Practical climate politics for the 2020s-prospects for the UK

26 January 2023

Practical climate politics for the 2020s: prospects for the UK

Reported by Adisetu Joy Malih, CSaP Policy Intern and Sevcan Birdal, Communications Manager

Lord Deben (John Gummer), Chairman of the UK's Climate Change Committee and Professor Emily Shuckburgh, Director, Cambridge Zero, University of Cambridge, kicked off the first seminar of the 2023 Christ's College Climate Seminar Series on 19 January 2023 at the Yusuf Hamied Theatre, Christ's College Cambridge. They explored the challenges of climate change and the steps we need to take in government, communities and as individuals to roll back from where we are now to accelerate the progress in fighting climate change.

Importance of finding a way of extending the consensus from agreement to delivery

Reflecting on the challenges of climate change, Lord Deben argued that the fundamental issue with climate change is a lack of agreement on the primary forms of actions to be taken. He discussed that the government had followed siloed tactics to deal with climate change and said that although the department of defence is doing well on climate change, other departments do not understand the urgency of dealing with climate change.

Lord Deben emphasized that the government should find a way to agree on how to deliver its fight against climate change. He argued that one way to deal with climate change effectively is for the government to move from its siloed approach to recognizing that dealing with climate change requires a collective effort.

Furthermore, he stressed that fighting climate change is not for the government alone, but it is a fight for all of us. In this context, he suggested that people need to change their attitudes and live their lives through the lens of climate change. Lord Deben also noted that Climate change is a global problem that needs a global answer, so realizing an acceleration in fighting climate change will require the involvement of the international community.

Moving beyond the ambition and pledges to actual delivery

Discussing the themes of enthusing and infusing, Professor Shuckburgh drew insight from her experience working on the landscape regeneration project and emphasized that managing the land to benefit nature and the people who live and work there is a real challenge.

Within this scope, Professor Shuckburgh started discussing the fenlands and stated that farmers had extensively farmed the peat soils, resulting in land degradation. This degradation causes the soil to lose water and release carbon. She further noted that re-wetting the fenlands could be a solution; however, they are also prone to flooding because they were initially below sea level. Professor Shuckburgh also stressed that these problems require a collective effort to solve; thus, we must listen to people to understand the challenges before we can proffer solutions.

Additionally, Professor Shuckburgh argued that to transition from where we are now to a climate resilient net zero future, the government needs to understand how to create local solutions. She insisted that one way the government can deliver at the local level is to unlock the ability of regions across the United Kingdom to plan and take the necessary actions.

At the end of the seminar, the discussion in the question and answer session broadened on the issues already raised. Lord Deben and Professor Shuckburgh argued that another way to accelerate the fight against climate change is to find ways of unlocking local champions who could produce a domino effect that will build momentum and political will.

“In the end, the people who have made the most difference are individuals who have said I am going to do something about it,” said Lord Deben

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