Mark the date: 12 December “COP26 Launchpad” – Time for the UK to show real global leadership

by Hugh Richards, Chair of GlosCAN

There are now just over two months in which to persuade the UK Government to come up with new climate policy initiatives befitting its self-appointed global leadership role as host to the COP26 UN climate conference in Glasgow in November 2021.

That timescale is based on the UK Prime Minister’s announcement on 24 September that the UK will host a “virtual summit” on 12 December, billed as a “COP26 Launchpad” event. This will include a global stocktake on countries’ “Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDCs) towards reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). The context of the event will include China’s announcement on 22 September that its NDC will involve emissions peaking in 2030 and reaching net neutrality by 2060. The context will also include the USA’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and (perhaps) a known outcome of the US Presidential election. It will be a critical moment.

What will the UK be able to say on 12 December that has not already been said in the Prime Minister’s speech to the virtual UN General Assembly Climate Roundtable on 24 September? That speech did not follow the script briefed to journalists (e.g. the Daily Mail and the Guardian’s Fiona Harvey) and was delivered in an informal, “off-the-cuff” style that is difficult to quote. However, the PM did say this: “We were very very ambitious on our agenda, and we are going flat out to really blaze what we hope will be a very ambitious national contribution [i.e. NDC] for COP 26, and I do want everybody’s [i.e. other countries’ NDCs] to be similarly ambitious.”

This could be interpreted as meaning that the UK Government is contemplating an NDC that goes beyond the “net zero by 2050” commitment that has already been legislated. The political and mathematical necessity of such a change is demonstrated by China’s recent announcement. If China is not to reach net zero until 2060, “climate progressive” countries such as the UK will have to do so sooner if the goal of global net zero around 2050 is to be achievable. To retain any credibility in its leadership role ahead of COP 26, the UK must improve on its current commitment of net zero by 2050 and take immediate policy actions to get UK emissions on a trajectory towards the new target.

The need for the UK to improve on its current NDC is central to the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill introduced into Parliament in September 2020. The 12 December COP26 Launchpad event provides the UK Government with an ideal platform for responding to that challenge.

However, countries setting ambitious NDCs will not guarantee success in actually reducing global emissions of GHGs with the necessary speed. Another ambitious policy initiative that the UK could launch on 12 December would be to propose a globally effective international agreement to control and limit the extraction of fossil carbon at source. Such a “supply-side” approach has been called “the road less taken” in climate policy circles. So far, it seems to have been “the road not taken”. For the UK to submit its own fossil fuel extraction plans to such an agreement would give credibility to such a proposal.

A supply-side agreement on fossil carbon extraction would support the Paris Agreement in a number of ways (e.g. as set out in a paper in Science in 2019). Failure to participate in such an agreement, or failure of a participant to adhere to it, would become clear grounds for disinvestment and/or sanctions. Thus, a “triple lock” on the global fossil carbon budget could be secured:

  • Demand reduction through implementation of countries’ Paris Agreement NDCs
  • Supply reduction through the supply-side agreement on extraction, and
  • Disinvestment and sanctions against “rogue” unregulated extraction.

As a campaigning tool, I have written a set of talking points for the ideal speech that I would wish the PM or Alok Sharma (President of COP26) to give on 12 December (if not before). I have already shared this with my MP (Siobhan Baillie) but as she is still on maternity leave I have not yet had any response.

My hope is that the imagined speech outline will be used (and perhaps adapted) by others to engage with their MPs and that Alok Sharma and perhaps even the PM will see it or hear about it and take seriously its two main propositions:

  • To increase the ambition of the UK’s NDC (e.g. by seeking unconstrained advice from the Committee on Climate Change)
  • To initiate a “supply-side” agreement to control global extraction of fossil fuels (e.g. through the International Energy Agency).

Referenced paper: The Case for a Supply-Side Climate Treaty: The Paris Agreement can be strengthened by a treaty limiting global fossil fuel Supply. G. B. Asheim et al., Science, July 2019.

