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Ideas & Observations

Writing a new script on climate change

There was something wonderfully ironic about UN secretary general Antonio Guterres reading the wrong script at the recent COP-27 summit.

After all, the world has been fluffing its lines on climate change for a good while now.

There is always plenty of hot air released during these Conference of the Parties gatherings, the warmth of which could probably look after a family’s heating needs for a good while.

What we need, of course, is definitive action, which replaces rhetoric with reality.

Guterres’ initial speech, which drew a good deal of mirth, was reserved for a discussion with younger delegates later in the day.

And it got me thinking.

As an assistant shuffled through the off-stage gloom to hand Guterres his correct set of notes, I couldn’t help but feel climate change still remains – to some – a generational focus, a perceived plaything for shock activists like Just Stop Oil.

Of course, it very much isn’t.

Climate change spans all ages and all sectors, and it will continue to do so across many future generations.

So forgive me for coming away from the latest iteration of the global conference with minimal confidence.

Rishi Sunak’s blink-and-you-miss-it appearance made all the right noises about a unified focus on limiting global temperature rises, and the importance of sticking to pledges made during the Glasgow version of the event in 2021.

But the geopolitical scene changes like the wind we must continue to harness for renewable power stocks.

And while Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who acted as COP-27 president, warned leaders not to use the metaphorical storms caused by food and energy crises – caused in no small part by Russia’s Ukrainian invasion – as an excuse for inaction, there is no getting away from the fact it remains a handy placeholder to cover policy gaps.

Nor should Putin’s cross-border raid be used by richer countries as an exemption from honouring previous financial commitments to help developing nations make watershed climate moves.

At this point, however, it would be remiss not to acknowledge that the message is getting through, and that things are happening, not least here in the North East.

For a region with a history of smoke-belching heavy industry, ours is taking impressive strides when it comes to climate action.

From recent announcements such as Altilium Metals’ 200-job Teesside battery waste factory and JDR Cable Systems’ £130 million Cambois plant, to agricultural sector solar support, the redevelopment of former SSI UK steelworks land, and the sustainable drives of Teesside International Airport and Newcastle International Airport, much is happening.

And the changing environment is something we, here at North East Times Magazine, are committed to championing.

Indeed, we recently held the first roundtable discussion in our exciting VISION 2031 campaign, which will lay out a blueprint for how our region can stand at the vanguard of global, environmentally-focused progress across the next ten years.

The opening roundtable looked at the North East’s role in the green industrial revolution, with experts around the room discussing the history, innovative spirit and investment potential of the region.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to take a look, by clicking the link above.

As alluded earlier, it can be very easy to talk the talk.

But our roundtable proved the North East is not just reading from the right script, it is taking the right action too.

The job is far from complete, but for a region renowned for a carbon-intensive past, it is now very much laying the foundations for the future – and a cleaner one at that.

Words by Steven Hugill, editor of North East Times – views his own.