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Dear Aubrey

Thank you for this. Of course I'll be delighted to add my name - thank you for giving me the opportunity. So far as affiliation is concerned I am retired but freelancing, and if you want to add any of this from my CV you're welcome (or equally welcome to ignore it!

Best of luck! - Alex

"Alex Kirby was a consultant to the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability, whose report, Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing, was published in January 2012. He is a member of the consultative committee of China's Climate Change Communication programme."

Church backing for climate plan 
By Alex Kirby BBC News Online environment correspondent

Scientists say rising emissions is heating the Earth

The Church of England has declared its support for a challenging proposal to tackle the threat of climate change.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, says the plan, known often as "contraction and convergence", offers a way to act justly towards the poorest. The idea, hatched by the Global Commons Institute, says all the Earth's people have equal rights to cause pollution. Already endorsed by other faith groups, it says nobody, however rich, should cause more than their allotted share.

Across-the-board support

"Contraction" means cutting the world's output of the gases (like carbon dioxide) which scientists believe are threatening to heat the atmosphere to dangerous levels. "Convergence" means sharing out between countries the amount of climate pollution which the scientists say the Earth can tolerate, so that by perhaps 2050 every person in the world is entitled to emit the same amount of pollution. "This kind of thinking appears utopian only if we refuse to contemplate the alternatives honestly," said Williams.

Dr Rowan Williams

The idea has won the backing not only of religious groups like the World Council of Churches but also of the chairman of the UK's Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and of Sir John Houghton, an eminent climate scientist. Now the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, Dr Williams, has added his voice to the growing chorus of support for the work of the modest London-based Global Commons Institute. In a lecture in London, entitled Changing The Myths We Live By, he said we had to avert a global ecological crisis that could ultimately jeopardise "our viability as a species".

Potential for conflict

The archbishop criticised specifically "the addiction to fossil fuel of the wealthy nations; this is what secures the steady continuance of carbon emissions, but it is also what drives anxieties about political hegemony".

Rowan Williams: Backing for radical approach

He said: "Since the oil production of relatively stable and prosperous societies is fast diminishing, these countries will become more and more dependent on the production of poorer and less stable nations. "How supplies are to be secured at existing levels becomes a grave political and moral question for the wealthier states, and a real destabiliser of international relations. "This is a situation with all the ingredients for the most vicious kinds of global conflict - conflict now ever more likely to be intensified by the tensions around religious and cultural questions." What was also at stake, Dr Williams said, was "our continuance as a species capable of some vision of universal justice".

Priority for justice

He feared "the prospect of a world of spiralling inequality and a culture that has learned again to assume what Christianity has struggled to persuade humanity against since its beginning - that most human beings are essentially dispensable, born to die".

Contraction and convergence, the archbishop said, sought to achieve fairly rapid and substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions "in a way that foregrounds questions of equity between rich and poor nations".

He said: "This kind of thinking appears utopian only if we refuse to contemplate the alternatives honestly." Calling for a new sense of public seriousness about environmental issues, Dr Williams urged the UK government to take the lead in pressing the contraction and convergence agenda.

Chris Williamson, Paris, France asks: There has been much talk in the UK left-wing press of the alternative to the Kyoto agreement but will the G8 leaders be discussing this option at all?

Alex Kirby:
"I don't think people here in Bonn are discussing alternatives. Jan Pronk, the president of the conference and Dutch Environment Minister, keeps saying that the Kyoto protocol is the only show in town - that is very much the phrase he uses and I think that that is the feeling here. Unless they can get the protocol to work, they really might as well pack up and go home because they have been working on it for 10 years.

There are other possibilities - there is something called contraction and convergence - the idea that you see how much pollution the atmosphere could stand, you then divide it up and say in Bangladesh, in Brazil, in the United States, in the United Kingdom, we should all have fair shares depending on how many of us there are. I don't think anyone is talking about that yet. It might come in at a later stage but at the moment everyone is intent on trying to make the Kyoto protocol work. If they can't do that they would be very, very disappointed and they are doing their best to make it work."
Alex Kirby



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