Boris at Copenhagen for a greener future

With the right finance, Britain can lead the world to a greener future, says Boris Johnson.

By the time you read these words I will be airborne to Copenhagen.  Why, you may ask, am I going to the climate change summit? Is it really worth discharging yet more greenhouse gases into the upper air?

As for the validity of the summit itself, I believe that it is of crucial importance for the world. We have a real chance to agree new targets for reducing CO2 emissions – and to bring in countries such as China and India which were, insanely, omitted from the Kyoto protocol. We also have a chance to do something about the politics of global warming, which are in danger of going seriously wrong. We won’t win this argument with the public, we won’t get people to change their lives, we won’t succeed in cutting CO2 if we continue to rely on a diet of unremitting gloom. It is time for a change in the psychological approach.

Boris concedes that:   “There is no doubt that humanity faces a risk of environmental catastrophe. Indeed, in many ways it is already happening. We are replicating too fast, hurtling towards nine billion souls on the planet like bacteria multiplying on a Petri dish. We are destroying habitats and species at an unprecedented and unforgivable rate. In continuing to rely on fossil fuels, we risk – according to the overwhelming majority of scientific opinion – an appalling rise in temperature. 

But there is something about human beings that means we are hard-wired to ignore these intimations of mortality. Do you remember poor Ricky Ray Rector, the half-wit murderer who was executed in Arkansas in 1992? As is customary on Death Row, Ricky Ray was given a splendid last meal topped off with pecan pie. As he rose to take his farewell from the world, he told his guards that he hadn’t finished the pecan pie but would “save it for later”. That, I am afraid, is us.

With part of our minds, we may accept that we are in mortal danger. But we find it very hard to make the full imaginative leap. We may be told by thousands of scientists and environmentalists that we are about to fry – and we may be able to understand the case they make – but some deep instinct none the less urges us to believe, inductively, that things will go on more or less as they are. That is why the polls show such an amazingly obstinate public refusal to accept the reality of global warming. That is why there is still a market for thermoscepticism of all kinds.

The other day I stood on the roof of a fire station in Ilford. It is not an architectural jewel. You will not find it in Pevsner. But, in its way, it is one of the most inspiring and uplifting buildings in London. By “retrofitting” that fire station – installing solar panels, transformers, insulation and other humdrum modifications – the fire brigade has cut the building’s energy use by more than 40 per cent.

We have similarly retrofitted 42 public buildings across London, and already – on those buildings alone – we have saved £1 million in energy costs to the taxpayer. This success has, I believe, vital implications for our strategy. In a world in which people live increasingly in cities, and where cities produce the vast majority of CO2, we can only tackle emissions if we deal with the 70 per cent of CO2 that comes from buildings. We will only persuade firms and individuals to retrofit their buildings to reduce energy consumption if we can show that it is in their financial interest.

As you can tell from the example of the 42 London buildings we have just done, there are big savings to be made. After less than eight years, we will have recouped all our investment. But there are also big upfront costs. Where do you go when you have big upfront costs but the prospect of good financial returns? You go to a bank. There is a huge opportunity here, for banks to securitise these investments in such a way as to yield a profit for themselves and for the firm/householder. There is the chance to generate thousands of “green-collar” jobs in improving London’s ageing buildings. There is the opportunity to make deep cuts in the single biggest source of CO2 emissions; and if the banks work faster, and help to devise the necessary financial instruments, there is the chance for them to redeem themselves in the eyes of the general public.

There is also the chance for Britain to lead the world. We often moan that we are lagging in this or that. This is the moment to lead in lagging itself.”

You can read this full article in The Daily Telegraph

19 thoughts on “Boris at Copenhagen for a greener future”

  1. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

  2. Hi Boris

    I have heard that you did not believe in global warming and climate change so I am surprised and glad to see your new zeal. I wonder what exactly made you change since reading the Stern Report.

