Category Archives: events

Events to which Kevin Anderson has contributed

June 2013. Gas in a changing energy landscape and a changing climate – a discussion with Shell

I attended an invite-only discussion, hosted by the CEO of Shell and the Chair of Shell UK, and centred on “global gas developments and their impact on global energy needs over the coming decades” – all within the context of climate change. The event included a small group of senior civil servants, the chair of the Committee on Climate Change, three academics and the representatives of two relevant institutions.

Much of the discussion focused on the how to balance increasing demands for energy, with carbon commitments and the ‘need’ to support economic growth and competitiveness in the UK. Whilst the discussion was fruitful and direct, I did not get any real sense that the debate is being formed by an explicit quantitative framing of climate change around 2°C. By contrast, and at both the Government and industry level, well meaning policies and low carbon dialogue was informed by a much more nebulous framing of the climate challenge. Nevertheless, the chair of Shell was adamant that he wanted the company’s development to be informed by science and coherent thinking – in essence to be evidence-based. I left with a clear impression that the Shell CEO was open to cogent arguments beyond issues of short-term finance; whether this is a view reflected in the concerns of share-holders and other senior Shell executives is open to question.

A final observation not intended as a criticism of Shell directly, but more as a comment that similarly applies to many Universities and other walks of life. Fourteen people attended the lunch, all males, all white and all over 40 (if not 50). It is difficult believe, even with the best intentions, that such a narrow group of contributors can adequately capture the variety of views and range of arguments that a different gender, age profile and cultural make-up may have offered.

Linked posts and articles



Mar 2013. Presentation to the Department for Transport (DfT)

Invited presentation (facing the challenge of climate change) as part of the DfT series of monthly seminars intended to raise the profile of climate-realted issues amongst DfT policy officials. Previously they have heard from David McKay (chief scientific officer at DECC); I was asked to complement his contribution with an account of the challenges of reaching the UK government’s and international community’s commitments around 2°C.

Linked posts & papers:

Mar 2013. Presentation at Joseph Rowntree Foundation event on climate and fairness

Pdf of presentation at: Pick a card – any card. How in fudging targets to meet politically-palatable goals, climate scientists undermine issues of equity and fairness

Yesterday (13 March) I attended an engaging workshop, organised by Katherine Knox and JRF colleagues, and tasked with considering “How can we fairly and effectively meet our climate change targets” – all with a focus on the UK.

Building on two recent JRF funded reports “Distribution of Carbon Emissions in the UK”; and, “Designing Carbon Taxation to Protect Low-income Households”, the event included papers and discussions from a wide range of participants – with the Guardian’s Fiona Harvey, as chair, using her knowledge of climate change to probe presenters and discussants.

A clash of views with John Gummer (chair of the Committee on Climate Change)
I was asked to present on the framing of climate targets and how they linked to issues of fairness; John Gummer then responded, laying out his concerns around communicating climate change. He opened with an impassioned attack of the value of my contribution – arguing that we need to engender a much more optimistic view of the challenges if we are to “win a sufficient constituency” to bring about meaningful change. This was a criticism I hear repeatedly – and one I continue to ponder – but for now at least, I remain unconvinced that it is my job to spin a cheery yarn – the numbers just don’t support such tenuous optimism. Nevertheless, I continue to hold to the view that an outside chance of meeting international commitments around 2°C still exists – albeit reducing daily as we and our leaders continue to favour apathy over action.

It is in communicating this eroding thread of hope, that I depart from John Gummer and others who argue that “the public” needs to be coaxed into action with optimistic tales of win-win, green growth and rosy futures. Personally, I don’t think it either effective or appropriate that we appoint ourselves paternal arbiters, censoring what is and isn’t fit for public consumption; all too Orwellian!

So I will continue to translate my and colleagues analysis into a clear and direct language that reflects accurately the framing and conclusions of our research. And undoubtedly we will continue to be dismissed as politically naïve, unengaged with the “real world”, scaring audiences, and sharing findings with a public ill-equipped to grasp the repercussions (or so I am advised by a self-appointed group who are apparently well equipped!).

