This discussion at the Dana Centre in South Kensington looked at several issues including changing behaviour towards climate change, turning debates into policy and how climate change affects health.
The panel included Brett Scott, activist and author of A heretics guide to global finance, Kat Watts, International Climate Change Policy Advisor for WWF, Louisa Leadlay, campaigner for the ‘Rights of the Child’ campaign at UNICEF, and Tom Angeln, a UCL student working on alternative activism. The event was chaired by Neva Frecheville, Lead Policy Analyst at CAFOD.
It started with each panellist introducing themselves, their line of research, and their opinion; Brett Scott believes environmental activism can and should play a greater role in the world of economics. He said there is great potential for activists to get involved in alternative finance and try to push for green changes. The best way, he advised, is to lobby for companies and industries to have green outlooks and use alternative finance.
Kat Watts similarly put emphasis on individuals and on using bottom-up initiatives. While governments still have a role to play, she feels that doing things on a regional or local level is also important. On the international level, governments are distracted by geopolitics and global economics and the green issue is always the first to be overlooked. She believed MPs should have a greater influence in their constituencies by supporting members of the public to pursue green initiatives.
The representative from UNICEF, Louisa Leadlay, brought a different perspective. Louisa elaborated on how UNICEF had campaigned for a Green Climate Fund in the Copenhagen Climate Conference, which would commit each participant country to pay into a fund worth £1 billion per year. The fund would be dedicated to helping poorer countries affected by climate change to adapt and pay for projects such as rebuilding schools and installing warning systems. As with many other policies at Copenhagen, this idea failed to pass through. Currently, UNICEF is campaigning to get a new deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expired this month, and the main drive is towards ‘intergenerational justice’. This is the idea that the choices adults make today affect future generations, so children should be educated on tackling the issue.
As an example of how even teenagers and young adults can make a difference, Tom Angeln from UCL told his story of setting up a small group in his high school, with the objective of helping the school become as green as possible. He feels he contributed on a small scale by just asking for recycling bins to be provided, and for plastic cups to be replaced with reusable mugs. He described how patronised he felt at receiving an award for his work. He said: “the people with power keep getting in the way and refuse to budge.” This is the case with many key players today such as governments and companies who refuse to sign on to climate agreements.
After listening to the panellists’ pitches, the audience was asked whether the best method forward would be to work towards a global consensus, or whether we should band together at the lower level. The audiences opinion was that, despite recent upsets in climate negotiations, we should work towards the consensus. Interestingly, in the workshop activities, the common factor on convincing people to become greener was to focus on their needs; there is no use selling the ‘climate’ story to people who are not interested. Instead, using arguments such as efficiency and long term savings make better progress and people are more willing to listen.
From the workshops, I concluded that there are also a lot of potential of bottom-up approaches; we do not always need the government to work for the silver bullet. I think the best solution would be to campaign for better policy in tandem with physical projects that demonstrate effectiveness and provide examples for others to follow. So while players negotiate for a hopeful outcome at Doha, perhaps we should try local scale projects of our own.