Sarah: So we're live streaming this Q and A session, so welcome back to those people watching online. For people who saw the Q and A earlier, and obviously for everyone in the room, this one's gonna work a little bit differently. Instead of you giving me your questions and me asking the speaker's you're gonna ask your questions yourselves, you're going to ask your table facilitator to do that for you. Before we do that I had a request just to reintroduce the speakers: so we have Tony Juniper from Natural England, Chris Stark from the Committee on Climate Change and Kirsten Leggatt from 2050 Climate Group, got it right this time, excellent. Now it is important to say that they all represent - although we've given you their organisations for reasons of transparency, they are here representing themselves. It is a personal opinion that they're giving you. So how we are going to do it is we're going to start with Chris. I'm going to take the top question from each of these tables, will come round with the mic, take maybe three questions, Chris will answer those that I'll take the other questions for Chris. He'll answer those, and then we'll move on to the next speaker. If we have time after doing that for all the speakers, I will come and take some additional questions from you, but let's see how we go. We've got half an hour. Speakers, pithy answers so we can get through as many questions as possible, please. So I will start over here with this table. Who has your question for Chris?
Audience Member: Will government seriously consider the scientific evidence in looking at all of these issues or merely pay lip service to it? (00:01 25- 00:01:33)
Sarah: Thank you very much. And on this table, the question for Chris.
Audience Member: Our question is, how can we ensure the cost of changes don't affect poorer people disproportionately
Sarah: Thank you very much and this table here, your question for Chris?
Audience Member: Our table asked why is religion not playing a much bigger role in changing our habits for the future
Sarah: Chris, when you're ready, those answers to those questions, please:
Chris Stark: Easy. Well, firstly, will government seriously consider the scientific evidence? Well, yes, I hope they will, but I can only say that I hope they will know, one reason to think that they might here in the UK is because we have the piece of legislation that hangs over all of this. So there is a piece of legislation called the Climate Change Act, which has been around since 2008. The Act is where you will find the target that you are talking about - the net zero target overall. It also establishes a very clear principle that we should be cutting emissions, yes, but also reacting to the science. The story that some of you may know is that the new target that we have is a net zero target. Until last year, we had a different target, which was an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions measured on 1990 levels. The reason that we've changed that to net zero by 2050 is because the science really strongly says we should. So I am, I am quite optimistic, if I can put it that way, that the government is responding in the right way to the science, the one area that I question, as I sit here before you, that commitment is in the government's commitment to the things that would drive those emissions down. So the language I often use is government policies, the steps, the laws and the steps that the government's due to force those emissions to change. We're not seeing at the moment that they are compatible with the targets that's just been set. That’s again one of the things that I'm sure you’ll want to talk about. So will government take seriously the science. I hope they will. They're certainly required to by that Act of Parliament. Secondly, how can we ensure that the cost doesn't impact most on poorer people? Well, there's lots of ways in which you can, you can do that and this is the key question, really, for the Treasury. So the Treasury is the bit of government that looks, especially at how we raise taxes and do public spending. They're also very acutely involved in some of the other wider bits of government policy that determine how the economy works. It's very important, I think, for the Treasury to consider that question as they think about the ways in which the government will have to help pay for the transition to the net zero goal that you are talking about today. One of - just to give you an example of the kind of things that could be done they could use higher taxes overall, now the tax system, the way in which we raise taxes is generally thought to be a fairer way of raising money than through other routes because it raises more from rich people than it does from poor people. So you could think about the Treasury considering an approach where they raise more money and spend more money. That'd be one way of doing it. Another way of doing it is that they might put laws in place to ensure that those who are the poorest in society don't face the costs of some of the big steps that again you'll be talking about over the next weekend. It's very difficult to give a pithy answer to that, but what I would say in summary is it's essential. I'm not making a political point here, but it's essential in designing the things that the government will want to do to get to net zero that the question of how that cost is distributed so that the poorest people who are least able to pay don't suffer this cost is right at the heart of it. Um and thirdly, why is religion not resulting in more action on this. Well, I don't feel I'm able to answer that question directly, but what I might do is offer one outlook on it. Which is to say that I have noticed, certainly having worked around this stuff for a number of years now that recently, religion here in this country has become much more vocal on the issues of climate change than it had before. So my observation on it and it is only my observation is that and that the various religions actually are playing catch up on this, that they are all coming to the same sorts of conclusions that climate change is also is is almost symptomatic of the way in which we've been treating the planet and that's a moral issue that's of course, therefore more valid for religious discussion overall
Sarah: Thank you very much, Chris. You're gonna have to be a fair amount pithier. This table's question for Chris, please?
