When will Trump have his Damascus road experience?

So he’s done it. After months of speculation President Trump has announced the US will be exiting the Paris Accord on tackling climate change.

It is disappointing that President Trump does not see the opportunity for economic growth which clean energy presents; what the world is now waiting for is his Damascus road experience. We need that dramatic reversal of position in the near future. But if we have to wait 4 years, some experts say that wouldn’t be too disastrous – whereas if we had 8 years of the same rolling back progress on climate change, that would be a game changer. [Read more…]

Mission 2020: don’t be late

2020 tipping point_mission2020

Source: Mission 2020


Monday began with a reminder that Hugh Grant hates people being late. This montage of cinematic near misses reminds us that being late can have different consequences – for our love lives, dance careers and, in some cases, our survival. It is a light-hearted introduction to a new campaign with a weighty message: we can’t afford to be late on curbing our carbon emissions. [Read more…]

The sky’s the limit for the circular economy


On the 30th March, the first ‘second-hand’ rocket was launched into our skies. Rockets – like many products in our current economy – are traditionally one-use only items. They are made, used and, with their mission complete, discarded. SpaceX have made history by finding a way for their boosters to return safely to Earth to be used again. Through this new approach, rockets can return to the skies again. [Read more…]

Re-moaning, Trumpgate and late night TV

Where were you on 31st August 1997? I was watching TV in the early hours of the morning when I heard the news of Princess Diana dying; I will never forget where I was then, or where I was when I heard about the Twin Towers attack in 2001.

On 23rd June 2016 I also found myself awake in the early hours with my 6 month old daughter. Tired of trying to get her to sleep, I somewhat defeatedly turned on the 24 hour news, only to get excited when I remembered it was the night of the EU referendum. As she fell asleep in her swing chair I was pinned to my seat, keen to wake my husband and tell him which way the result was clearly going, but knowing I wouldn’t be thanked if I did. I realised this was another ‘history in the making moment’, so instead I WhatsApp’d my NCT mum friends to see who else was up! [Read more…]

From India’s villages to Morocco’s talks


Source: Peter Caton / Tearfund

Ramesh Babu reflects on last week’s global climate talks. Ramesh is Programmes Director for EFICOR, a partner of Tearfund and an Indian development and humanitarian organisation working with five million people across the country.

All the way from India to Morocco for global climate talks, I think about my childhood growing up in a rural village and my work now with communities mostly dependent on agriculture to survive. I think of every farmer’s reliance on the seasons and climate and the tragedy of another bad year. When the crops dry up, it means more than poverty – homes are locked up and families forced to leave in search of work. Farmers are ending their lives in shocking numbers because they see no way to support their families and clear debts. [Read more…]

Waste Less, Warm Less: Building A ‘Circular’ Economy Would Take Us A Long Way Towards Achieving The Paris Climate Agreement

At this critical time for action on climate change, Richard Gower, Tearfund’s Senior Economics and Policy Associate, explores how the circular economy can play a big part in a low-carbon future.

It’s been a momentous but mixed two weeks for the climate and clean energy agenda. At the beginning of the month, the Paris Agreement – a global compact negotiated in December 2015 – came into force, following much faster ratification by the world’s big players than anyone dared hope. Then a few days later, the US elected a man who has threatened to pull out of the agreement and reverse Obama’s Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions (thankfully, the US has already ratified the Paris Agreement and can’t pull out for four years). [Read more…]

Three things the Pope and Martin Luther King can teach the climate movement

By Rich Gower and Sue Willsher

Today the Pope officially released his much anticipated message on climate change – an ‘Encyclical’ to his Bishops around the world. Much fuss has been made of the Pope ‘wading’ into an issue that’s seen as being about economics and politics rather than faith, for example US Presidential candidate Jeb Bush: “I don’t get my economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope.”

However, this shows exactly why it is so important for the Pope to speak out: as long as climate change is seen as a political or economic issue – rather than a moral one – we are unlikely to make the changes necessary to address it. The climate movement needs to learn the lessons of previous movements, such as US civil rights movement, and do more to make the moral case for action.

Here are three things that the Pope and Martin Luther King seem to have in common:

1. Making the moral case

Martin Luther King – and the Pope – both know that people act when something touches their sense of right and wrong.

For example, today, it seems obvious that policies such as segregation were immoral.  When children read about it in their schoolbooks, its abolition is portrayed as a great triumph of freedom over injustice.  However, people didn’t always see it like this.

