Are you in denial about human-induced climate change or oblivious to it? Perhaps you are in a ‘stages of grief’ denial because of the pending psychological trauma of facing the dire implications of climate change? Or are you wide awake, alarmed, and wondering what part you can play to help address the emergency?
To tackle climate change means to take action. Climate Action is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals formulated by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. The goals provide “a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”. The Secretary General of the United Nations in July 2023, in the latest SDG Progress Report, observed: “Progress on more than 50 per cent of targets of the SDGs is weak and insufficient; on 30 per cent, it has stalled or gone into reverse”. The Report states: “With a climate cataclysm looming, the pace and scale of current climate action plans are wholly insufficient to effectively tackle climate change”.
So as a human being what do you do if leaving it to someone else to sort out is not an option for you? George Monbiot puts it in simple terms in this YouTube clip: “What we’re being told to do is change your cotton buds and all these pathetic micro-consumerist b*llocks which just isn’t going to get us anywhere. There are one or two things you can do as a consumer which do make change: switch to a plant-based diet, that’s one – big change because animal farming has this massive environmental impact; another one – stop flying. But beyond that, actually everything we have to do is change the system; we have to overthrow this system which is eating the planet”. Uncomfortable to hear for many people.
Changing your own consumption behaviours is one form of climate action, and then we turn to system change. How can this be achieved? You can take action from within the system. This can be in the form of being focused in your professional life on doing your very best to support the initiatives that promise to deliver change; you may also challenge the promises being made and argue for more. Or you can take action against the system – direct action in the form of public protest that may be peaceful or disruptive.
But taking individual climate action is not for the faint hearted. It can come with risks and personal sacrifices. Some parts of the mainstream media (and some politicians) rather like to paint a picture of middle-class ‘eco zealots’ that have lost the plot and have nothing better to do than disrupt the lives of hardworking people. Wouldn’t it be easier to keep your head down than to start making a nuisance of yourself? What motivates people to take climate action?
COP28 (the UN Climate Change Conference) gets underway in Dubai on 30 November 2023. Its President is the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. It is understood he “has sought to increase ADNOC's output of crude oil from 3 million barrels of oil a day in 2016 to 5 million by 2030”. COP28 promises to be controversial.
It seemed timely therefore for the 17th PTRC Fireside Chat to focus on climate action. It takes place online on Thursday 16 November 2023 from 12.30pm-2.00pm GMT and is free to attend. We will have a panel of experts that are all taking different forms of climate action and our conversation will focus upon their experiences, motivations and what they hope to achieve.
Panel discussion will be guided by the following questions:
The event will be chaired by Glenn Lyons, Mott MacDonald Professor of Future Mobility.
Glenn remarks: “I have become increasingly aware of the boiling frog phenomenon in my personal and professional life – our ignorance of the stealthy accumulation of gradual change risks leaving us at the eventual mercy of its undesirable consequences. ‘Wake up!’ I want to shout. Climate action seems to me the only sane response to caring about the future of life on earth.”
Mother, coach, business owner, concerned citizen, supporter of Extinction Revellion, Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil
Zoe Cohen is a mum, citizen and accredited coach. Originally working in the NHS, she now dedicates most of her energies to nonviolent civil disobedience and civil resistance. She has developed a significant voice on LinkedIn for her forthright posting on the drivers and consequences of the climate, ecological and social justice emergency. She also speaks and writes on related topics.
Professor of Transport Governance at Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds and Director of the DecarboN8 Network.
Greg is Professor of Transport Governance at the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds. He has researched issues surrounding the design and implementation (and non implementation) of transport policies for over 20 years covering a range of issues at different scales. His main research focus is on understanding how to accelerate climate action and energy demand reduction policies in the transport sector. He is the Principal Investigator on the DecarboN8 network and leads the Place research theme on the Energy Demand Research Centre where he is responsible for developing a new place based approach to decarbonising transport.
Founder of Flourish Economics
Emma is the founder of Flourish Economics, an organisation that seeks to democratise economic thinking by providing education on alternative forms of economics outside of mainstream teaching. Prior to that Emma was a public sector economist for over a decade, but left that behind after becoming frustrated by the blinkered focus on economic growth within UK policy making. Emma is now turning her passions towards encouraging organisations and citizens to question and challenge the reigning economic thinking that impacts so much of our lives. For the last 50 years we’ve been told that economics is too complicated for non-economists to understand, but with rising inequality, public services in decline and the impacts of the climate crisis already being felt by so many, can we really leave the decision making to economists?
Artistic Director of Ergon Theatre
Ergon Theatre are on of the UK’s leading climate theatre companies. They create work to entertain, educate, and empower, through art that places finding human and personal connections to the climate crisis at its centre. Establishing human and personal connections to the crisis is essential to welcoming new voices into the movement, revealing invisible obstacles. Robin is also a climate leadership and carbon literacy trainer, environmental responsibility consultant in the theatre sector, and a change maker, having received scholarships to become a One Young World ambassador and an Aspen Rising Leadership fellow, alongside being shortlisted for a 2023 JCI Manchester Young Talent Award for ‘Agent for Change’.
Civil Engineer & Unit Sustainability and Social Outcomes Lead, Mott MacDonald
Hiba is a chartered civil engineer with more than 9 years’ experience in international development, sustainability, engineering design, project and stakeholder management, and project implementation. Hiba’s experience includes managing large interdisciplinary donor funded projects (Asian Development Bank, World Bank and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) and large UK public body funded projects (Environment Agency, Thames Water). Hiba leads the Mott MacDonald International Development Unit (700+ staff) to operationalise sustainability and social outcomes across all projects. Hiba also sits on the Board of Trustees at the United Nations Global Compact UK Network to drive sustainability change within the industry and business more generally.
Green Travel Writer and Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Transport & Society, UWE Bristol
Steve Melia is a Visiting Fellow at UWE’s Centre for Transport and Society. He lectured in transport and planning for 12 years until retiring last year. Since then he has been writing as “the Green Travel Writer” - travelling and writing without driving or flying. He is currently working with the Community Rail Network on plans to promote rural walking by rail. He became aware of climate change as a serious threat in the 1990s, and has been involved in different forms of environmental activism since then. In 1997, as a parliamentary candidate, he proposed a motion to the Liberal Democrat national conference calling for a cap and gradual reduction in the volume of air travel. In 2020 he was one of the expert speakers at the UK Climate Assembly. His last book, Roads, Runways and Resistance, describes 30 years of conflict over transport and the environment, including Steve’s own experience of arrest and conviction with Extinction Rebellion.
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