How do you remain positive and optimistic when faced with the often dire climate news? Rebecca Heaton AMA

  • 13 September 2021
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Updated on 19/04/22 by Jess_OVO


Well let’s get the ball rolling on the questions then! My question to Rebecca is:


‘How do you remain positive and optimistic when faced with the often dire climate news?’


Best answer by Tim_OVO 28 October 2021, 17:03

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OVO Energy’s Sustainability Director, Rebecca Heaton during an ‘Ask me anything’ event in October 2021:


“I’ve been working in climate change for 25 years now and I actually feel more positive, if we talk about COP, we’ve got 195 countries coming. I don’t think there’s anyone in Britain who isn’t aware of this, you’d have to have your head in a hole to not realise that there’s this big conference coming up. I remember the mid-90s, I had a friend who was on her honeymoon in Marrakech, Morocco and she told me that there was some climate change conference going on at her hotel, which was COP (Conference of the Parties). Nowadays you wouldn’t be sharing your hotel on your honeymoon with a few other guests who happened to be at a climate change conference and asking them what it was about. So we have come a really long way.


Another example I want to give is the Kyoto protocols this was the time I worked most closely with some of these global climate agreements, particularly around forestry. Just 35 countries that signed up to that and it was a massive achievement, we were so chuffed when we got them to actually agree. Now we’ve got 195 countries who’ve up to the Paris agreement.


In terms of global agreement and global targets, of course what we haven’t got is enough action and that’s really clear. I’m really hoping that out of COP will come some clear action. This isn’t only about governments, I think where things are really moving, and let’s feel positive, is the role of business.


So coming out of COP - we may not see as much as we want in terms of China and India moving on their contributions but I think we’re going to see lots of announcements from businesses. 


Then there’s the latest IPPC report, again I thought it was great that people were talking about it, because there have been lots of IPCC reports in the past which have never been mentioned. In a way there was nothing new in the latest report - but what there was in it was much greater certainty - the science is so much clearer now and it’s agreed upon. That IPCCreport was negotiated between the 195 countries signed up to the Paris Agreement so they all agreed with this, particularly the executive summary - where it’s not only the scientists that agree, but also the governments that agree. They can spend a whole day just on one footnote. So the fact that the report came out and was agreed shows that all those 195 countries do get that there’s a major problem. So that’s something!


The second thing that I think the IPCC report did was give us this certainty between the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and the warming we can expect from it - that’s where we’re getting more clarity year after year. We can understand the difference between 1.5° and 2° [increase in global temperatures] in terms of the impact this will have on the planet and it’s an immense difference. We can see that keeping global heating below 2° is not enough, we need to keep it below 1.5° . We can also see for every ton of CO2 we don’t emit or we remove, we know the differences that makes to our climate and that really helps in getting action - knowing the benefit that will be delivered.


I agree that Greta would say ACTION ACTION ACTION and she’s absolutely right. If you look at the Committee for Climate Change (CCC) they have moved their rhetoric from targets to action.. When I was on the CCC we were very clear about where action was needed - there were hundreds of individual policy recommendations that were very clear, so you could go through and tick them off, or not if the government hadn't done them. So that shows in the UK we’re trying to move the discussion from targets to action and monitoring that action so we can hold the government to account.”