Climate Change : Meeting in Passing

Last week’s conference “The politics of climate change : from economic crisis to business revolution” was a great opportunity to bump into people I only normally read about.

Trouble is, although they irritate me at a distance by what they have said, or spent, or decided, or spun, when I meet them my anger has subsided and I just can’t get the venom together to be rude.

I end up saying really stupid things, and I don’t even broach the subjects about which I disagree heartily with them. I must be just too human.

Tom Burke : Mr “Clean” Coal. I bumped into him as we both tried to get into a breakout session that was booked out, called “Active Industrial Change – Are Clean Energy, Efficient Infrastructure and Economic Growth Compatible ?”

He was looking more rotund and puffed than any of his recent photographs. Guess he’s been eating out a lot, probably courtesy of the Coal Industry. “Glad to see you’ve got your summer suit on”, I ventured. I didn’t mention that it looked dirty, and it was clearly un-ironed, but so needed to be.

I crossed lunch queues with Dr Terry Barker of the Tyndall Centre, who although is generally a sound egg, has upset some of my colleagues. “Nice colourful tie !” I commented. He mentioned he wore it to get noticed.

I was in a coffee cluster when Professor Michael Grubb walked up. Although from an “established Quaker family” and could be expected to act ethically, he has had altercations in the past with people I highly respect. I showed glad surprise at meeting him and shook him with the wrong hand.

Dieter Helm, of Oxford, who has to be one of the most annoying academics in history, I actually felt empathy with, from a couple of rows back, as he was micromanaged by the chair of one session.

I don’t think I would have poured green slime on Peter Mandelson after his stupid remarks, but I might have sneezed on him by mistake if he hadn’t run away immediately after speaking.

Some people I generally felt support for : John Podesta for example. I shook his hand and thanked him for being so straightforward and rational.

It was a pleasant surprise to see Dr Catherine Mitchell there, with a totally funky big red bead necklace on. I told her that I always quote her, as I heartily agree with her stance :-

“Nuclear power has been subsidised for fifty years. The history, the evidence of nuclear power in this country, is poor performance and expense.” Dr Catherine Mitchell, Warwick Business School, former government energy adviser, BBC2 Newsnight 16th May 2005

However, I told her that I don’t agree with Oliver Tickell, who was standing right at hand in a pre-loved genuine Hawaiian shirt. I don’t think that the world will buy the Kyoto2 protocol he proposes, and anyway, his auctions of quotas for Fossil Fuels is bound to suffer “leakage” as the big Energy companies find a way round the rules, and the proceeds are bound to get mis-spent.

(The European Union, for example, plans to spend the proceeds from the Emissions Trading Scheme auction on developing Carbon Capture and Storage. What a waste of money !)

I managed to tread on someone’s foot in a door dance faux pas. She turned out to be an environmental lawyer. I asked her what she thought of Polly Higgins’ proposal that excess Carbon Dioxide emissions be made illegal internationally. This lady thought that sounded ridiculous !

I found scientist Dr Simon Lewis of Leeds University and Climate Camp wandering around, and tried to introduce him to Callum Clench of the Sustainable Development Commission, on the basis of Simon’s work into the temporary boost to the world’s forests of rising Carbon Dioxide levels. I felt really awkward when they found they didn’t have much to say to each other.

I felt a great deal of pity for Mr Ibrahim, a Sudanese businessman. We discussed the problem of getting through to the leadership in his country regarding the problem of Climate Change and Energy Peak.

We compared notes about strategies, and he’d tried them all. He said it was awful that his government would accept what a foreigner would say, but shot and killed his compatriot who tried to make a political statement.

The person I felt most sorry for during the day was Tina Davey, Colin Challen MP’s researcher in the House of Commons. During a coffee break I found her staring at a plate of fancy biscuits.

I snaffled one with foil on and said “the ones with foil on are generally nicer”. She admitted to having a gluten allergy, so she dare not touch them. We eventually hit on the idea of dunking them in hot coffee so she could at least suck some chocolate off.

Although the conference should have been a great opportunity for networking, I resolutely resisted business cards from anyone.

Nobody ever calls you on the basis of your business card, these days, unless they’re asking for money.

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