(Please note: posts on these blog pages are the personal views of the authors only and are not intended to represent any agreed or general view on the part of

Berkeley Vale Climate Action Network

by Jenny Cotterill

We held our inaugural Berkeley ValeCAN  meeting in January 2020 and having made tentative plans to engage local people with our aims, lockdown got in the way. Keeping in touch on zoom during the early months of the year, our small group decided to plan an event to reach out to our neighbours in Berkeley in a safe, socially distanced way. 

On August 1st, in Berkeley Square, we set up a small stall decorated with pictures made by children from Slimbridge Primary depicting eco-friendly activities and an option-board asking people to sticker their most serious environmental concerns from six chosen areas. We also had a collection of potted purple basil plants to give away.

It proved a really successful day, most people we approached were happy to talk to us and others crossed the road in order to do so. Single use plastic (being fuelled by added Anti-Covid masks/gloves) was the greatest  concern, followed by wishing to retain & improve local shopping. This will inform our approach to future events.

We all thoroughly enjoyed chatting to people about their environmental worries and how to start finding ways of overcoming them including joining our local group. Even better, our contact list doubled.

We are now planning to hold another stall near Slimbridge school to catch the parents as they collect their children which we hope will be equally if not more successful.

Building a Network of Local Climate Action Groups across Stroud District

by Fred Barker

Transition Stroud (TS) has been working to encourage, enable and support the setting up of community-based Climate Action Groups (CAGs) across the District. These groups have a key part to play in mobilising their local communities to reduce carbon emissions and build community resilience.

During 2019, TS organised ‘start-up’ workshops in Stroud, Dursley and Berkeley. These led to the creation of new groups, including in Dursley and Berkeley Vale. Since then, it has supported initial meetings of a range of new groups, including in Coaley, Cainscross, Minchinhampton, Stroud Town and, most recently, Brimscombe and Thrupp.

Overall, there are around 18 groups in various stages of development, covering approximately half of the District’s 52 parishes. Some are community led, some Parish Council led. Some cover a single parish, some a small cluster of parishes. This online map shows the location of groups, their geographic coverage, and how to contact them. (Click on the dot and information comes up).

TS is now planning online events to encourage new groups to form in other parts of Stroud District. If you would like to help set up a new group in your parish, please get in touch (see the e-mail address below).

TS is also committed to developing and supporting a network of local CAGs across the District. As part of this, we have convened six meetings of a district-wide CAN (Climate Action Network) Forum for representatives of local groups – since lockdown these meetings have successfully moved online. The Forum enables the sharing of information, experience and learning, and encourages collaborative working.

At recent Forum meetings we’ve focused on how local groups can emerge from lockdown. In June, we discussed ideas for practical local projects on local food growing, domestic energy efficiency, reducing the use of petrol/diesel cars; and developing local skills for community resilience. In July, we heard presentations on the District Council’s ‘Recover, Reset, and Renew’ strategy, and on Horsley CAN’s Action Plan about how to respond to the local opportunities and threats arising from the pandemic.

For further information about the network of local climate action groups contact

Fred Barker,

Transition Stroud

24 August 2020

Beautiful Earth Trilogy

by Penny Squire, composer

(Please note: posts on these blog pages are the personal views of the authors only and are not intended to represent any agreed or general view on the part of

Healing the Earth is a film that shows how people all over the world are getting together to highlight ways of reducing the carbon  footprint of human activities. The film hopes to inspire and demonstrate the many ways we can make a difference in our everyday lives. The music, composed by Penny Squire, is in 5 movements: 1) Jagged Path, 2) Glimmers of Hope, 3) Regrowth, 4) Delicate Balance, 5) Small Precious Dot.


It is the third piece in a trilogy called Beautiful Earth Trilogy, the first piece being Troubled Planet, and the second Walking With Nature. The project as a whole aims to raise awareness of the impacts of climate change, and show that it is up to us all to help prevent it.