Audience Member: What will be the biggest challenge, practically speaking during the just transition phase?
Sarah: Thank you very much. Question from this table here for Chris?
Audience Member: It's a bit related to one we've had before. How could we make sure that the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change both economically and geographically, are protected?
Sarah: If you feel that you've answered that already - I asked them not to change the question if if it had already been covered because of time - you can just say you think it's covered. No question here, No question here. Question from this table?
Audience Member: Chris. Three out of the seven points you listed were about fairness. I was just wondering who decides who's fair? What's fair and how?
Chris Stark: Right? Let's be quick on this. So just transition. What's the biggest challenge? The biggest challenge is oil and gas. So the oil and gas sector, which employs many, many, many people right across the world and here in the UK too, the one thing we know is that we can't keep consuming and using those reserves that are coming out of the ground or under the sea to the extent that we use today. So the biggest challenge when it comes to the employment issues overall, I think, is that one, and there is a set of choices ahead for the people who work in that sector for what we do about that. They could transition into different industries. They may remain in the same industry, but if that's going to be the case, we'll have to have something else alongside that which you will hear about which is carbon capture, which is about using those resources but capturing the carbon from doing so. These are really important issues because there's a lot of people who work there and transitioning that employment to ways in which they're more compatible with climate change is, I think, one of, if not the biggest issues overall. How the most vulnerable are protected? I'm going to say that that was probably the answer I gave earlier, but I could talk for hours about that issue.
Sarah: Please don’t!
Chris Stark: but yes seven question was about fairness. Who decides what's fair? you do is my short answer to that, because it is. It is for governments to define what they regard as a fair outcome and to stand and to be elected on that basis. But the most fascinating thing about what we're doing here today is probing further than that. So we're not just looking at some sort of electoral mandate, the fact that you were elected on a host of things that you stood on as a governing party. It means that you can always question on what basis people really voted for that party. Think of Brexit, for example. That was clearly one of the defining factors in the last election rather the topics that we're talking about. What you're doing today is establishing in one sense what you regard as the fair outcome here to meet that target that Parliament has set. That's evidence that we don't have at the moment in which each of these select committees around us in Parliament will then use when they probe government about what they're doing about meeting the target that Parliament has set for them. (end 09:38)
Sarah: Thank you very much. So will now move to questions for Kirsten. This table's question for Kirsten please.
Audience Member: The question was, what can we do to help you be effective, like raising money?
Sarah: Okay, this table's question for Kirsten, please.
Audience Member: Our question is what percentage of younger people agree with you and who do you engage with?
Sarah: Thank you very much and the question here.
Audience Member: What would you like to change now?
Sarah: There you go, nice small questions for you there. Would you like to answer those?
Kirsten Leggatt: What can you do to be effective? What can we do to be effective, right? Talk about it raise awareness of it, I think is key to all of this. But I also think that we need to start, not just - I go, I go too many, many talks in all that I do and it's just the same message is being spoken about over and over again and I think it should be not just this is what we can do but giving examples of exactly what you are doing, I think is you know, a really, really important part. I think that, you know, for what we do within 2050 Climate Group is individual action and if you start with your, your friends and your family and get encouraging them to you know, walk to work rather than you know, drive for example. There are others, there are other examples but that kind of starts the ripple, which then moves into a tsunami when more and more people do it. And yeah, I could go on. So I'm just gonna cut it brief there. Percentage of people that agree with me and who do I engage with - so I volunteer with the 2050 Climate Group in Scotland, the UK youth climate coalition in the UK is a UK wide organisation and we are in Scotland, we are very closely linked with the Scottish government and we have other, lots of other funders as well in terms of the UK youth, we are very, very closely linked with UNCC, which is the UN, and um in terms of the percentages that agree with me, I think there are very many people out there that will I can't give an actual percentage sorry. Sorry, I can't remember your question now?
Sarah: The question was what would you like to change now?
