date: Fri, 8 Oct 2004 10:47:57 +0100
from: "John Ashton" <john.ashtonatXYZxyz.org>
subject: Re: Moving this forward
to: "Peter Read" <pread2atXYZxyzglobal.net>, "John Shepherd" <j.g.shepherdatXYZxyz.soton.ac.uk>
John, John and Mike heard much of my argument at the Tyndall Assembly. But I should clarify
it a little in the light of Peter's message.
The problem at present is not the absence of propositions that offer stabilisation and that
are scientifically, technologically and economically, credible. Two such broad propositions
are biomass energy and capture and storage: both deserve attention within a portfolio of
The problem is that at present the political conditions do not exist to make possible
investment - of money and of political capital - at the necessary scale and pace. The Prime
Minister's problem is not to identify the propositions but to change the political
constraint, which is another matter. That is, I am sure, why his recent speech concentrated
on putting across, more starkly than he has done before, the scale and urgency of the
challenge. Abrupt climate change is a crucial piece of that jigsaw - and you can make more
impact with it at present by simply highlighting the danger without going too far into any
particular set of responses (of which, I fully accept, capture and storage on a very large
scale will almost certainly have to form part).
Having established scale and urgency, the political challenge is then to turn this from an
argument about the cost of cutting emissions - bad politics - to one about the value of a
stable climate - much better politics.
The G8 is much more than a talking shop. It can be a powerful vehicle for raising
awareness. But I don't think that pushing this proposal, in this form, will help with that.
You need a much lower resolution message: scale, urgency, value, investment. Shifting the
narrative in this way is not for climate negotiators; it is for political and other leaders
(including scientific). If that begins to happen, it can open up possibilities that the UK
might be able to turn into policy during its Presidency of the EU in the second half of
next year. But it is not yet clear what the most effective policies would be, because they
are a function of the politics yet to be accomplished.
I agree with John Shepherd that you should be very careful about how to take these ideas
forward. I do not think at this stage you should be trying to bring them to the Prime
Minister's attention. My instinct is that you should run the three components - biomass,
c&S, and abrupt change - separately, and that at present the most valuable thing to do is
to tell the story about abrupt change as vividly as possible. In presenting the other two
elements, you should pay attention to the politics. There is a potentially very serious
public acceptability barrier to c&s; and biomass on the scale you are suggesting would
amount to a global land use policy - quite a challenge when you think about the CAP etc!
I also think that the recent paper on "stabilisation wedges" by Socolow and Pacala offers a
very good framework for getting into the propositions. Think portfolios, not magic bullets.
I hope this helps. I'm not trying to pour cold water, just to discourage wasted effort
----- Original Message -----
From: Peter Read
To: John Shepherd
Cc: Mike Hulme ; John SCHELLNHUBER ; John Ashton
Sent: Friday, October 08, 2004 7:21 AM
Subject: Moving this forward
Talking with John Ashton yesterday it became clear that getting this on the table with g8
is not the end, though it may be part of the means towards achieving policy take-up.
The problem is to shift the framework of discourse from zero-sum emissions constraint to
stimulating a technological snowball. He says that Blair is rather good at that sort of
But G8 is only a talkshop with no executive function. If I understood John right, results
will only come if Blair, as EU President 2nd half 2005, and the next US President agree to
go home to their respective constituencies with a view to getting their negotiators to
shift the framework of discourse at the 2005 COP11 into the more positive direction.
Whatever the process, getting the idea into Blair's mind is obviously paramount and I hope
you feel the latest version, annexed to the second draft of my press release herewith, is a
suitable version to take to David King. Obviously I would like to be involved in that
process but appreciate that you may feel that you should do that, and in any case my time
window may not fit -- I am in Wales next week [ 01 678 520 192 and receiving e-mails] and
flying out on my way home on Monday 25th. But I'm in London and available for travel to
Norwich or Southampton in the week 18-22.
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