Update – April 2020

Questions and fun activities for children to do while they are restricted by Coronavirus (COVID-19). They relate to 2 out of 3 short films about climate change called ‘Beautiful Earth Trilogy’.
It’s accessible via the menu bar at

Simply the Best? A proposal for an international protocol for a global 100% renewable energy infrastructure

– by Julian Jones, Water21

(Please note: posts on these blog pages are the personal views of the authors only and are not intended to represent any agreed or general view on the part of

This proposal for an international protocol for a 100% Renewable Energy infrastructure arose following a Stroud Transition Town showing of the film ‘Blue Heart’ in 2018, . This catalogues the ecologically & socially damaging effects of 3000 new hydropower projects in the Balkan region; many built or funded with British involvement.   Following this film showing Julian undertook to raise this with the British Hydropower Association and this presentation is the result.

All power generation types have benefits but also incur many costs, including all renewables: carbon emissions in construction & operation; thermal effects; damage to wildlife and water resources, etc.  This protocol outlines a methodology for assessing these costs and benefits on a national and regional basis to enable the most informed and transparent generation choices to be made.

See presentation :

“Julian kicked off the first session with a highly thought-provoking presentation in which he promoted the concept of an international protocol promoting hydropower as the bedrock of a universal infrastructure of renewable energy.” (BHA )

A similar protocol might be applied to Gloucestershire where over 369% of total 2011 carbon footprint was found to be feasible by Gloucestershire County Council consultants Entec.

This proposal is now being developed further within the E-Axis of the UNFC, for reporting to UNECE September 2021.


Julian is a director of Water21, a not-for-profit organisation that works with landowners and communities to develop sustainable protection against flood, drought, and public health risks in the community.

Form a climate trade union?

By Adi, 7 Feb 2020

(Please note: posts on these blog pages are the personal views of the authors only and are not intended to represent any agreed or general view on the part of

I would like to know if anyone is interested in helping to form a kind of climate trade union. 
Jot me an email back if you want to know more:
The premise/logic is as follows:
To EFFECTIVELY lever the changes needing to be taken by Government MEANS  more civil disobedience by more people is necessary (above what XR has achieved so far) . This leaves us with the challenge of:  How can protest expand without alienating support?
One idea is establishing a dedicated climate trade union. Trade unions  are a traditional format of civil disobedience but one which workers, companies and government respect, so workers can protest without fear of losing their jobs etc.
If anyone would be interested in becoming part of the core group to try to set up this Union with the government’s “certification officer” as an officially “listed” trade union, then please email me on and we will be forming a working group on this avenue. I’ve done preliminary work to make a starting point for discussion.

6 advantages (as I see it) of the Trade Union idea:

* Pre-empts crackdown on protest rights by new government (an insurance policy)
* Legitimizes people who are uncomfortable with existing form of protest , allows them to join
* Allows workers to protest without fear of losing  job (employers must allow industrial action)
* Reduces criticism that protesters don’t work/rich/on benefits etc. (“Get a job” haggles)
* Facilitates adults to join “Fridays for the Future” kids (uncomfortable joining kids otherwise)
* Make a LOCAL economic “unproductive day” – a strike – in each local area (e.g. one Friday/month to begin). Make demands upon local companies to become Carbon Neutral.

So the idea is that there is a dedicated carbon-neutral trade union (unlike wide workers’ rights remit of usual unions) to convince more companies to become carbon neutral and that the workers can join this trade union to tell their employers in a friendly way to change. BUT that’s just the soft idea behind it, the real strong point is that, if it worked as a pilot in Stroud and went nationwide, if enough people joined, the union could do a “pledge” online saying, for example: if 1 million people “pledge” then we will all not work that day. Withholding our work services can damage the economy and force government to make stronger carbon decisions. They get a legitimate day off – don’t have to go to the streets (which some people are uncomfortable with) but can sit at home and have an impact (or go on the streets or have a modern interactive Picketing event system online). The word “strike” should be replaced and I think we should coin the term “withhold” as a substitute. It avoids old triggers, conjures deliberate conscious withdrawal of a good thing – like we are the parent withdrawing and punishing the government for not behaving well enough, and we are also empowered by our choice to withdraw services to the country.


A ‘LINGO Treaty’ to control legitimately burnable fossil fuels at source?

By Hugh Richards, 16 August 2019

(Please note: posts on these blog pages are the personal views of the authors only and are not intended to represent any agreed or general view on the part of

The graphic below illustrates the brutal reality of the challenge the world faces in bringing the fossil fuel age to an end quickly enough to avert disastrous global heating.