Many Americans initially viewed the Civil Rights Movement through the lens of national security.  As tensions with the USSR rose, opponents worked hard to cast Civil Rights leaders as communist sympathisers, or at least argued that now was not the time for social upheaval.

It was only when campaigners such as King succeeded in defining segregation as immoral that they were able to trump other concerns and see it abolished: “And if we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong… If we are wrong, justice is a lie, love has no meaning. And we are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

The Pope gets that the science is clear on the problem – that climate change is widely viewed as man-made, that there are clear and evidence-based solutions – including a global agreement at the crucial Climate talks in Paris in December. But what we now need is persuading people that the problem is worth addressing – now. We need stronger motivations and a winning of hearts and minds.

The pope is “aiming at a change of heart. What will save us is not technology or science. What will save us is the ethical transformation of our society.”

As a society and as a planet, we need to realise that addressing climate change has as much to do with justice, love, duty, and honour as it does with economics.

2. Having a resonant story

Facts on their own rarely move people to change, it also requires stories that help, as we set out in Tearfund’s new thought piece the Restorative Economy  “people and societies make sense of where they are, how they got there, where they are trying to get to and how to achieve change. Stories that define our worldview and have the potential to create our reality as much as they describe it, such as Jesus’ parables or the ones that Churchill told Britain in 1940”.

Civil Rights activist Andrew Young remembers, “when Martin would talk about leaving the slavery of Egypt and wandering into the promised land… that made sense to folks.” (Rochon, 1998, Culture Moves. p56)  Similarly, the Pope sets the issue of climate change within the larger story of humankind’s God-given role of stewarding our home – earth.

We need stories that “help us think in terms of a larger us – one that moves from ‘people like us’ to simply ‘people – like us’.  A longer future – beyond the next news cycle, financial quarter or election – looking out instead for generations to come.  And a better ‘good life’ – an understanding that security, consumption and well-being are not three words that all mean the same thing”.

3. Patience in speaking truth to power

Finally, we need to recognise that we need to be in it for the long game. King worked tirelessly on civil rights for many years until his assassination in 1968. Previous Popes have written on creation, but Pope Francis is the first to link the issues of environment, economy and poverty – and speak directly on climate change.

As we make clear in the Restorative Economy report, “political and social change doesn’t unfold in a steady, linear fashion: instead it is complex, unpredictable and takes time. There is often a long period when our efforts seem to yield few results. But then comes a tipping point, after which events snowball and things suddenly start to fall into place. The Jubilee 2000 campaign is a great example: comprehensive debt cancellation was an idea that was first put forward in the 1980s, but it took nearly two decades for it to come to fruition.”
Already, increasing numbers of people are starting to see climate change and the policies that support it as immoral, and the Pope’s encyclical should help ‘move the needle’ even further. Recent ComRes polling commissioned by Tearfund shows Christians recognise that the environment and climate change problems are the main issues facing the world over the next ten years. So, the Pope’s ‘wading in’ is exactly what the climate movement needs – and many in the movement realise this. In and of itself it won’t change behaviour, but it does provide a great invitation and indeed, a strong urging, for all people to take these issues seriously.

Healthy climate and healthy economy: friends not enemies!

Can we have a healthy planet and a healthy economy at the same time?

One thing is certain, there will be no healthy economy without a healthy climate. To get both we need to get the framework right. At Tearfund we’ve been lobbying and campaigning on climate for years. Throughout my time there have been notable contributions to help move us forward from the deadlock of negotiations. Today we may have another such contribution. ‘Better Growth, Better Climate’ is a ‘New Climate Economy’ report which concludes “countries at all levels of income now have the opportunity to build lasting economic growth at the same time as reducing the immense risks of climate change”. Let’s hope they can deliver and that governments and businesses are listening.

The report caught my eye because it very much mirrors Tearfund’s own emerging thinking in this area.  Our current high carbon, high physical consumption, global economy has been great at driving down poverty around the world over the past 100 years, but has done so at enormous environmental cost.  In the future such a model is not desirable or possible, instead we need to transition to a just and sustainable economy which is still effective at eliminating extreme poverty and reducing inequality but is also driven by, for example, clean energy and economic models based on services and knowledge rather than being resource-intensive.

