amount of water that’s available to human beings, particularly in parts of Asia, for instance, where we will have real problems producing enough food for people to eat. All of those problem will get worse if we don’t deal with this problem.
Sky news: But of course addressing the issue cost billions of pounds, when budgets are already stretched.
Tom burke: The private sector could address this issue, if the government sets the right kind of policy framework. You have to think that if you don’t solve this problem you will definitely wreck your economy. What we are seeing now is the more we move to a decarbonised economy the better it actually is for our economy, it is much more efficient, and we’ve got a whole range of new technologies generating new investment. So I‘m not worried about the fact that it will cost a lot. It will cost a lot to keep everybody supplied with energy however we do it.
Sky News: Tom Burke, thanks very much for your thoughts, we appreciate your time this evening.