Since 2014 I have become increasingly convinced that the necessary dramatic reductions in fossil carbon emissions could never be achieved by reducing global demand for fossil fuels, whether by carbon taxes, reducing the costs of renewable energy, emissions trading, ethical consumer choices or anything else. Surely the threats from burning fossil fuels should be limited by controlling their supply.

My ‘light-bulb moment’ on this came from reading the following statement in the book The Burning Question by Mike Berners-Lee and Duncan Clark:
‘… for all the talk about finite resources and peak oil, scarcity is resoundingly not the problem. From the climate’s perspective, there is far too much fossil fuel. The problem, in fact, is abundance.’

So, how could legitimately burnable fossil fuels become a finite and increasingly scarce global resource?

Partly because of my employment in the nuclear industry, I saw potential parallels with the way that global stocks of fissile nuclear material are monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency in order to limit the threats from nuclear weapons, while allowing (for better or worse) civil nuclear power to develop. I developed these thoughts in a short note entitled (perhaps unwisely) Fantasy Climate Control, not holding out much hope that such ideas were gaining any ground. In my March 2018 blog-post Carbon Bombs – A Slow-Burn Narrative I concluded by writing: ‘The notion of carbon bombs is not new … but perhaps its time has not yet come.’

I was therefore delighted when, in October 2018, Andrew Simms and Peter Newell used a Guardian Online article to float the idea of a ‘Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty’ (FF-NPT) along the lines of the 1968 nuclear NPT, and a number of major figures wrote a letter to The Guardian supporting the idea. I was furthermore pleasantly surprised when The Guardian published a letter of my own (my only one to date) also supporting the idea and adding some perspectives drawn from Fantasy Climate Control. I am grateful to Richard House (GlosCAN Steering Group member) for coordinating  the multi-signatory letter to The Guardian supporting Extinction Rebellion that I was able to refer to in my letter and thus increase its chances of publication.

I got in touch with Peter Newell (Professor of International Relations, University of Sussex) and in early July 2019 he sent me the link to a published peer-reviewed paper Towards a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty in the journal Climate Policy. Personal circumstances allowed me to write some fairly detailed (hand-written) notes in response to the paper, H-Richards-reponse-to-paper-Towards-a-FF-NPT-by-Newell-and-Simms, which I have shared with its authors, and which Vaughan Webber has also kindly uploaded to the GlosCAN website with some background, under the Bigger Picture web-pages.

Despite being hand-written (for reasons given in their Addendum), I hope these notes will stimulate discussion among people who may be engaged in developing or promoting their or other ‘supply side’ ideas about how fossil fuels could be controlled at source.

Having been encouraged to write this blog-post by Vaughan Webber (who also typed it up), my hope is that it will lead to these kinds of ideas being discussed more widely in the climate activist community. As I say in my notes on the paper, I am not sure that the phrase ‘Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty’ is the best available. Given that the acronym ‘LINGO’ has been coined (, perhaps we might soon hear:
What do we want?
A LINGO treaty!
When do we want it?



This blog-post was originally published on 16 August 2019.  It has since come to my attention that the ‘LINGO’ organisation have proposed a “Transition Treaty” (› transition-treaty).  However, I agree with Newell and Simms that there are major problems with one of LINGO’s key proposals, namely compensating potential fossil fuel producers (e.g. Ecuador in the Yasuni case) for lost revenues if reserves remain in the ground.  One senior politician who has responded to my blog-post incorrectly assumed that I was advocating such a compensation scheme, and questioned how the large sums involved could be better spent.  Perhaps I have been unwise in suggesting the phrase ‘LINGO Treaty’.

In fact, one of my main criticisms of the Newell and Simms proposals is their emphasis on the perceived need for what they call a ‘Global Transition Fund’.  No such huge supra-national financing arrangements are needed for the control of fissile nuclear material (and hence nuclear weapons proliferation), so I do not see why they should be needed to control extraction of fossil fuels. 


(Note: post-script added 31 Oct 2019.)