Better Growth, Better Climate raises a myriad of proposals around compact cities, food production, energy systems, raising resource efficiency, investment in infrastructure, carbon prices, technology innovation and a host of other measures.  No doubt many of these will be hotly debated in the coming weeks, questions like: how far are win-wins possible in all these areas; is the role envisioned for GM crops helpful; is the proposed phased shift away from fossil fuels far or fast enough?

Whatever the details of these discussions, they should not be allowed to detract from the overriding message of the report – a healthy climate or a healthy economy are not choices or contradictions, the two belong together round the same side of the table. They are essential for each other! Business as usual, in our high carbon, high consumption global economy, is not an option.  My visit to Zimbabwe three weeks ago reminded me all over again why.

“We used to get five months of rain a year, now we get three and people are starving.”

Climate change is a very real economic reality for poor farmers like Joe in Zimbabwe. Joe and his neighbours tell the same story that can now be heard all over the world: “the weather is changing, seasons are no longer predictable, droughts, floods and severe storms are increasing.”  Traditional small-holders and commercial farming practices in Zimbabwe are struggling to cope with both less rainfall overall and heavier isolated downpours which result in the loss of nutrient-rich topsoil.

Fortunately Joe and his neighbours are now practising ‘Foundations for Farming’ methods pioneered by Tearfund partners.  By adopting natural approaches to farming such as reduced ploughing, leaving a layer of mulch on the topsoil and rotating crops, Joe and his neighbours are experiencing amazing yields, much better than through standard commercial farming methods. For example average yields of 3-5 tonnes per hectare can be expected compared to 1 tonne per hectare as a country average. The fruits of this labour can not only feed Joe’s family, but also be sold and reinvested.  I was struck by how incredibly hard working and entrepreneurial Joe and his neighbours were and their approach was both environmentally sustainable and profitable.  They were living examples of how a healthy climate and healthy economy are friends not enemies.

Escalating climate change will result in both environmental devastation and economic poverty for all of us.  As Joe and his friends have discovered in Zimbabwe, the just and sustainable  businesses of the future are both better for the environment and more prosperous.  We will be launching a report in early 2015 on what key shifts are necessary to help make this transition. We hope these will contribute to the debate that the New Climate Economy report has begun and demonstrate what people like Joe are already living out.  We’ll not only be addressing the regulation and legislative solutions, but the role civil society has to play in changing the tide of high resource-consumption behaviour. As Tolstoy reminds us in his epic, War and Peace: “it’s hard to thank any single individual for altering history; more often, the ship of state alters course only because tides are vastly shifting underneath.”

Thatcher, global poverty and the need for a climate catalyst

I was born in 1985. It was the year that Eastenders first graced our screens, the first mobile phone call was made and 13-year old Ruth Lawrence achieved a first in mathematics at Oxford, the youngest British person to ever get such a degree or graduate from the university.

It was also a year of rioting; with three million unemployed, a riot broke out in Brixton after an accidental shooting of a woman by the police. One person died, 50 were injured, countless were arrested.

And it was the year of Live Aid and the launch of Comic Relief.

One woman dominated the headlines when I was growing up. With remarkably coiffed hair and neat suits, she stood up in the House of Commons every week and took on the opposition at a time when very few women, even fewer mothers, could ever consider standing as a local Councillor, let alone an MP. Despite this seemingly miraculous turn of events, my mother wasn’t a fan – she was devastated at the death of David Penhaligon in 1986, later taking me to a rally when the leader of the newly formed Liberal Democrats, Paddy Ashdown, visited our little Somerset town.

With the news of her death, doubtless the media will now be given over these next few days to reflections on Baroness Thatcher’s life. We’ll learn more about her than we ever knew. We’ll be played old newsreels of her most fiery political exchanges, of Meryl Streep’s attempt to channel her energy. The left and right will fling Iron Lady-loaded grenades at each other across the parapets of Fleet Street and twitter and tumblr will be flooded with increasingly uncomfortable parodies.

But for me, the most surprising thing to note about Baroness Thatcher, (or Mrs Thatcher as she was then), was that she was one of the first western leaders to make her concerns clear about climate change. At the Second World Climate Conference she said this:

“Our ability to come together to stop or limit damage to the world’s environment will be perhaps the greatest test of how far we can act as a world community. No-one should under-estimate the imagination that will be required, nor the scientific effort, nor the unprecedented co-operation we shall have to show. We shall need statesmanship of a rare order.”

