Climate Change and the Trust Factor
12 February 2007

2006, to me in the United Kingdom, felt like the year when the scales tipped over climate change.

Perhaps in different parts of the world the process happens in different ways, but until very recently global warming was a minority concern here. It is only six years ago that strikes and picketing at oil refineries in protest at the rising cost of fuel forced the government to completely change its fuel taxing policy. Those who tried to point out that we should be finding ways to use less were laughed at. Now, businesses, airline passengers, householders, car drivers, in other words just about all of us, are expecting to review our energy use. Few are complaining about it.

It has been a seismic shift in public expectations, for which we have to thank the minority who have been trying to warn us all along, some politicians who have spoken out on the subject, and a flood of stories and reports given full coverage by most (but not all) of the media.

However, action must come next, and even when most people are now expecting it, it may not be easy.

Of course the rich, industrialized nations should be giving a lead with policies to minimize climate change. If we cannot afford to, then who can? But no measures can work until they are sufficiently global, and the failure of the Doha Round of world trade talks shows that powerful interest groups can still persuade governments to act against what they know is the greater good.

Once action to combat climate change starts to bite, political parties in opposition will be sorely tempted to use them to undercut those in government. With our long term survival at stake, there is the strongest possible case for making this a non-partisan issue. A precedent for this in the UK is British policy on Northern Ireland. For over 30 years, in war, in negotiations and in peace, British political parties refrained from scoring political points over policies towards Northern Ireland.

When it comes to carrying out new policies, we have to rely on environmental groups with the expertise and the business community with the resources to achieve a sustainable future. Neither can do it on their own. Business still has to be viable. A bankrupt company can do nothing about climate change. But it must also be sustainable. Equally a green pressure group which over-simplifies the issues may win arguments, but will not win the trust of those in the business community who they need as allies. There is urgent need for honest conversations here too.

Can we generate enough trust between people and groups whose interests traditionally clash to do what we can now see must be done? At the head of this web site is the phrase, “Building Trust across the World’s Divides”. It has never been more urgently needed.


It's very nice to see that For a Change is worried about such a issue, which is also very important to Brazil. Europe Union has given the example when they announced the cut down of 20% of its emission of carbon dioxide.
I would like to congratulate my former co-ordinator for this very good article.
All the best,
Ademar de Broutelles, 12 March 2007