East Africa and climate action

By Fred Miller, Fri 12 April 2019


(Please note: posts on these blog pages are the personal views of the authors only and are not intended to represent any agreed or general view on the part of


In the UK this week, 6 April – 14 April, Extinction Rebellion climate campaigners are walking to London, and then (15 April onwards) taking direct action to bring about the policies that are needed to tackle our global ecological emergency. Despite government distraction with Brexit, the real issues concerning our greenhouse gas emissions, and how these are linked to our economy, are being ignored, and are still not understood by those who create our national narratives (such as the BBC’s current affairs programmes).

Climate chaos is hitting Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi with terrible floods, which are literally wiping out people, land and soil. The rich people of the world are responsible for this by pumping out CO2 from their continued over-use of fossil fuels. The severity of tropical storm Idai was definitely made worse by man-made climate change.

There is now plentiful scientific evidence for planetary breakdown, of both the climate, and the ecosystem services which we rely on, such as food, soil and pollination by insects, as well as the sheer cruelty and inequality of our economic system. The disruption is worst in areas with a fragile climate: where it is hot, it becomes even hotter, with droughts, fires and floods.

In Zimbabwe, the formal greetings of the Shona language express concern for the other person:
Q: How are you? A: I am well, if you are well. And hence, the opposite is implied: ‘If you are not well, then I am not well either.’ So the message that we all need to send to our brothers and sisters in the storm-damaged areas of south eastern Africa is: ‘We are not OK, because you are not OK.’

I have been told of a phrase from the streets of Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe: ‘Taja muka’ (We have had enough of this). This implies the desire for better governance. And there is a song called ‘Buka tiende’ (Wake up, let’s go), played on the traditional mbira (thumb piano). Putting these together, we have a good phrase for us all: ‘We have had enough of this, so wake up, let’s go.’

We not only urge the immediate relief needed by the two million people displaced by the storm:…/cyclone-idai-relief-fund/ , but we also urge action to reverse greenhouse gas emissions which are causing this climate change. We need new ways of governance that act on scientific evidence. This needs to happen at national and local level, and of, course, at international level.

We need to create a zero carbon economy, with wind and solar power, and at the same time absorb carbon into the landscape with trees and soil, grow food using the methods of agro-ecology, restoring ecosystems as we go, and thus add protection against flooding and soil loss.

Thee are lots of solutions, such as those listed by the Drawdown Project ( A new push for natural climate solutions is also to be welcomed.

Why such measures are not now being rolled out across the world is inexplicable, when the need is so obvious. We’ve had enough of this. Wake up, Let’s go: Taja muka, Buka tiende!

Extinction Rebellion – a Friendly Critique

By Hugh Richards, 9 March 2019

(Please note: posts on these blog pages are the personal views of the authors only and are not intended to represent any agreed or general view on the part of

Climate change is a ‘planetary emergency’ threatening ‘the extinction of many species and the lives of many of the human species,’ especially those in ‘what we presume to call the less-developed nations of the world’ but also ‘the young and yet unborn of all nations’. These were phrases I jotted down from a speech given by the then NASA climate scientist James Hansen to a ‘Stop Climate Chaos’ demonstration in Coventry (HQ of the energy company EON) in March 2009.

That was ten years ago, and now the climate emergency is even more acute and there is much wider recognition that the world is in the midst of a mass extinction event, caused not by geological processes or an asteroid impact, but by human activity.

Nothing remotely proportionate is being done at the global scale to limit the damage to come, and there is no sign of that changing in the next few crucial years.

So something as disruptive as Extinction Rebellion (XR) seeks to be is sorely needed. But can XR, as a leaderless organisation, bring about the transformation of public attitudes it seeks, both in the UK and internationally, using civil disobedience linked to a set of demands?

Some XR supporters have told me that the demands as written are not really important. One suggested that the demand for the UK to reach zero carbon emissions by 2025 might be ‘a rhetorical flourish’. But could such an impossible demand be used by politicians and corporations as an excuse not to engage with the seriousness and urgency of the crisis, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has described it?

