12th August 2015 Oslo, Norway

Pluto, Paris and new horizons for our climate on Planet Earth

By HM Ambassador Sarah Gillett

The space probe “New Horizons” recently reached the edge of our solar system, after a journey of 4.7 billion kilometres to Pluto. I was amongst the many following with admiration and excitement the “call home message”, the imagery, and the promise of fascinating extensions to our knowledge of the universe. Thinking about this amazing journey to an icy rock, reminded me of our astonishing good fortune to be on the only planet in our solar system where life can be sustained.

Human ingenuity has enabled NASA to send amazing technology to Pluto. In other ways human ingenuity has led to developments which risk serious damage to the climatic conditions on which we all depend. Our understanding of that risk is progressing rapidly ‘Climate Change: A Risk Assessment’.

We now rely on human ingenuity to stake out a new direction for the economic activity that constitutes the foundation for our wellbeing. This year’s Climate Change Summit in Paris (COP21) presents a chance to use human talent to reach a global deal on climate change. Outside of the negotiations human change skills are already manifest. Through developing new technology and adapting behaviours, people are beginning to act so that future generations can continue to enjoy the wonderful environment on Planet Earth.

The new report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate provides some happy summer reading. It contains the optimistic message that creating growth can go hand in hand with tackling climate change. The findings illustrate how trends around the world are building momentum for a low-carbon economy. Renewable energy costs have fallen sharply as technology has advanced and wide-spread deployment has created economies of scale. The global market for low-carbon and environmental goods and services is worth more than $5.5 trillion USD and is growing at over 3% a year.

Norway and the United Kingdom belong to the group of seven commissioning countries behind the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. We share the belief that it is possible and imperative to find low-carbon ways of continuing human progress. We have been pioneers in renewable energy investments, in non-hydrocarbon transport, and in developing green financing. We have also worked collaboratively together with other countries on climate-related projects.

Success at the Paris Summit will require a global, whole-of-society approach. Political leadership, underpinned by science, technology and economics will be crucial. Just as important though will be an acceptance in all areas of human society that we need to think differently about living on our unique planet.

Daunting as de-carbonisation might seem, a new horizon for tackling climate change is increasingly visible. And if human beings can send a probe to Pluto, we should be able to take the right decisions for our planet.