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EDITIONS
Sunday, 18 August, 2002, 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK
Sir Crispin Tickell, government advisor on the environment
Sir Crispin Tickell
Sir Crispin Tickell
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST
HOSTED BY HUW EDWARDS
INTERVIEW:
SIR CRISPIN TICKELL
GOVERNMENT ADVISOR ON THE ENVIRONMENT
AUGUST 18TH, 2002

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

HUW EDWARDS:
Well, the Government adviser on the environment and global warming and all kinds of complicated issues, Sir Crispin Tickell, is with me now. I am very pleased to say good morning to you.

SIR CRISPIN TICKELL:
Good morning to you.

HUW EDWARDS:
Floods through central Europe and lots of debate about them and some people saying well, here you are - here's the proof you wanted - it's global warming, it's a disaster - others say it's just bad weather. Now what would your version be?

SIR CRISPIN TICKELL:
The trouble is that these debates get too polarised. It is consistent with global warming but it's not proof of global warming. It's just part of the instability which comes when you warm up the planet. But the trouble is that you can't be too precise about saying it's this result or that result because it's just too uncertain the whole thing.

HUW EDWARDS:
Those who say it's consistent with global warming also say that the pattern is pretty clear, it's been developing for many years and that yes, there could be some bad weather but actually it's part of a much bigger pattern. Do you think that people are slow to recognise that - and by people, I mean governments too?

SIR CRISPIN TICKELL:
I think people are slow recognise because it requires some rather uncomfortable choices to be made because if in fact it is human agency which is producing global warming - and the scientist in their great majority say that it is - then a whole lot of new policies have got to be pursued and we've got to attack the energy problem particularly. And of course I must add that the problem of floods and the problem of untoward weather is partly that we're changing the surface of the earth. So it's forest cutting, it's logging, it's all those different things that come together and so it just means uncomfortable choice above all for governments on what they ought to do.

HUW EDWARDS:
Give us an example of one uncomfortable choice the Government might have to make which maybe they're not making at the moment?

SIR CRISPIN TICKELL:
Well, for example, this Government - the British Government, is at the moment making a big effort to switch to renewable energy. It may not be going ahead quickly enough but it is making big efforts. And it's fair to say that Shell and BP, the two biggest British oil companies, are doing the same thing. But look at the United States, they're in fact the world's biggest polluter. They're producing the most carbon-dioxide and they are doing just the reverse. They're increasing their emissions and that's what they're planning to do.

HUW EDWARDS:
Why is the political will not there in country like the United States? Because the evidence is there environmentally and there are lots of Green campaigners there - lots of big active Green groups in the United States for example. Why do you think that the political will has evaporated?

SIR CRISPIN TICKELL:
I think that the political will was never there because even out of the Clinton administration, it never really seemed to work. Of course there's the influence of the big lobbies, there's the influence of particularly EXXON which has played a very sinister role in the whole enterprise. But I think it's more that United States has a car culture, it has a company culture - they believe, until recently at least, that the executives were the people who made America rich and great and they have a kind of feeling that they don't want to be told what to do by a lot of people whom they characterise as - wild Greenies, weirdoes and the rest. And so there's again more of a polarisation in the United States than there is in Britain.

HUW EDWARDS:
And yet we have a very big car culture and people here are very, very reluctant to leave their cars, especially when public transport is as it is. I'll say no more about that. But the car culture here is very strong.

SIR CRISPIN TICKELL:
Well, I'm afraid that's true - that's why the first priority must be to improve public transport and then gradually you've got a whole variety of means of persuading people not to use their cars as much as they do. But it's always very bad to see, for example, someone actually subsidising the car industry in Britain and in Europe generally.

HUW EDWARDS:
How seriously is the British Government taking this issue? I'm asking the question because lots of people think that its not actually taking that seriously. For example, the Environment Minister had to be shoe-horned into a visit to the Environment Summit coming up in Johannesburg and that itself was seen as a kind of negative signal. So how would you characterise the attitude of the British Government seriously?

SIR CRISPIN TICKELL:
I think they've got a big problem on their hands and you have different people pushing in different directions. Michael Meacher was quite courageous in giving his famous Sunday Times article because he was very indignant at being left off the delegation to go to Johannesburg and rightly so.
But I think it's fair to say that they're making an effort but his real message was - not a big enough effort, they've got to try a bit harder and they've certainly got to do more to acquaint the public with what's going on. It's just treating people as if they're only being driven by a consumer lobby. It's much more trying to see - explain to people what the real problems are and that has not happened as it should have done.

HUW EDWARDS:
Do you sympathise with those who say that when we look ahead to Johannesburg - lots of people think, look this is a huge conference, there are huge issues - politicians across the globe can't agree on the most basic things - there's no hope at all that this is going to come up with a credible plan that will be acted upon, not just a form of words on a piece of paper but a plan that will lead to action that will improve the quality of life on the planet. People have very little hope that that will come about. Do you sympathise with that?

SIR CRISPIN TICKELL:
I sympathise. I am not optimistic about Johannesburg. It is the third of three big conferences - one at Stockholm in 1972, one at Rio in 1992 and now this one. It cannot be denied that in some respects this has been going backwards since 1992 rather than forwards. It is very depressing to see how little has in fact been done. And the arguments that preceded Johannesburg were not very edifying. People were very reluctant to commit themselves to anything. Now I always hope that at the last moment people will pull themselves together - they will in fact embark on something serious.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations had a kind of five-point agenda. He said you should look at water problems, you should look at energy problems, you should look at human health problems, you should look at agriculture problems - and perhaps the odd one - look at bio-diversity, that is to say the diversity of life which human beings at the moment are destroying. Now that's a very good agenda because that does cover it. But underlying it all is something else which is that we still count things wrong. We still believe that to have a happier society you've got to have economic growth, which means producing more. You need to have a real look at some of the fundamental economics which underlie the kind of society we have and people are very reluctant to undertake that.

HUW EDWARDS:
Well, President Bush is reluctant to go to the summit at all.

SIR CRISPIN TICKELL:
I'm afraid he is because he thinks he'll have things thrown at him there, which he probably would if he does go. Of course, I hope he'll go because, like his father, he has to experience it directly to understand what other people feel about the conduct of the United States and the failure of the United States to act. But I rather wonder whether he will. If they said instead, Colin Powell, then I'm afraid that he is already converted. The problem is not with Colin Powell, it is with the President himself and some of his advisers, notably the Vice-President and the Defence Secretary.

HUW EDWARDS:
Sir Crispin, delighted to talk to you as usual. Thank you very much indeed for coming in.

SIR CRISPIN TICKELL:
Thank you.


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