Another XR demand is for Government to tell people ‘the truth’ about climate change. But the XR recruiting presentation I attended gave much weight to a statement attributed to Professor Jem Bendell (which he may or may not have written or said) that climate change could cause global societal collapse within the next three years. After the presentation, another XR supporter explained to me that they need to get across the urgency of the crisis to people. Indeed, David Drew MP, who was also there for the presentation, commented that for many people struggling to get by, just ten or twelve years in the future ‘seems a lifetime away’. But if XR is saying it is pushing for ‘what the science demands’ and for ‘telling the truth’, why does it seem to be knowingly presenting a ‘truth’ that is not well supported by science?

These are intended as questions from a ‘critical friend’ of XR. In fact I have participated in one XR action which I felt comfortable with – a procession through Gloucester for a mock funeral of ‘our future’ and of species being driven to extinction. It was non-confrontational and only briefly disruptive of traffic, very effectively engaged people’s attention and got the climate crisis top billing on BBC Points West, with Sarah Lunnon making her points well.

My fear for XR is that they will use the tool of non-violent civil disobedience but fail to catalyse real change, and that no other movement will arise fast enough to try such tactics again before it really is too late. Some XR supporters evidently think it is already too late, and perhaps see their actions as defiance in the face of defeat. This for me contributes to a sense of confusion about whether the whole movement is really about seeking transformational change or an expression of rage (and perhaps guilt) at the failure to deal with this crisis much, much sooner.

My guess is that those who started XR and formulated its demands did not foresee it becoming an international movement. Perhaps that explains the limited, UK, focus of its demands. However, I think there has been a failure, in the past decade at least, on the part of activist groups and governments alike, to take seriously the global scale of both climate change and biodiversity loss. On climate change, XR groups world-wide could demand an international treaty limiting the extraction of fossil fuels, for example. But when I try to engage XR supporters on this global dimension, I tend to encounter defeatism or even hostility about the potential role of the United Nations or other international institutions.

Finally there is the question of XR’s recruitment presentations. The one I experienced was similar to Gail Bradbrook’s presentation that can be seen on the XR website. It included invitations to experience feelings of grief, which are supposed to lead to courage to act, to become an ‘up-stander’ and to sign up to get involved. To me, this was overtly appealing to emotions, but to some vulnerable people this might not be so obvious, and, given that the presentation I experienced included encouragement to break the law and perhaps go to prison, safeguarding concerns could potentially arise. Such concerns would almost certainly arise if such a presentation were given to under-18s. XR will need to be careful about how it engages with the school climate strikes movement, which might possibly turn out to be an even more powerful catalyst for change than XR itself.

The Climate Crisis and the Role of the BBC

By Fred Miller

(Please note: posts on these blog pages are the personal views of the authors only and are not intended to represent any agreed or general view on the part of

One of the reasons we are in the climate emergency, is that people are not being informed about the seriousness of climate change: the level of threat it poses, the policies causing it, and the policies needed to reverse it.

As a public service broadcaster paid for by our licence fees, the BBC has a role in presenting important facts to its viewers and listeners, so that people become better informed about it.

That is why Extinction Rebellion and other environmental campaigners have recently focused on the BBC.

The BBC has had to be dragged screaming and kicking into compliance with its duties as enshrined in its charter. It was accused of giving a platform to utterly discredited and unscientific view-points that denied that climate change even existed. After legal challenge, it now has a better approach to who it interviews on the subject.

But John Fuller, an environmental campaigner, has exhaustively documented the BBC’s continuing failings, including the underplaying of the climate catastrophe that we face.

This has been likened to us not mentioning Hitler in the lead up to the Second World War, and then announcing that we are at war. In this situation, of course people would resist the idea of war, because they would not understand the existential threat they faced.

The BBC is not joining the dots between climate change, our economic system, our policies and the material basis of our lives. This is akin, in my view to condemning slavery, but at the same time, promoting it and its economic products. If economic products are not being made in net carbon zero ways, and a restorative manner (in other words leaving a net benefit for wildlife, e.g. in housing and farming), then those economic activities are part of the problem: they are destroying our planet. It is that simple. And we have lost more than half of our planet now.

