COP27 Forum+ Event, London
12 November 2022, London Business School
From left to right: Climate Reality leaders – Jessica Besch, Bradlie Martz-Sigala, Benjamin Sharpe, Shooka Bidarian, Tim Elliot, Zsolt Bauer, Versha Jones, Erik Dalhuijsen, Astha Singh/London Business School, Kat Smith, Umang Sota
Climate Reality Team UK held its first annual event on 12 November 2022, at London Business School – coinciding neatly with a National Day of Action for climate justice. Our full day event was comprised of a variety of opportunities for the attendees to participate in.
The Forum was led by Climate Reality leader and mentor Shooka Bidarian, Environmental Correspondent, and recipient of Al Gore’s special Alfredo Sirkis Memorial Green Ring Award. It included a series of keynote speakers and panel discussions from Climate Reality leaders and specially invited guests. There were three parts to the forum: Climate Justice, Energy Transition and Building Green communities and each session explored local and national challenges and emerging solutions in the UK context.
Climate Justice session
What does climate justice look like for vulnerable communities in the UK? How to advocate for developed countries, such as the UK, to put effort and funds into L&D while also funding domestic mitigation and adaptation efforts?
We were honored to start proceedings with a specially recorded address to the forum from Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Chair of the Elders. Mary emphasized the importance of a ‘people-centered approach’ to the injustices that lie behind the climate crisis. And gave us a truly positive narrative.
‘What if our best times are still ahead of us? . . . we have a choice, what do we want to do . . . JFK put a man on the moon in 8 years, it seemed impossible at the time . . . there are 7 years from January to 2030 to reduce carbon emissions by 45%, all of this seems impossible, but we must do it together in a climate justice movement that gathers all the elements.’ Mary Robinson
The session continued with Claire Arkwright, a coordinator of national action for the Climate Justice Coalition who said, ‘this crisis can’t be solved without social justice at the heart of it’. Professor Jacqui McGlade, UCL, joined us live from COP27, Egypt. She gave some reflections at the mid-point of COP on the ‘expected lack of progress’ or at best ‘slow progress’ on climate finance, amid the continuing urgent adaptation challenges facing developing countries.
Pato Kelesitse, project manager at South African Climate Action Network (SACAN), gave a powerful explanation of the loss and damage facility, and the importance of demanding climate justice in all our activism to make it a reality. She highlighted the importance of equitable representation of women when addressing the climate crisis and emphasized that new funds must not exacerbate the current debt crisis facing African countries.
Pato’s keynote was followed by a conversation between our panel of speakers, moderated by Climate Reality leader Bradlie Martz-Sigala, coordinator of the Environmental Policy and Law program at the University of Finland.
Panel: Tori Tsui, Bristol-based climate activist and writer; Yusuf Baluch, indigenous climate justice activist and Fridays for Future organiser in Baluchistan, Pakistan; Brenda Ainsley, group leader u3a; Oliver Payton, student at the University of Warwick and president of the Climate Reality Campus Corps.
Several important points emerged from this conversation:
• Yusuf’s contribution made clear that voices from the global south, must feature in (or be central to) every climate justice conversation.
‘Most people can’t understand what it feels like for people in the front line to be so devasted by these events [referring to the recent floods in Pakistan]. We need a proper accountability system . . . listen to the perspectives of global south activists or the actual people who have been impacted by the climate crisis. When you don’t know how it feels for the people at the front line, how would it be possible for you to speak about those issues.’ Yusuf Baluch
• Tori emphasized that we must act now, why, and how. I urge all Climate Reality branches, chapters, and individuals to continue to show resistance against any new fossil fuel projects and sign a petition that Tori shared at the forum, The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty https://fossilfueltreaty.org/
‘We are a country that has historically emitted more carbon emissions relative to the rest of the globe . . . [yet] the UK government is trying to license a new oil and gas field in the North Sea called Rosebank which will equate to the [carbon emissions of the] 28 lowest income countries in the world. We have a responsibility here in the UK to say no more oil and gas . . . It is a complete betrayal of the global south to open new oil and gas fields because we are not going to be the most impacted.’ Tori Tsui
• Brenda highlighted that older people around the world are uniquely experiencing difficulties of climate change. Think about who are the marginalised communities in your region.
‘It is hard to watch and listen to stories [in the UK] about people having to make choices about whether they will heat or eat. People in those communities that are most impacted are the ones generally with the least power to do something about it . . . for all those families in high rises, elderly people in old housing stock, decent insulation would make a such difference to their lives.’ Brenda Ainsley
• Oliver spoke about the importance of education in his activism and placed importance on reaching out and educating members of society that do not have access to climate science.
