This blog post was published under the 2015 to 2024 Conservative government

Rupert Potter

Rupert Potter

British Consul General, Vancouver

Part of UK in Canada

23rd November 2015 Vancouver, Canada

Climate 2050 – Why Paris is the Next Beginning

Scroby Sands Wind Farm (Photo: RenewableUK)

You may remember the 1970s and ‘80s like they were yesterday. Or perhaps they seem like ancient history, an era long before you were born.

It was a time of Punk and New Romantics, the Marlboro man and heavy glass ash trays, big hair and bad cars (or bad hair and big cars). Vehicles drank leaded petrol and no-one insulated their houses. We certainly did nothing to reduce our carbon emissions. In fact few of us even talked about them. If you’d asked me or anyone else outside the scientific community what climate change was, I’d have looked at you bemused, and said something about it raining as usual.

Yet thirty years later the concept of climate change has gained main-stream acceptance. Of course a few still disagree the climate is changing at all, or if it is, that man has anything to do with it. In fact I still hear the argument that’s it’s all a huge government conspiracy to raise taxes (like that needs a conspiracy). This, despite the findings of the world’s scientific community.

Thankfully the public, governments, business and scientists are now more engaged than ever. Individually most of us at least try to do the right thing. Our younger generation is reassuringly militant. Technology has advanced incredibly since the 1980s, from electric vehicles to power generation using rivers and pavements. Innovative policies, like the UK’s Carbon Budgets or BC’s revenue-neutral Carbon Tax, are deliberately designed to reduce emissions and can make a real impact.

This is why next week’s Paris COP21 is so important (a handy abbreviation, given the full title of 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change).  The meeting is a key opportunity for international leaders to reach agreement on next steps: an agreement that should be ambitious, pushing us further along the path of emissions reductions; an agreement that is legally binding; and one which is supported by regular defined reviews to help tie us to our commitments.

But even if all this is achieved, then what? In many ways, Paris is the next beginning. What comes out of it will be a guide for the future. Real action will then have to take place to deliver it, and continue for a long long time afterwards.

So where will we be in 2050, in another thirty years or so?  I hope we will be able to look back and remember Paris as a time when we got it right; when the technology we use nowadays seems embarrassingly simple and dirty; when our behaviours have become unthinkingly responsible; and when policy wisdom set us all on an ambitious course.  If all that is in place, we’ll feel freer to laugh at the old music and poor hairstyles that were so 2015.

1 comment on “Climate 2050 – Why Paris is the Next Beginning

  1. Thanks for this thoughtful piece, Rupert. There is so much wrong in the world and so many awful recent events: it all just seems too overwhelming at times. One issue within all our grasps, however, is to tackle then reverse the damage we have done to the world. That at least would be one positive legacy to leave our children. So whatever else is on all our minds just now, we must not and cannot allow this to distract us from the important upcoming work at COP21 and beyond.

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About Rupert Potter

Rupert Potter has served as British Consul General in Vancouver since July 2012.