Sir David King spoke for an hour with Prime Ministerial confidence, at the Carbon Trust Lecture at the RIBA on Thursday. He was “still on Cloud 9” following the success of the Paris COP talks and the key role that the UK (and he) had played in bringing this about. Yes, Ban Ki-moon and the Pope had helped but Cameron and the Foreign Secretary had prepared the way with teams in every embassy around the globe helping local states set their 'Intended Nationally Determined Contributions' (INDCs); he had visited them all. He rightly claimed that the UK had showed global leadership with the Climate Change Act and their five year carbon budgets but, given the Government’s recent policy retreats, I found his continuing confidence in the UK surprising.
COP will establish a "huge increase in the market for renewables" as he had helped identify in the Global Apollo Programme whose title had been changed by Indian Premier Modi, before we got there, to 'Mission International' to make it less American. He praised the New York Forest Declaration which will provide the essential carbon sinks through global reforestation. In his very last answer he did say that, although he thought we had cracked the energy issue, the desire for the burgeoning middle classes set to rise from 2 to 4.5 billion by 2030 to eat beef, was a whole other problem! There was no time to explore the incompatibility of increased beef production and reforestation.
He introduced the risk analysis that the Foreign Office had managed and which had identified the serious risk to Chinese rice production of a rise in just 1°C. Business as Usual would lead to a sudden jump from 1.5°C to 4°C which would finish the Chinese and other Asian rice production. However a rise of just 2°C would lead to a catastrophic jump in sea level from 5 to 10 metres as the ice cap melted. China is under threat and key to the whole process.
He offered some images of techno-fixes that I found more interesting than convincing including a mega-scale up-pumped hydropower scheme and mega-scale helium Varialift airships; he hailed the Brazilian biofuel project that uses the previously discarded sugar cane leaves to make alcohol as well. The talk was so rich and detailed but for me the sheer determination of those fighting wars in the name of differing Gods, our climate sceptic Chancellor and the beef question are bigger than the energy question, which is as he says crackable.