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Responding to Our Planetary Emergency: The Crucial Decade Ahead

Tuesday 24 March 2020

Peter Froggatt Lecture Theatre 02/025, Queen’s University Belfast, University Road, Belfast BT7 1NN

What does the Church of England, the Davos annual meeting of those who ‘run the world’, climate scientists and activists from Greta Thunberg and the school strike for climate movement and Extinction Rebellion are have in common?

When such disparate organisations are all in agreement that there is an urgent need to recognise and respond to our planetary emergency, you know something unusual is happening.

Calling for ‘rapid and far–reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure and industrial systems’, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes that the actions required to stay within 1.5°C of warming are unprecedented in terms of scale in the timeframe required. Business as usual is not an option if we wish to avoid catastrophic changes to the natural and human world.

While the UK government and others have committed to be ‘net zero’ by 2050, this is far too late and decarbonsiation needs to be much quicker, by 2030. We need rapid and at scale transformation in all parts of our lives from how and what we eat, create electricity, heat our homes and offices and travel.

But how do we get there? What changes will be needed? How will our lives change? How mobilise and enthuse people? And how do we ensure this is a ‘just transition’?

Drawing on over 30 years as an academic, activist and recovering politician, John Barry will examine these huge issues from his own experience, and link that with insights from psychology, social movement analysis, philosophy and cultural studies as well as best practice and innovation from other parts of the world.

He will also look at the potential of new initiatives such as the recently launched Belfast Climate Commission to offer local solutions to the planetary emergency, as well as proposals for more citizen–based decision–making such as citizens’ assemblies. What if, in the face of the planetary emergency, the greatest challenge humanity has ever face, ‘we are the people we’ve been waiting for?’