#PostParis perspectives: Tyndall Centre event summary
The aim of the event was to bring together sector representatives and to gauge whether the Paris Agreement was making a difference within delegate’s sector and the role organisations can play in achieving the agreement’s ambitions.
After a series of brief presentations from Tony Lloyd (Interim Mayor of Greater Manchester), Martin Schröder (Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University of Manchester), Professor Corinne Le Quéré (Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research), Mark Atherton (Director of Environment, Association of Greater Manchester Authorities), Alice Bell (Head of Communications, 10:10), Damian Burton (Director, SmartGreen), Phil Korbel, (Co-founder of The Carbon Literacy Project) and Tim Whitley (Associate Director, Arup) attendees were facilitated in discussing two questions at their tables.
Summarised below are some of the common themes from the table discussions:
Question 1: Is the Paris agreement a big deal in your field? Is it making a difference?
The Paris Agreement was already felt to have delivered various positive impacts including giving additional momentum to action on climate change at a national and local level as well as fresh impetus where action had stalled in recent years. It was argued to be important in terms of giving hope to those taking action on the mitigation agenda, particularly through bringing the language of climate change back into the ‘mainstream’ (media, policy and business). The agreement was also felt to give credibility to calls for mitigation action and to give a clear indication of the international direction of travel in terms of reducing emissions.
There were various limitations and challenges expressed too. It was argued that this international commitment needed to swiftly be converted into local, contextualized actions that can resonate with people on the ground.
In addition, it was felt that it needed to be communicated with positive language and imagery –identifying co-benefits (e.g. health, well-being, fuel poverty) and presenting low carbon lifestyles in a way that people wanted to sign up to them. However, this was tempered by some due to the very significant and rapid reductions needed in order to pursue an upper warming limit of 1.5 degrees. Concerns were raised over whether such levels of change over a short period could be credibly presented as desirable within current social norms.
Reducing emissions was seen as a particular challenge for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) who were argued to have more pressing day to day priorities that made it difficult for them to engage and take action.
It was also suggested that timelines relating to 2050 and 2100 were too long-term for most organisations and individuals and that action at a national and local level needed to engage with the relevant planning and investment cycles.
Question 2: What role could you/your organisation play in achieving the ambitions in the Paris Agreement … and is there particular support, collaboration or information that you need from other organisations to be more effective?
The role of individuals and the importance of engaging publics were stressed throughout discussions. There was a feeling that many proposed solutions were technocratic and needed to be more explicitly complemented with social and policy aspects. The importance of improving levels of engagement and ‘carbon literacy’ was identified. In addition to discussion of the need for positive visions of low carbon lifestyles, there were calls to keep messaging simple in terms of targets (i.e. a move to zero rather than engaging with specific and moving emissions targets).
It was also suggested that those engaged in climate change mitigation action needed to share and publicise positive stories to demonstrate examples of change and their positive impacts (see https://1010uk.org/itshappening/ for an example of this). Positive examples and evidence of the benefits of action was felt to be essential in supporting policy makers to push for change.
It was argued that stakeholders that support action on climate change should be outspoken on both the need for, and benefits of, mitigation. Academics in particular were seen to have an important role in using their expertise and influence to press for appropriate climate change policy at the local and national level.
The stability of the policy environment was seen as essential to maintain and build momentum in terms of achieving the Paris Agreement goals. The impact of devolution was discussed as having the potential to offer stability at a local level.
It was suggested that researchers, industry, NGOs and communities could and should work together more closely to deliver and learn from changes on the ground. Short-term and focused projects were felt to offer the best opportunity to make a real difference here.
The importance of finance in supporting the transition to a low carbon economy was felt to be essential but often overlooked. In addition, there were calls to more openly explore whether the dominant economic framing of the importance of growth could be squared with the Paris Agreement and whether there was enough focus on ‘green’ growth.
In addition to wide ranging discussion of local partnerships to evaluate and catalyse action on the ground, particular projects and collaborations suggested included: National and GM level analysis identifying carbon reduction options for specific sectors (including technical, social and economic aspects) and Identifying alternative ways to finance and bring forward major low carbon infrastructure projects.
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Contributed by Mark Atherton