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UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering


Blogs from UCL IEDE Staff and Students


A case of cognitive dissonance?

By Clive Shrubsole, on 15 December 2015

COP21I’m a lifelong Tottenham fan and can still remember the rollercoaster of previous years where preseason expectation often nosedived into frustration and disappointment. We were OK playing at home, but when playing away invariably folded often with heavy losses.

However, I love the current performances, the new sense of belief and energy on the pitch, the consistency wherever the venue and the joy of being with IEDE colleagues at games and watching us win and often in spectacular fashion.


In some ways I feel the same about COP21 when compared to previous summits; great expectations, agreement (albeit voluntary) and a renewed sense of purpose and drive with clear goals. After all, the fact is, climate change is a fact. The science behind climate change and the ongoing evidence is now overwhelming with 95% certainty in term of made-made emissions being the source. Recent floods in the UK and various events worldwide have created a sense of proximity for all that may have been lacking in previous negotiations. For the UK, our ‘away game’ was impressive with strong statements such as “action today, not excuses tomorrow” when referring to climate change.


What genuinely worries me is our ‘home game’. For nearly10 years, the basis of a prosperous low-carbon economy has been built, with successive governments creating attractive and stable conditions for investment in the low-carbon transition. However, the current administration, has in recent months hit the brakes on onshore wind and solar energy and removed various home energy efficiency and community renewable schemes. Plans to sell off the Green Investment Bank will impact a critical financing mechanism and the new ‘dash for gas’ if implemented at scale could undermine our capacity to reach 2020 renewables targets. It also cast a shadow over our ability to stick to the legally binding targets of the Climate Change Act. So, despite all the rhetoric to the contrary, the fact is that we have seen the UK go from a champion of global progress on climate change backed up by strong policies at home and part of the solution, to the potential of being part of the problem.


Last Saturday, Spurs lost ‘at home’, to (in my opinion) a weak Newcastle side, having been unbeaten in the premier league all season up to that point. The changes seen so far this term convince me that this is just a blip and not a repeat of previous seasons mistakes where we were one team at home an another one away. I also like to believe that COP21 was a real turning point for the world. Whether the UK is at the forefront is dependent on some real changes in policy and direction, a consistency between what we do away and what we do at home and not the apparent cognitive dissonance that exists currently.

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