Professor Neil Carter, from the University of York, spoke about the party politics of climate change in the UK. He said there had been a “passive consensus” among the big parties in the UK over the last 25 years as people had accepted the science but change had been “relatively limited” and incremental.
“We need to avoid polarisation,” he said and pointed towards a new competitive consensus which had emerged in politics post 2010, though tensions remained. Prof Carter then looked at the future and the impact of Brexit and the upcoming COP 26 forum, to be held in Glasgow later this year.
“There is evidence that when these big jamborees take place, there is a positive effect that follows,” he added.
Professor Sam Fankhauser, from the London School of Economics, spoke about the international picture and the economic policy of climate change action. He spoke about the growing incidence of government intervention around the world and highlighted the more than 2,000 climate change laws that had been passed around the world.
“Quite intensive law-making is going on, which is good news,” he said.
Prof Fankhauser said it was difficult to observe what impact these laws had made on carbon emissions, but said studies had shown they had “made a dent”. He added: “[climate laws] have bent the growth curve. They make a difference but it doesn’t add up to climate protection”.
Prof Fankhauser also touched on what was holding the laws back in terms of effectiveness and impact.
Participants joined breakout rooms in the second session of the event, which focussed on different aspects of the debate. The rooms looked at areas including technology and economy, justice, citizenship, radical politics and policy choices.
Among the issues highlighted, the breakout rooms considered the role of citizens’ forums and whether they could make use of technology to ensure people could be regularly consulted on the policy-making process.
Other groups also touched on creating spaces for citizens to engage in the process of climate policy and spoke about how they could encourage participation.
The technology and economy group considered the problems of new technologies like Bitcoin and its environmental impact but also of the possible solutions those technologies might present. The group also spoke about the evolution of cities in future and what needs to be done to make cities more sustainable.
A group looking at radical politics touched on the issue of economic growth and how it relates to climate change. The group asked who should foot the bill for climate change politics and asked whether we needed “a new vision of the good life, living in a simpler fashion, in order to help with climate policy”.