07 June, 2021

Ditchley Climate Programme – A Virtual Discussion

Ditchley’s climate change conference (February 2021) explored how recovery from the pandemic could be used to leverage action on climate change. In follow up to that conference, Ditchley put in place a series of discussions on specific topics to run through the summer and autumn.

Last Thursday, 3rd June, and part way through this series, an open briefing was held to report back on the discussions so far which included sessions on:

Taking forward uses of satellite data for COP26.

The role of natural gas as a legacy carbon-based fuel in the bridging to a net carbon zero future.

The role of nuclear energy – short term and long term.

The role of human behavioural changes at scale and how to encourage such change.

In brief,

  • there are opportunities to use satellite data to observe and monitor a raft of climate-related issues, from greenhouse gas leaks and deforestation to the progress of nature-based solutions.  Used carefully, satellite data can provide the evidence needed to demonstrate the success of restoration projects on land and in the ocean. Such evidence can be vital to support further investment in nature-based solutions.
     
  • The role of natural gas in the future is contentious. For some, as a fossil fuel, gas use should be halted. For others, its use is context-specific and could be effective in an energy transition as part of the move away from oil and coal, especially if combined with mechanisms for carbon capture and storage.
     
  • Advocates of new nuclear see the significance of the opportunities it offers as a non-carbon energy source – and yet, a general reticence is still apparent. Public concern over the impacts of climate change is growing, increasing interest in pursuing nuclear to avoid further greenhouse gas emissions, but people remain nervous about the location of new nuclear plants and the disposal of waste.
     
  • Changes in human behaviour can only be effective if people have real choices to make and the information with which to make them. Waiting for populations to change behaviour can be an excuse for government inaction; and, governments fear the electoral consequences of imposition. Deeper renewal of democratic processes that engender real citizen consent will need to be at the heart of climate action.

As with the climate discussions in February, a need to take every action, all at once, and in every sector was expressed, along with the case for chasing technological innovation. Whilst there is no perfect course of action, a powerful case was made for a massive galvanising mission in changing technologies. Beware of the obfuscating language of net zero, we were warned, and summon the high ambition needed to force the green revolution.