Kirsten Leggatt: Internal flights in the UK. Just gonna come out and say it. And I think it's really important that if you're you know, there's so many, the work I do for my day job is - there is people in my company that will fly to a meeting from Edinburgh to London. The train’s four hours. That's probably the length of time you're waiting in the airport and then, you know, getting on the flight and at the other end. So I would I would hope that that is something we can solve quite quickly. And, you know, tomorrow, hopefully
Sarah: Thank you. This table's question for Kirsten, please.
Audience Member: So how can we inspire people who have power and influence to make the necessary changes When the current information on climate change we've been given hasn't been enough so far?
Audience Member: How can you inspire decision makers to make changes when they haven't done so given the information they've been given so far?
Audience Member: What would be your personal first step at reducing carbon emissions?
Sarah: If you feel you've answered that question already, just say so. If you'd like to give a different answer, feel free. This table's question?
Audience Member: If no action is taken by Parliament after the recommendations from this assembly, do you think young people will become demoralised and accept the course of climate change? Or will it create a further revolution from young people to demand change?
Sarah: And this table's question?
Audience Member: Young people own more cars and fly more than previous generations ever did. How can we reverse this? And do you think there is a sincere sentiment of compromise in creating change while sacrificing quality of life in terms of international travel?
Sarah: Did you get that?
Kirsten Leggatt: Can you repeat it?
Sarah: It was a long one.
Audience Member: Sorry. Young people own more cars and fly more than previous generations ever did. How can we reverse this? And do you think there is a sincere sentiment of compromise in creating change while sacrificing quality of life in terms of international travel?
Kirsten Leggatt: Okay, so inspire people, inspire decision makers to make, is that the first question?
Sarah: First question was about what can you do to inspire decision makers to make change, given that they haven't made changes already based on the available information?
Kirsten Leggatt: There's a really difficult question, I think to me it's obvious that, you know we need to make changes. And so how can we inspire decision makers is, you know, giving them fact, like meeting them in a way that they will understand, I think is a big point. So, you know, meeting them halfway. So if they're not prepared to do the whole haul, like, you know, become vegan try meat free Mondays instead is kind of like maybe that is an easier way and then hopefully when they decide how easy and find out how easy that is they'll move up in that. Personal first step, I think it all comes down to travel, and diet for me and I walk, get the train, get the bus where I have to. And I am vegetarian full time and vegan most of the time but I still quite like cheese. So sorry. Will young people accept and get demoralised, or have further revolution. There will be further revolution I think that's pretty obvious, I hope. And it's not going to stop. We're not going to accept it. And it's just gonna have to keep. We're going to keep up our persistent action until you know people in power listen. And if that takes, it takes, as long as it takes. The last question something that the phrase that I want to pick up on this sacrificing quality of life, I don't think anything that we do to, you know to have a better a lower carbon footprint is sacrificing your quality of life. And I do believe that more people - you know, owning a car is expensive as well as, you know, high carbon emissions. So I think that that is a point there, but, you know, we shouldn't be sacrificing, shouldn't be thinking of sacrificing your way of, like, quality of life because I have a great quality of life and I don't feel like I've sacrificed anything and I feel like I'm taking all the individual actions that, you know there are. I think we need systems change now I think that answers everything. Thank you everybody.
Sarah: And for the last round of questions for Tony. Then at this table's question for Tony, please? .
Audience Member: It's a three part question on trees. The National Trust have planted 20,000 trees. How long before they're effective? How many do you need to be effective and actually are forests better than individual trees?
Sarah: I’ll just pause to let you write that down. This table's question.
Audience Member: What solutions are available to grow food without soil?
Sarah: This table's question?
Audience Member: Who would you make responsible for reversing degradation of nature and how would it be financed?
Sarah: Start with those.