Finally, John Gummer asserted that imperialism was dead and that we need to wake up to the new and market–dominated framing of world issues. I am unconvinced by this argument. In contrast, I see imperialism thriving – with the new and much more invidious ‘Church of Mammon’ fossil-fuelling the crusade. Until we acknowledge this dogmatic Zeitgeist along with the scale of the challenge we face, our blinkers will remain firmly in place and we’ll fail to conceive of an alternative low-carbon and climate-resilient future.

Feb 2013. Presented the Freeman seminar at the University of Sussex

Please follow the link to download the presentation. The abstract for the seminar is below.

Real Clothes for the Emperor: facing the challenge of climate change

Many scientists and policy-makers continue to claim it is possible, albeit challenging, to contain the global increase in mean surface temperature at or below 2°C relative to preindustrial levels.  However, despite the increasingly vociferous rhetoric around ‘transitioning to a low carbon economy’, current emissions growth is much more aligned with temperature rises of 4°C or higher, and possibly within just a few decades. Disturbingly, against the backdrop of unprecedented emissions growth, even a 4°C future now demands significant levels of mitigation.

This framing of climate change represents a radical departure from the more incremental mitigation proposed by many policy makers and scientific reports. Whilst orthodox expertise maintains “2°C is not only possible but achievable without sacrificing the benefits of economic growth and rising prosperity”, this paper argues “it is difficult to envisage anything other than a planned economic recession being compatible with 2°C, 3°C and increasingly 4°C futures”.

Consequently, whether in terms of mitigation or adaptation, we face a profound paradigm shift, triggered ostensibly by climate change, but with repercussions across all facets of contemporary society. Such a fundamental transition leaves society with three clear choices. To continue the delusion that climate change can be addressed adequately through rhetoric, financial fine-tuning and piecemeal incrementalism; to interpret such conclusions as a message of despair and futility; or to acknowledge that “at every level the greatest obstacle to transforming the world is that we lack the clarity and imagination to conceive that it could be different”, and that through immediate harnessing of human will and ingenuity we can yet deliver relatively low-carbon and climate-resilient communities.

Feb 2013. Presentation at Stormont – Northern Ireland

Presentation on climate change given at Stormont (parliament building for the Northern Ireland’s assembly) and  sponsored by Environment Minister Alex Attwood.  The Assembly is considering whether to develop its own climate change legislation, in similar vein to the UK’s Climate Change Act, and this presentation and subsequent Q&A was part of the discussion feeding into that decision.

Feb 2013. Kevin joins Nicky Campbell & a panel of experts to discuss climate change & the BBC

Kevin joins a panel of experts and invited audience to discuss how the BBC can further embed issues of climate change in its operations and strategic thinking. The event was organised and hosted by the BBC (Salford), with panel including: Dale Vince, founder and CEO of Ecotricity; Hattie Park, Environment Project Manager, BBC and Rich Hall, Sustainability and Climate Change, PricewaterhouseCoopers. The panel was chaired by Nicky Campbell of the BBC.

Jan 2013. Presentation to full Manchester City Council

This presentation (From Rhetoric to Reality: facing the challenges of climate change) and Q&A on climate change was given to Manchester City Council (MCC) leader (Richard Leese), the full cohort of city councillors and the Lord Mayor. Building on three MCC documents, their Climate Change Strategy, the Manchester – A Certain Future (refresh) report, and the Poverty Commission report), the presentation downscales international commitments on reducing emissions from the global to UK-city level (with particular focus on Manchester). 

Jan 2013. Presentation to Business Leadership team on Environmental Sustainability

Invited presentation Climate Change: the final tragedy of the commons? and talk organised by The Business in the Community (BITC) group and chaired by Chris Matthews, Head of Sustainability at United Utilities. It is a slightly modified version of the normal emissions talk, with some provisional thoughts on the role of businesses in meeting climate change commitments.