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Flitting betweeen philosophers and firefighters: The Tyndall Centre’s Radical Emissions Reduction conference
18th December 2013
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I’ve just spent a fascinating couple of days at the Tyndall Centre’s conference on ‘Radical Emissions Reduction’, put together by the redoubtable Kevin Anderson and colleagues.

The idea behind the event was simple: to amass evidence and share ideas on how to achieve a radical cut in carbon emissions, defined as eight per cent reductions per year for the UK. It was resolutely interdisciplinary, with contributions from psychologists, economists, politicians, philosophers, activists and even a firefighter. The range of perspectives was a little bewildering: flitting between light bulb technology and constructivist philosophy induced a peculiar type of brain-ache. But this breadth was, I think, the very point of it – Kevin Anderson’s explicit purpose is, he told us, to build a community and a common sense of purpose.

Like many there, I couldn’t help reflecting on who wasn’t in the room. No civil servants; few business people; just the one (green) politician. We know that there are people in all these walks of life who are thinking seriously about the climate challenge, but it’s sometimes hard to smoke them out. The word ‘radical’, while very necessary, may pose problems for those who are trying to work within their institutions, stressing continuity not abrupt change; incrementalism not radicalism. I wonder how we can widen the dialogue – for next year’s event, perhaps?

In my session, I spoke about Green Alliance’s Climate Leadership Programme, which works with early-career politicians to help them understand the relevance of climate change to their work as a politician. Here’s the abstract, and a video of the talk itself.

I wanted to mention, as well, the Tyndall Centre’s brilliant efforts to decarbonise the conference itself. There was a low-impact lunch, a live feed to allow you to join the event online, and a sizeable proportion of the talks were delivered by video link, from Australia, the US and elsewhere. Despite the inevitable technical hitches (which made me think that more innovation R&D spend should go into video conferencing rather than biofuels for planes) it proved a point. Like radical emissions reduction itself, it’s astonishing to think that it’s the exception, not the norm.

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Rebecca Willis

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