Tony Juniper: Okay, so these are all very good questions, and we could spend the rest of our weekend sitting here answering them all. I will attempt to be brief. So in relation to trees, how quickly are they effective in removing carbon dioxide? So immediately is the answer, the quicker they grow, the more carbon they remove from the atmosphere. We do need to have some caution, though, about the extent to which we only see the carbon benefit from tree planting. And the part of the question, which is about trees versus forests, is very important. So a forest is a living entity with many different dimensions to it. Many interactions going on. It would have a lot of different wildlife species in it, and it would be delivering multiple benefits, not simply sucking carbon out of the atmosphere. And this, I think, is the piece of the equation we really need to master as we look at trees as part of the solution is how those trees can be providing benefits across a whole range of different needs. So I was saying here, to Chris a moment ago that tree planting, in my opinion, should have eight reasons. Eight headings one is carbon. One is wildlife, one is landscape beauty. One more is to reduce flood risk. One more is to lead to the purification of rivers by stopping sediments going in. Another good use of trees, especially in cities, is to cut urban air pollution. Another good use of forests, in particular, is for human wellbeing and recreation and for inspiration and then an eighth heading is to provide timber, which we could be using to make wooden buildings which hold carbon for centuries. If we start to look at trees like that, and importantly, to look at forests as delivering those things probably better than individual trees, then I think we make a lot more progress. Yes, I think that was it. And then food without soil, we can do this, there’s a method called hydroponics. So some companies are looking at moving farming indoors, growing vegetables in very closely controlled conditions where they're being fed nutrients and water inside a closed system. This is becoming economically more viable, not least because of the invention of very low cost LED lighting. This is enabling the power source to be done very cost effectively to produce vegetables at least, I'm not sure what the limits of this technology are, and certainly one would see a continuing need for agriculture and soil for a long time to come. That's one route, another route you may have seen in George Monbiot's film the other evening Apocalypse Cow, where he was looking at some of the emerging technologies to be producing food from bacteria in vessels, in lamps. And another source of food. That we're eating all the time, actually, is fish coming from the ocean. There's no soil involved there, but actually what there is is an equally complex set of ecological dependencies coming from plankton feeding on sunshine in the top of the sea. So these are all roots. I would, however, expect us to be using soil for a long time to come. And actually, agricultural soil can be part of the solution so long as we can find ways to rebuild the organic matter. And what we've done over many decades now is to be replacing the natural fertility that comes from organic matter with industrial fertilisers produced in factories which have a very big greenhouse gas footprint in their manufacture. If we can go back to putting organic matter back into soils, raising the organic matter there are some very big numbers out there that scientists have produced showing us that this could be a big part of what we need to do over the coming few decades. So focusing on soils and rebuilding their organic matter definitely part of the solution alongside some of these emerging technologies. So the part about the finance and the recovery of nature, the question was around who's responsible for nature recovery and how’s it going to be financed? Okay, so I think people who manage land, they can be responsible. Governments can take responsibility in terms of the direction of a country. There are people in private sector organisations like water companies and agricultural companies who can take responsibility as well, and all of these institutions between them can finance the recovery of the natural environment. Water companies can, for example, see a real business case in restoring blanket bog as a way of avoiding the need for chemical treatment and technology to get pure water to consumers. If you damage a blanket bog particles get into the rivers, they go downhill, they get into the raw water treatment that costs money to get out. Actually far cheaper to invest in the recovery of the blanket bog up the hill. Similar things you can say around the recovery of certain woodlands on hillsides that help us to avoid having to do the cleanup downstream. So there's a revenue stream right there. Government could be paying for nature recovery and will be quite soon through the new Environmental Land Management Scheme, which is a new policy that will pay money to farmers for public goods. Public money for public goods is the idea, and that will in turn be seen in terms of a range of environmental benefits. Paying farmers to catch carbon, recover wildlife, clean up rivers, enable public access, create beautiful landscapes to inspire everybody again. That's where the direction of policy is going. So we can do that and we can pay for that. And, of course, there are other organisations - the National Trust was mentioned a moment ago, through their members. They're doing some of this work too, so multiple sources of finance. It does, however, need somebody to create the overall plan, and that's one of the jobs we hope we will be doing at Natural England. We're an official government agency if you didn't pick that up yet, we advise government on these subjects. And one of the things we're advising them about at the moment is how to create a national nature recovery network.
Sarah: Okay, Thank you. You might have to be a little bit pithier response to the next one
Tony Juniper: They should ask easier questions.
Sarah: Yes. I mean, that's a fair comment. Over here if you didn't think the entirety of your question was answered, I will just come back and check that you're happy. Okay. This table, this question
Audience Member: I apologise straight away. Do you think utilising hemp as a replacement for wood would be beneficial and reduce deforestation. And would reforestation need to be implemented all over the world to be effective. Or would it be enough to plant trees only in those countries?
Sarah: I mean, that was technically two questions, but you just got away with that. This table here?