Barnstorming stuff. And she didn’t stop there. Later, she said:

“It would be absurd to adopt policies which would bankrupt the industrial nations, or doom the poorer countries to increasing poverty. We have to recognise the widely differing circumstances facing individual countries, with the better-off assisting the poorer ones”.

Margaret Thatcher gave that speech on November 6th 1990 (if you’re not keeping up, I was just five years old). Now on my way to 30, and the UN climate talks heading into their 19th summit in December, I’m terribly sad that developed nations are still dancing around the issue of how to finance climate change adaptation for the poorest countries.

Back in 2011, world leaders sat down together and set themselves a deadline to come up with a legally binding agreement on climate change by 2015, including agreement on ways to fund climate change adaptation. In 2013, they are still a long way from achieving this, despite there being a number of options available, including a shipping levy, for raising the $100bn a year desperately needed by 2020.

2013 is the year for the UK to step up. We’ll be hosting the G8 summit of world leaders as well as a special Food and Hunger Summit which will hopefully address the root causes of poverty which mean that one in eight people go to bed hungry every night. What’s more, the Prime Minister is playing a lead role as the co-Chair of the panel advising the UN Secretary-General on the follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals. All opportunities to show real leadership on a global scale, to recognise the impact that climate change is having and will continue to have on the world’s poorest people if we fail to act. Whatever you think of her transformative and often destructive social and economic policy (and believe me when I say my opinions are strong), Mrs Thatcher recognised this. She recognised this 23 years ago.

Which leads me back to my childhood. Despite being born in the eighties, I really don’t consider myself to be one of Thatcher’s children. Instead, I guess I’m more of a Live Aid child – I’ve been brought up knowing about the significance of the Government’s commitment to deliver 0.7% GNI as lifesaving aid and been frustrated time and time again when it hasn’t been honoured. I still can’t quite believe it’s finally going to happen now. Then last week came the news that world leaders have struck a deal on a global arms trade treaty, an historic moment that as a child I never believed would come.

So it just goes to show that change can happen. I honestly believe that we can come up with a fair deal on climate change, one that benefits the world’s poorest people and makes sure that they can adapt to the onslaught of extreme weather. Right now, it just needs political will and a catalyst. Something I imagine Mrs Thatcher knew at least a little about.

Private gain, public interest: can private finance help communities adapt to climate change?

At the international climate talks in 2009 in Copenhagen, developed countries promised that by 2020 they would mobilise $100 billion a year for climate change mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. This is not enough to meet the needs of developing countries. But progress to date on concrete ways to generate even this money has been excruciatingly slow.

Overstretched aid budgets are already providing the bulk of climate finance, to the potential detriment of areas such as education and health. And after an initial flurry of activity the amount of public climate finance from aid budgets appears to be falling. Little progress has been made on developing innovative public sources of finance, such as raising finance from international transport.

The UK government is at the forefront of a move to champion the private sector as a solution that will plug this gap in international climate finance.

New PictureBut Tearfund’s research  suggests that private finance lends itself more naturally to funding mitigation in developing countries rather than adaptation. ODI recently compiled data around 73 climate finance investment initiatives totalling $8.5 billion by the UK, Japan, Germany and the US between 2010 and 2012 aimed at mobilising private climate finance. Of these investments more than 99 per cent went to mitigation projects and there was virtually no direct investment involving the private sector that targeted adaptation to climate change. Eighty-four per cent of investment flowed to middle-income countries.

Evidence for private sector engagement with adaptation is minimal, and what little there is indicates serious problems in relying on private finance to deliver adaptation for the poorest communities. The underlying need for companies to make a profit in a low-risk investment environment means that Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and other low-income countries are unlikely to benefit from investment as any returns would be low and slow. Adaptation generates tangible benefits for people and communities but, in contrast to mitigation, it may not produce significant monetary gains for investors. And if current FDI flows are anything to go by money is likely to flow to sectors that will not bring adaptation benefits. Questions also arise as to how private sector engagement will support a fully integrated approach to adaptation.

It seems to be a bit old fashioned to say it these days but rich countries bear overwhelming responsibility for causing climate change and its impacts in developing countries – and so are responsible for paying adaptation costs and ensuring that adaptation reaches the poorest and most vulnerable. Governments shouldn’t be relying on private finance to meet the adaptation needs of the poorest communities and countries – it just won’t work.

Read the full report here.