My case for climate optimism is simple: Sir James Bevan

"My case for climate optimism is simple: we know what the problem is; we know what we have to do to solve it; we have started to do it; and if we keep on doing it we will succeed – not just in ending the climate emergency but in building a better world too."

That's what Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the United Kingdom's Environment Agency, said in a speech "Facing the fear of fear itself: the case for climate optimism."

Sir James said, "fear is not the most useful emotion when it comes to the climate crisis because it can paralyse us into inaction; and that there is an evidence-based case for climate optimism if we do the right things."

He speaks of the need for global action, saying, "The climate emergency is a textbook example of a problem that can only be successfully dealt with if everyone takes action, not just in this country but around the world.  And here too I see cause for optimism, because that is pretty much what is now happening. Think about the things which have to be true in order to tackle the climate emergency successfully.

"There needs to be international consensus on the need for action and on what action should be taken, and a mechanism to make sure it actually happens. There is: the United Nations COP process. Is it perfect? No. Is it moving as far and as fast as we’d all like? No. But is it a necessary condition of success, and is it making progress in the right direction? Yes and yes. There needs to be national action by individual governments all around the world. And increasingly there is – not least because ordinary people, in the developing world even more than in the rich west, are feeling the impacts of climate change on their own lives and livelihoods and demanding that their governments take that action. I’ve spent over forty years working with politicians around the world, and one thing that is true in all countries – democratic or not – is that politicians pay attention to what the public want, because giving it to them is ultimately the best way of staying in office. There needs to be action by business, both because businesses are a large source of the problem and because they are a key ingredient of the solution: most of the money in the world, as well as a lot of the innovation, both of which are critical for success – is found in the private sector. And over the last few years we’ve seen more and more businesses adapt what they do and how they do it in ways which are helping tackle the climate emergency. In some cases that’s happening because it’s the right thing to do, in others because it’s the smart thing to do: businesses which innovate, get out of carbon and don’t trash the planet will ultimately have stronger futures and better profits than those that don’t. And critically there needs to be action by each of us as individuals, because in what we do in our daily lives we are all part of the problem and so all part of the solution. And here too in the last few years we are seeing people all over the world, not just the young or privileged western elites, take action to change how they live and the impact they have on the planet - whether by using low emission vehicles or public transport, insulating their homes, sharing or freecycling possessions, or lobbying their own governments to take action. The spearhead of this movement is the new generation of adults who are now in their twenties or thirties. And these are the people – and I may be looking at some of them right now – who over the next two critical decades will be running the country, leading major organisations, or shaping public opinion. That too gives me confidence that the right decisions will get made and that we will indeed tackle the climate emergency and come out on the other side with a better world."


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