Walk2COP26 Meet The Team
500 miles from London to Glasgow. 6 walkers. 26 days on the road this October, arriving in time for the start of the global climate summit. But why on earth are they doing it? Let’s hear from each of the walkers and find out what they have to say.
CC You’ve been advising organisations on climate change and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) policy for many years, as a Deloitte partner and more recently at Chapter Zero. What gave you the idea of organising this extraordinary walk?
SB The first is a sense that we all need to engage on climate change outside of our normal social and professional circles. It’s a systemic issue and we need to push ourselves to understand different points of view, different challenges and work together to overcome them.
The second related point is the hope that we can do something to draw attention to the great work that has been done but, for a multitude of reasons, just isn’t known out about – for example, the UK Climate Assembly; the work of the Climate Change Commission; the UNFCCC itself.
The third is a personal desire to do something fundamentally different to the life I have led over the last few decade. An epic walk has definitely been on the cards for sometime.
CC How has the birth of your grandson affected your personal outlook on the climate crisis?
SB Kasper is my daily reminder that this isn’t about me, not even really about people of my generation, but future generations. Somehow I, and many like me, have had it good – but we’ve closed our eyes to the broader impact of many of things we have benefited from and now we have to try and put that right.
CC You have a very broad view of international climate action in your current role at WEF (World Economic Forum), working on the Climate Governance Initiative. Is there one simple message for all of us, wherever we live?
NF We must act with urgency and with all stakeholders in mind. As we transition to a low carbon world some will be more affected than others, and it is our responsibility to ensure the interests of the most vulnerable in society are considered. When taking decisions - be it for investment in local public infrastructure or personal assets or re-imagining international supply chains - we need to ensure the impact on both planet and people will be positive in the long-term, whilst having regard for the communities which are directly affected.
CC Why is climate action, whoever or wherever you are, so important?
NF We are all connected through our shared use of the planet, and the climate emergency will have implications for everyone. So, whether we are acting as local or international business leaders, employees, consumers, communities or governments, our outcomes contribute to the same system. Our individual actions matter, however insignificant they may seem. To meet the scale of the challenge it is essential that we all participate, in all our roles…
CC As someone who has worked as a renewable energy engineer, you have a very hands-on perspective on sustainability at the heart of business strategy. Why should businesses work more closely with civic society and local governments to drive the transformation we need?
LJ The involvement and leadership by businesses everywhere, big and small, is really important in creating and implementing the solutions we need, if we are to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Business innovation is not simply something that is nice to have, it is essential. And it can take many different forms, from reducing the ecological footprint of supply chains to reducing energy consumption to creating circular economies to driving carbon removal schemes.
CC What do you think are some of the broader education opportunities that could change our collective behaviour?
LJ In terms of education, I think we have moved well beyond creating awareness of the climate crisis to creating awareness about the different ways that people can make a positive impact individually and collectively. The next stage of decarbonisation will involve more changes to the way we live our lives. This is not necessarily a bad thing – a greener, cleaner, fairer economy is something we would all like. But change is hard for all of us to do and so education should focus on the benefits socially and economically, as well as the obvious benefits to the environment.
CC Given your involvement in climate action charity Carbon Copy, why were you so keen to be a part of Walk2COP26?
RC Through Carbon Copy, I have seen first-hand the power of working together locally across different communities and organisations to address the climate crisis. It’s a real force for good and one that tends to be overlooked by national governments focused on the ‘big picture’. And yet, the big picture is made up from the sum of these parts. My motivation is to showcase local leadership on climate action, by being there on the ground and in the places where it’s happening, and to encourage more people to join in and copy what’s working.
CC Your book, Civic Revolution, is a call-to-action for people to become more involved in civic life to address the climate crisis. Why do you think people will do so?
RC The pandemic has brought home the fragility of our surroundings and our dependency on one another if we are to thrive. Regeneration and solidarity are basically two sides of the same coin. Participating in the care, repair and renewal of the immediate world around us – both urban and natural – is part of being a citizen. People understand the need for more fundamental system change and our sense of belonging is a powerful driver in making some of these changes happen in our local communities.
CC From your perspective, having worked for the BBC and teaching at Goldsmiths (UoL), what’s missing in the way we talk about climate change in the media?
HN I think too much emphasis has been put on what governments and corporations can do and not enough on the agency of each of us. It’s true that we need the governments and corporations to take urgent actions but equally we need people and employees to be fully aware of the effects of climate change and to put pressure on governments and corporations to do a lot more than just keeping the current status quo. On top of that, each of us can make changes in the way we live our life that will be beneficial to the environment. There are lot of unsung heroes in the fight against climate change and they deserve to be in the spotlight.
CC You grew up walking. What makes travelling by foot so important to the way we would like to engage with people?
HN First of all, we’re more likely to run into people when we’re not in our car. I walked everywhere until I was 13 or 14, when I was given a bike. My grandad and I spent hours talking when we walked some 25 kilometres a day to visit relatives. When we walk, we’re in the right frame of mind to talk and the same is true with walkers we will run into. Who would not welcome a chance to stop to catch your breath, while having a conversation with people at the same time?
CC As someone who has worked in risk management, what’s your view of the risk we face by not moving further and faster on the climate crisis?
SH I think the lasting impression from Breaking Boundaries, the latest documentary by David Attenborough, is of urgency. The film is structured around nine ‘planetary boundaries’ in which we are already operating in the high-risk zone in at least four: climate change, biodiversity, land-system change and nitrogen and phosphorus imbalance. Where we stand in relation to irreversible tipping points for each is unclear, so our approach to this risk should be based on the ‘precautionary principle’. We should act now to avoid or diminish the harm we cause, even if the scientific outcomes are not totally certain. Disastrous trajectories have been reversed before, such as the disappearing ozone layer in the 1980s, but it took concerted participation and a real sense of urgency from many different stakeholders.
CC You currently live in Lewes and are part of the local community. Why is place-based action so powerful in collective change?
SH Lewes is rich in history and still has an independent spirit from its more radical days! It has always been forward thinking with a strong sense of community. It’s this sense of belonging to something bigger and of shaping the world around you that continues to galvanise people, wherever they are. People have the power to make change happen where they live and are motivated by seeing that change unfold in front of them.
Despite the challenge of completing this walk, team members say it’s not about them. Instead, they emphasize that it’s about the people they will meet and convene along the way. Their optimism stems from the stories and insights they will discover, about the pathways available to all of us on our collective journey to carbon zero.