Audience Member: Is the world's overpopulation a bigger impact on the environment than climate change alone?
Sarah: This table.
Audience Member: If you plant trees to absorb carbon dioxide, can these be put anywhere or must they be near the sources of co2?
Sarah: Hold on, one more, you have one more. Sorry, I'm running .
Audience Member: How does carbon go into the air by ploughing?
Sarah: You have maximum five minutes to do that. I'm so sorry.
Tony Juniper: Ok, Right. OK. Hemp versus wood, I don't know, somebody will have done that, though. Somebody will have worked that out. There's a process, an intellectual process called carbon footprinting, whereby you look at the carbon involved with different processes and somebody will have done that. I'm sure in terms of whether we need to plant trees in all countries. Yes, we do. So wherever you plant a tree, it will be taking carbon from the atmosphere. Obviously some countries are more naturally forested than others. And trees grow quicker in some places then others. So trees growing in the tropics grow much more quickly than trees growing in Scandinavia just because of the climatic conditions. But I think you know everyone needs to take responsibility. It's almost an act of leadership as well as the practicalities of carbon capture and the remarks I made a moment ago about the multiple benefits of trees. We want to do it anyway. But it's not just the carbon thing, so I think putting them in all countries well, some countries are not naturally forested, so you wouldn't want to do it in those places. But the ones that are you probably would benefit from more of it. Is overpopulation a bigger threat? What we find as we delve into these subjects is we find all these things are related to one another. So one of the reasons why there is a big climatic and ecological problem right now is because we've had a very rapidly rising population. It literally has been a population explosion. What to do about that is a very complicated question. In terms of can we slow down the rate of growth and yes, we probably can. But more importantly, is to look at the facts that the numbers in terms of the climate and the ecological damage is really linked to what people do rather than how many people there are. So whenever you look at population, it's vital to look at consumption patterns. So a person living in sub Saharan Africa living in a village, basic agriculture and local economy, has probably got a carbon footprint 1% of somebody living in the West and flying on aeroplanes on their holidays the whole time. So the population thing is important, but it cannot be disentangled from the consumption part of the equation. Can we put trees anywhere to catch the carbon? Yes, we can so the carbon I'm breathing into the atmosphere this evening. Right now, this will be pretty much evenly distributed into the atmosphere of the entire planet within about 18 months. And so the carbon that we're putting out is truly, literally a global problem. And everywhere we make a local intervention it’s going to make a difference on the global stage. So we don't need to put the trees near to the carbon sources. The carbon is diffused. Once it's out, it spreads out, and so trees can pick that up anywhere so we don't need to focus in that way. Um, what, carbon into the atmosphere from ploughing so organic matter. So if you can imagine a plant growing above the ground, it's basically shedding dead material onto the surface of the soil. The worms and other organisms drag that into the soil. The bacteria and the fungi get to work on it and that flow of organic material is the organic matter in the soil. When we plough soil and we put too many crops in there that are very demanding, the organic matter goes down. And one reason for that is because when you expose organic matter to the atmosphere, the carbon meets oxygen and the soil literally evaporates, turns into carbon dioxide. This is particularly prevalent in peat lands that are covered in water. So peatlands of wetland ecosystems when we drain them to get at the peat, to grow crops or to change them for some other reason, then the peat is exposed to the air and the carbon that's been accumulated in this wetland - its layer upon layer of dead plants that don't rot because they're kept in this moist condition. Then, when you remove the water by digging drains, which is what we've done all over the peatlands of England, then the peat starts to turn into atmosphere. So in peatlands, this is a particularly big problem, considering that the biggest terrestrial carbon store we've got here is in those peat soils. So restoring our peatlands is a really big priority as a result of exactly that issue of organic matter turning into gas. And it's a similar process in agricultural soils, but also it's cropping there as well. We're removing the organic matter as a result of growing loads of plants in there to eat. And then, as I say, we're not putting the organic matter back very often. We're replacing it with ammonium nitrate, a fertiliser that comes out of bags, which is produced with a very high carbon footprint so that's the short answer to that. I think.
Sarah: So can we say a big thank you to our panellists? Thank you very much. So Kathy Support Team, Kathy at the back, she's waving at you panellist. She's gonna whizz you down to the other room so off you go. People in here just have a chat at your tables and we'll wait for the other panellists to get up here for the Q and A.
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