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Why we need to get real about the climate crisis

The next time you’re on the train or in the car, can I recommend a podcast from former Cabinet Minister and Tory MP, Rory Stewart, and former Downing Street Director of Communications and Strategy for Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell.

And before you tell me that you’re not interested in politics, this podcast talks exclusively about climate change and is well worth listening to, as it will take you on an emotional journey through hope and despair but also point the way to a brighter future.

Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart have been at the heart of the UK’s political world and join forces on ‘The Rest Is Politics’ podcast to offer an insider’s view on politics at home and abroad, while bringing back what they refer to as ‘the lost art of disagreeing agreeably’.

In the episode published on 14 April, they are joined by Britain’s leading energy economist, Professor Dieter Helm, answering the following questions and more:

“Is net zero 2030 impossible to achieve - and is it a mistake to pursue it?”

“Should governments be more brutal with climate investment?”

“Are events like COP a waste of time?”

His message is a tough one: we are way off course and now, we cannot escape the consequences

Russell Jones Russell Jones Content and communications manager

Dieter who?

Professor Sir Dieter Helm is Professor of Economic Policy at the University of Oxford and Fellow in Economics at New College, Oxford.

He was also Independent Chair of the Natural Capital Committee from 2012 to 2020, providing advice to the government on the sustainable use of natural capital.

His website explains how he provides extensive expert advice to UK and European governments, regulators, and companies across three key areas: Energy & Climate; Regulation, Utilities & Infrastructure; and Natural Capital & the Environment.

Dieter Helm is also a Vice President of the Exmoor Society, a Vice President of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust, and Honorary Fellow, Brasenose College, Oxford.

His latest book, “Legacy: How to build the sustainable economy” explores what a sustainable economy would look like and what it would take to live within our environmental means?

A spikey exchange

Like the book, his discussion with Rory Stewart and Alistair Campbell pulls no punches and at times, the conversation is a little ‘spikey’, but as the podcast claims to be “bringing back the lost art of disagreeing agreeably”, this is no bad thing, and well worth a listen to.

They start the discussion asking whether Dieter is an optimist or a pessimist about climate change. He quickly rubbishes the premise of the question and points to the need for realism, before setting out a pretty gloomy picture of where we are.

His central message is a tough one: we are way off course in terms of meeting the conditions needed to tackle the climate crisis and now, we cannot escape the consequences.

He also refers to something that you hear little mention of in the climate debate, but something that we have covered on The Hub – how the loss of biodiversity is as much a danger to humanity as climate change.

Land of hope and optimism

The discussion around the climate crisis looks at the overall global picture and the increasing use of coal-powered systems from major economies like China and India, as well as the huge increase in expected power needs across developing economies like Nigeria and other parts of Africa and the world.

Dieter Helm paints quite a gloomy picture but the podcast also steers into what the key features of the sustainable economy look like, and the trio discuss what it would take to change things around.

Alistair and Rory challenge Dieter’s pessimism and point out that, despite his renowned experience and reputation, some of his past forecasts have been wrong.

Between them, the pair steer the conversation onto a more positive and hopeful note, which I personally found optimistic and uplifting. They talk of the opportunities for both business and society from tackling climate change and how this can be mobilised as a force for change.

There’s a whole lot more in the discussion, which I can’t really do justice to here, so if you want to know more, do please take a moment to give this podcast a listen, won’t you?

Just search for ‘The Rest Is Politics’ and ‘The Rest Is Politics Plus’ on Spotify, Apple or wherever you get your podcasts from.

Russell Jones is content and communications manager