Lord Deben gives an upbeat take on the UK’s carbon targets

By Ellie Mika, Communications Assistant

Brexit, Trump and climate change – there is a lot to be worried about in the current state of the world, but Lord Deben remains hopeful and sees the future of climate action as an opportunity for the world to unite to solve these issues.

Here are some of the highlights from his speech at the 2017 Ashden Annual Talk on 28 March.

On Brexit and Trump

Although very much opposed to Brexit, Lord Deben does not see it as a particular threat to the UK’s Climate Change Act.

“We are not dependent upon the European Union for very much of our climate decisions, because it’s our own [Climate Change] Act, passed by our own parliament… and so I’m not worried about Brexit in that sense, although I’m worried about Brexit in most other senses.”

Lord Deben also takes an upbeat tone whilst reflecting on Trump, suggesting that the movement for climate action is stronger than his policies.

“We also have to remember that what the Paris Agreement really says is that, despite Mr Trump, the world has decided the direction in which it is going… There are now more [US] states that are actually implementing the Kyoto Protocol and are beginning to implement the Paris Agreement, irrespective of federal decisions.”

On carbon targets

Lord Deben remains realistic but positive about meeting our carbon targets, celebrating the progress the UK has made this far. He stresses the importance of striking a balance between continuing to pressure the government whilst also acknowledging its achievements.

“We’ve cut our emissions in Britain by 40% while our economy is expanding by 65%. It is genuinely true in the world over the last four or five years that we have disconnected growth from carbon growth.”

“We now have a situation in which the world has pronounced the direction in which it's going. Of course we won’t live up to it every year. Not every nation will. Of course we have to ratchet up. Of course we have not even promised enough yet….”

While remaining mostly positive, the few negative points he makes are difficult to ignore as he highlights dangerous air pollution levels as a major weakness in our targets.

“How on earth have we allowed ourselves to be breaking the European Union rules on low level air pollution? Why should every child in a town in this country be pushed in a pushchair in air that is not suitable for anybody?”

Concluding remarks

In harmony with the tone of the rest of his speech, Lord Deben ends on a positive note, encouraging us to take pride in what we have achieved so far. He invites us to use this excitement to drive further change, and stresses the importance of working together in realising our goals.

“What I’m suggesting is that we’ve done enough to make us excited enough and confident enough to push for more, to demand more, to say we can do more. And to do that, we ought to remember that the private sector will deliver as long as you demand of it just this side of the impossible…

…Because climate change won’t wait. Climate change has its own timetable."

“What climate change as a global problem does to us is to recognise that its only answer is a global answer. And a global answer means that you have to have a common acceptance of the problem and a common effort to solve it.”