What Next? Climate Change December summary

Trees with question marks painted onto their trunks

At the December iteration of the What Next? Climate Change subgroup meeting, a small group of arts and cultural professionals gathered to discuss the topic of Communicating Sustainability. Below is a highlight of the sustainability policy update as prepared by Chiara Badiali, along with a selection of the resources shared by our speakers.

Sustainability Policy update:


December 13th 2018, written by Chiara Badiali, Project Manager at Julie’s Bicycle

International climate change policy:

  • In October, the IPCC released its long-awaited report on what it will take to keep global warming to below 1.5°C (and what the differences in impacts are between 2°C and 1.5°C). You may have seen the ’12 years to stop climate breakdown’ line around – basically, what the report said is that we have the next 12 years to lock in a complete industrial transformation of our society, reducing our emissions by 45% by 2030, to have a chance at meeting the 1.5°C target. The report also reinforced that every fraction of a degree really does count in terms of severity of impacts experienced by people and ecosystems.
  • COP24, the international climate change talks, are currently ongoing in Katowice, Poland. Main purpose is to agree on the ‘rulebook’ for Paris Agreement: e.g. how countries will set future carbon emission reduction targets, how progress will be measured and reported, and continued debate about how financing is going to work (and reported against). Much of this comes back to questions of equity: should there be differences for developed/developing countries, who will pay, etc. While progress is being made in some areas, some of the stickiest political issues remain far from being resolved, and there is a risk that they won’t be resolved at COP24 even though the Paris Agreement committed everyone to ‘finish’ the rulebook this year.
  • The mood is febrile: Katowice is in the heartland of Poland’s coal industry, with the Polish government trying to make the case for a continued role for coal in the world (including by announcing some of Poland’s biggest coal companies as official sponsors of the conference) even as the generally accepted scientific line is that to have a chance at meeting Paris Agreement targets, coal must stay in the ground.
  • This has emphasised the need for a ‘Just Transition’: one that provides support for the communities who will be negatively impacted by climate action.
  • USA, Russia, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia have together worked to water down the approval for the IPCC’s 1.5C report – saying it should be ‘noted’ but not ‘welcomed’. This is also causing significant tension among delegates, seeing as the report was commissioned specifically to inform policymakers.
  • Overall, COP is a huge challenge of international diplomacy, and on a massive scale: 22,771 registered participants, of which 13,898 are associated to ‘parties’ (i.e. governments) and 7,331 to observer organisations (e.g. NGOs), and 1,541 are journalists.
  • Brazil, under Bolsonaro, has withdrawn its invitation to host COP25 next year – it is not currently known where it will take place instead. Additionally, as we were sat in the WN? meeting, Claire Perry was speaking in Katowice and announced that the UK has formally requested to host COP26 in 2020. We don’t yet know when the outcome of this bid will be announced but will keep you updated.

National climate change policy:

  • Happy 10th birthday to the UK’s Climate Change Act.
  • The latest budget was poor on environment: including £30 billion for new roads and road repairs. Fuel duty has also been frozen for the ninth consecutive year – estimated to cost the government £9 billion a year.
  • The government has asked the Committee on Climate Change to explore whether the UK needs to increase ambition and set a net zero emissions target by 2050 (or before) to meet the ambitions of the Paris Agreement and the IPCC’s 1.5°C report. The UK’s current legally binding target is to cut emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Although the UK has cut its emissions faster than any other G7 country in the past ten years, we are currently not on track to meet the emissions reductions targets in the Climate Change Act budgets in the 2020s and 2030s.
  • Following the IPCC’s 1.5°C report, Manchester has pledged to be ‘carbon zero’ by 2038, while Bristol has brought forward its zero carbon pledge from 2050 to 2030. In London, Sadiq Khan has declared a climate emergency, and the London Assembly passed a motion to bring London’s zero carbon target forward to 2030, calling on Khan to draw up an ‘emergency plan’.

Science and climate impacts:

  • Carbon emissions are rising again, after remaining nearly stable 2014-2016 – and possibly accelerating, with a 1.6% rise in 2017 and a projected 2.7% rise in 2018. To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, we need to peak emissions by 2020 – but at current trajectories, this is unlikely to happen even by 2030. Right now, we are headed for a global temperature rise of 3.2°C by the end of the century.
  • NASA has detected the first signs of melting among East Antarctic glaciers – previously thought to be stable. This is worrying because there is a LOT of ice there – four Greenland’s worth, or 28 metres of sea level rise if it were all to melt.
  • The Met office has released a report saying the UK might experience summers as much as 5°C hotter, and that flooding is one of the most significant risks the UK is exposed to. Michael Gove has admitted that “We cannot build defences to protect every single building or reinforce every retreating coastline,” and that responses will include looking at land use and how to help get communities ‘out of harm’s way.

Communications Resources:

With thanks

With thanks to Ben Harris and the ICA for hosting the group, Karishma Rafferty at Somerset House for chairing, and all our speakers for sharing insights:

– Andrew Ellerby and Nisha Emich from Arts Council England

– Mark Godber and Judith Knight from ArtsAdmin, speaking about Season for Change

– Dan de la Motte from LTC Artist’s Climate Lab

– Margot Daviot-Fernandez from Curzon

– Chiara Badiali from JB