  3. OK Boris, explain to me how you can model an intensely non-linear system using only techniques of linear analysis, a very big computer and great bucketfuls of dodgy data.

  4. ‘By the time you read these words I will be airborne to Copenhagen. Why, you may ask, am I going to the climate change summit? Is it really worth discharging yet more greenhouse gases into the upper air?’

    To be honest, by the time I’d read that first para, on the topic of GHGs, I was rather hoping for a bit more about why the plane? It seems to have been raised, and then dropped.

    Agree with a lot else, but as the parent of teens, I find I seldom win arguments with them, and can’t seem to get them to change their sheets even, by relying on a diet of don’t do as I do but do as I say.

    I’m sure Boris might agree. But big up on the other stuff.

  5. In his hope to hear of enlightenment amongst politicians, I fear Tiresias will be disappointed ; he must return to listening to the birds.

    I put it down to the fact that children — students, as they prefer to be called — are allowed to drop the natural sciences so early in their academic lives. As valuable as the study of literature and history (for example) are, I feel sure the great philosophers of the ancient world — green with envy at the abundance of knowledge now available to us — would be horrified at the ‘scientific’ illiteracy of to-day’s majority.

  6. I am confident that you will prove to be Britain’s best possible, and most effective, Ambassador at this summit and await your further reports from Denmark.

  7. The evidence.

    “It’s a little strange,” he said of his brush with Danish police.

    “I’ve never been in an environment like this. I only kept myself from being arrested by showing my media credentials.”

    Despite a wave of more than 1,100 arrests over the weekend, Krug said the majority of people at the conference are working peacefully to lobby through activism and social media campaigns.

    Krug plans to remain in the thick of climate summit talks until Dec. 20.

  8. It’ll be a real feather in Boris’ cap if he does save the planet. Every woman in London will want to have his babies!

  9. “Is it really worth discharging yet more greenhouse gases into the upper air?”. Well, Boris, a more cruel correspondent might counsel you to keep your mouth shut in that case. I lack scientific qualifications, but would have thought that your talking would not add a great deal to the damaged environment, after all you would be breathing out when not actually talking. No, Bozza, I recognise that you are usually incomprehensible, and when you do manage to string a couple of sentences together then you have nothing of any sense to say, but I hope the day never comes when I campaign against your freedom of expression.

  10. What is Boris Johnson doing in Copenhagen?

    So he rides a bike sometimes. Big deal. Are we aware what sort of car he drives, how many houses he has and how many children he has?

    His has been a selfish life: selfish in that it would be unsustainable if even a small minority of Britons lived that way.

  11. @hotjon hot: Rubbish. Boris grew up on a farm and got his education on scholarship. He lives in a semi and.. excuse me but are you blaming Boris for increasing global warming by having children? Is having children bad or is there an acceptable quota? How very Nu Lab.

  12. Mr. hotjon hot, I pressed thumbs up when I meant to press thumbs down. No-one in their right mind could endorse your rotten comments.

  13. yes, hotjon hot – we are aware of how many cars, houses and children he has. But then, the numbers pale in comparison to the number of names you have used on the this site. Why don’t you just stick with one?

    Never mind – what were you blithering about? Oh yes – right. I wasn’t aware that having your own transportation, housing and children made one selfish. How interesting. I presume you have none of the above else we shall have to add hypocrite to your selfish certificate.

    What I am not entirely clear on is what do you mean by “if even a small minority of Britons lived that way.” You seem to be implying that Boris’ lifestyle is quite far removed from the norm. Which is wrong. And says more about you and your understanding of “norm” than it does Boris.

  14. dmnyc said “I wasn’t aware that having your own transportation, housing and children made one selfish. How interesting. I presume you have none of the above else”

    Correct.

    Having excess in any area makes on selfish. Boris Johnson is a very rich man from a silver spoon background who frequently promotes his own self interest above fair-play, for example in accepting free office space from a property developer during the campaign.

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