Chris Spence and Felix Dodds on Inside Ideas

The truth about climate conferences. The 12 unsung heroes building a better world

Marc Buckley
Inside Ideas


Heroes of Environmental Diplomacy Profiles in Courage Edited by Chris Spence and Felix Dodds

Global climate conferences are typically met with scepticism by a public struggling to see them as anything more than a bastion of empty promises. But a new book asks us all to look again, at the detail, and specifically to the people shifting the needle of progress towards the symbiotic interests of people and planet.

In a book about some of the achievements driven by scientists, politicians, diplomats, activists and businesspeople, Heroes of Environmental Diplomacy: Profiles in Courage offers a much needed new perspective on the real impact being made when governments get together to thrash out deals that can deliver change.

The book is edited by my guests today on Inside Ideas: the award-winning writer and environmentalist, Chris Spence, and an old friend of the show, Felix Dodds, a leading thinker in the area of global governance for 30 years, he has written or edited 24 books on sustainable development. Both have spent serious time working inside the annual COP climate conferences and pretty much every other intergovernmental event tasked with developing solutions for the planet.

“One of our points in the book is that the big outcomes, like the Kyoto Protocol or the Paris Agreement, do have a significant impact that cascades all around the world through government policies,” Chris explains. “It influences business decisions, it influences investment in new technology. Prior to 2015 when the Paris Agreement was signed we were staring down the barrel of between 4 and 6 degrees Celsius of warming, now we’ve reduced it to somewhere in the order of 2 to 2.5 something. That’s still terrible — but it’s not as catastrophic and that all came through these UN agreements.”

Chris believes the COP events could be simplified but this book about success stories shows even if the format has a ways to go the idea that they are nothing more than talking shops doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

“We’ve had successes, and if we start to tell some of those stories, we could inspire future leaders, the next generation, who can lead us to new, even bigger successes,” adds Chris.

The 12 heroes discussed in the book show what happens when people ditch thinking that is circumscribed by old ideas and mindsets.

“It was Bobby Kennedy in 1968 who reminded people that GDP recognises how many car accidents are had, how many bombs are used but it doesn’t recognise the happiness we have, or the strength of our families. It was he who said ‘some people ask why, other people ask why not’ so I think we need to dream of things that have yet to happen and make sure that they are part of the agenda,” Felix said.

There are a lot of great stories to unpack in this book, so join Felix, Chris and me on this latest episode of Inside Ideas to take a deep dive into what I think is one of the most important books to be published so far this year.

Catch up with my latest podcast, where I speak with the editors of the book, Felix Dodds and Chris Spence, for more from the pages of Heroes of Environmental Diplomacy.


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Marc Buckley
Inside Ideas

Marc Buckley is on a mission to empower Billions of Global Citizens to live an Adaptive Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability within planetary boundaries.