So I think we – environmental campaigners – need to help the BBC to report that we live on a planet in which continued economic growth and further increase in fossil fuel use, will destroy our climate and ecosystems; and that we need this living planet for our own survival. Let’s make the connections clear, and ask challenging questions. We need to show how these things are happening.

When increased aviation, new roads, or HS2 are discussed, it does not take Einstein to ask: hang on, won’t that increase our greenhouse gas emissions, and make it more difficult to stay within the carbon budget set by our own Climate Change Act, and also to observe our commitments made at the 2015 UN climate conference in Paris? Or have you, Minister, got a plan to capture and sequester all the extra CO2, or develop hydrogen fuelled trains, running on renewable energy? Or how about planning work and commuting patterns that create more local jobs so we do not need to get to Birmingham 20 minutes quicker ?

To be fair, climate change is mentioned by the BBC: the IPCC report in October, and the UN talks in Poland, for example. But the issue is reported in a compartmentalised way. Programmes on the environment, including Attenborough’s, are having an effect on the mainstream, but there is a log-jam in the understanding. The pennies are not dropping. These issues: climate change, plastic pollution, species extinction, are not marginal issues. They are existential. They threaten out own future. We can’t eat polluted food for example. We die in heat waves.

After an item on climate change, the next item on the news is often about how we can secure more economic growth and trade, or how it is a good thing to send space tourists into orbit. It is as though journalists and editors do not think this place is the same one on which climate change is happening. And the different journalists have different territory. Yet, why can’t economic growth, or gas guzzling elite space antics, be challenged properly as causers of climate change and ecosystem breakdown.

Journalists have a way of putting on different ‘HATS’, and posing questions as though they were arguing from the other side of a binary debate. This is a fair enough way of challenging politicians governments, or anyone being interviewed. But I would dearly love them to put on the ‘HAT’ of our planet and its living systems, just once in a while, rather than NEVER. In fact, why not do it a LOT, rather than never, because it is the most important issue they will ever discuss surely…..?

Is this lack of journalistic enquiry due to ignorance or inability, or is it unwillingness to admit that they have got it so wrong for so long? For twenty five years, the evidence and the causes of climate change have been utterly clear. Yet mainstream discourse has acted in a parallel world, in which the fantasy of perpetual growth was believed. It must be hard to admit you have got something so utterly wrong.

It may be inconvenient, but the economy happens to be on a planet: our planet. And like a cuckoo in the nest, our economy is pushing out the natural systems.

At the moment, the BBC acknowledges the scientific evidence for climate change and the need to cease the burning of fossil fuels, and at the same time it actively supports the burning of ever more fossil fuels through economic growth.

The BBC promotes wasteful consumption of digital technology in its ‘Click’ show on BBC news channel, which is an advertising platform for those products. It even has a trailer for the Click show, which shows piles of electronic waste, alongside a commentary that says: ‘we hate our old technology”, basically encouraging you to throw away and buy the latest smart phones etc.

In its ‘Travel’ Show, the BBC encourages the consumption of air miles, with never a flicker of discussion about the impacts of travel and tourism.

And the BBC has pensions invested in fossil fuels.

If we supported the abolition of slavery, and at the same time imported sugar cane from slave colonies, would it not be similar? Wouldn’t the journalists mention that this sugar comes from slave colonies, and that this contradicts our abhorrence of slavery? On its current record, the BBC would not have the independence to do that. It would not have the ability to think on an ethical level.

And yet this powerful organisation, with influence over what people know and think, is paid for by us all, and is supposed to act in our interests. You could not make it up!

We surely need a new method of governance for our public broadcaster….based on a set of ethical principles. The scientific evidence for human threats to the planetary (ecological) boundaries, would form a major part of the physical reality that they need to convey. And an ethical framework, needs to be explicit, of values, in which we condemn slavery and human rights abuses, and the destruction of the planet’s life that we rely on. The UN sustainable development goals would be a good place to start.

We need economics editors to be reading and getting informed about bio-regionalism, and Kate Raworth’s ‘Doughnut Economics’, for example.

The BBC needs to be asking much better, difficult questions that are rooted in the context of a living planet, and human equality.

Can people who currently manage the BBC undergo the culture-change that is needed?