‘[My generation] have lots to fight for. Warwick university is one of the first to have a dedicated sustainability department, and over [recent] years we’ve seen its growth. We have the ability and the facility to educate, and we should acknowledge that’s a privilege as well.’ Oliver Payton
Energy Transition session The energy-climate context, and where should we be looking to achieve this transition?
Representing our wonderful venue and moderating the Energy Transition session was Professor Ioannis Ioannou, Associate Professor, Strategy and Entrepreneurship, the London Business School.
Speakers: Climate Reality leader Erik Dalhuijsen, Aberdeen Climate Action; Rufus Grantham, Bankers Without Boundaries; Climate Reality leader Eleni Polychroniadou, co-founder Sintali
• Erik delivered a clear keynote speech detailing why the energy transition is failing to make the urgent progress we need to see; however big change IS possible if there is a desire to do so.
‘If you can cheaply get coal, you will want coal. If you can easily get gas, you will want gas. If you had access to a heat-pump, cheaply, 10 or 15 years ago, you would have installed that heat-pump. There has been really hard marketing for nearly a century to increase fossil fuel sales . . . If we designed cars that don’t use liquid fuel, you would change the demand picture . . . The emissions problem lies in the energy source, it lies in fossil fuels.’ Erik Dalhuijsen
• Rufus discussed holistic approaches to regenerating neighbourhoods, anchored in a deep decarbonisation of the built environment but also encompassing broader place-based investment in green, community, travel and circularity infrastructure. ‘A retrofit programme should not just be thought of in technical terms. Reframing it as pro-growth regeneration is far more engaging to residents and politicians alike, highlighting the positive impact on jobs, productivity, and healthcare outcomes’ Rufus Grantham commented after the event.
• Eleni shared her career pathway to starting a business that analyses the environmental impact of buildings – checking their ‘green’ credentials. Along the way she questioned our role as individuals and whether the scale of the problem is so big that it’s outside of our control, or is our power bigger than we think?
Building Green Communities session
What can local and green communities do in response to the climate emergency?
The moderator and speaker for this session was Climate Reality leader and our former UK Volunteer Coordinator Mark Chivers.
Co-speakers: Climate Reality leader Gary Reusche, Ukraine; Jamie Quince-Starkey, Down to Earth Project, Derby
Mark highlighted the importance of community action to move public opinion – until the government have no choice but to address climate issues. He also shared his work on writing Zero Carbon Dorset; a culmination of self-led research and community conversations that identifies climate issues throughout his region. The book presents data, solutions and a vision of Dorset County in the future if these issues were addressed, creating a positive narrative for all that are connected with Dorset. He plans to run a community-led campaign to reinstate a proposal to build an off-shore windfarm that was turned down by the local council and UK government a few years ago.
• Jamie shared his journey to getting his whole community onboard to reimagine 40 disused green spaces in his area, defined to him by Derby City Council. In 2023 some of these projects will start to go live. Having gained support from the public and private sector, local education institutes, big businesses and small enterprises in his region, he has proved that real, nature-based regeneration is possible from a grassroots level.
‘We have to make connecting with nature accessible; there are psychological barriers that are [making people] disassociated with nature . . . We have to change our language, that’s how significant the narrative change needs to be . . . if everyone could do this, imagine the change in behaviour and our emotional way of looking at the world. Collective imagination is our shared superpower.’ Jamie Quince-Starkey
• Gary is currently based south of Kyiv, because of the war in Ukraine. He explained a systems view is essential to allow us to move forward. Development of cooperatives within community structures can drive people to work together in the right direction. He described the origins of Ukraine’s successful food and grain production economy. Produce reaches Africa, Asia, the Middle East and China – and it has turned into one of the largest agricultural countries in the world, therefore it has to develop local communities that operate with regenerative agriculture in mind, to build a sustainable future.
With the pleasure of being invited to make a closing speech around the question: Why do we need a holistic approach, and why now? I shared the inspiration behind a UK-based climate justice project relating to the Isles of Scilly. I wanted to acknowledge how climate change is sharply impacting communities close to home, places that millions of people in the UK visit and hold dear. And, that it is time we roll up our sleeves, step out of our comfort zones and act now.
‘Our government and decision-makers must take accountability for the destruction of our climate system for the devastation happening globally, as well as on home turf . . . Our world needs to operate with radical honesty. With the actions of communities of determined people, pulling together – just like the thousands out on the street today – and people creating new futures like some of the work we’ve heard about this afternoon . . . this unthinkable trajectory can change course. We must create a good life that doesn’t destroy, a good life that builds and protects the future [of humanity and biodiversity]’ Versha Jones
Climate Reality leader, Forum+ event curator