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Climate change, the 21st century's 'most daunting challenge' debated at St Paul's

The United Nation's most eminent spokesperson on climate change has called it "the most daunting challenge of the 21st century" in a debate at St Paul's.

Speaking at Building the Will for Action, to more than 1,000 people under the dome of the Cathedral on Wednesday 7 May 2014, Christiana Figueres said our moral compass needed to be fixed on this crucial subject and that we need to all see this as a matter which affects us all directly.


Ms Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said "the scientific date on climate change is overwhelming, the experience of the affected overpowering" and that one element often missing from the debate is 'love'; "Love for ourselves, our children and their children, love for our neighbours across the globe, love for our common home, the Earth."

In her speech, she also touched on how an intricate web of financial, techological and policy solutions had been created; that one trillion dollars had been invested in worldwide renewable energy; and that all of this needs to work towards a new global agreement in 2015 which "must both effectively harvest all possible current efforts - and what’s more strategically important - chart the long term course toward carbon neutrality."

She added that we "have the responsibility to set the ethical foundation of our global society. We have done this with slavery and with apartheid. It is time to do it with climate change."


Also on the debating panel were former UK Government Climate and Energy Security Envoy, Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti; author and environmentalist Dr Tony Juniper; and Managing Director of Wellcome Trust Investments, Peter Pereira Gray.

Mr Pereira Gray spoke on the role of finance and investment from the Wellcome Trust’s perspective of trying to "identify the contemporary and future threats to health." Arguing that long term investors need to have a "significant interest in environmental stewardship" and that action from a shareholder perspective is "best targeted at speeding up the rate of innovation and the adoption of new fuel technologies, and of course influencing and reducing the rate of demand."

Rear Admiral Morisetti explored the impact of climate change on global stability and security, saying that "climate change is clearly not the only risk to geopolitical stability" but that it is one of the "greatest foreign policy challenges we face in the 21st century." From the perspective of global security, climate change acts as a "threat multiplier that increases the risk of instability and conflict...particularly in areas where challenges already exist.".

Dr Juniper spoke on the need to change the climate change debate in order to "stop this being seen as an automatically negative set of challenges and reframe it as being a multi-layered opportunity." By doing so he said "we can paint a very strong and compelling picture around why action on climate change is very good for people’s’s good for jobs and competitiveness...the biggest business opportunity that has ever been presented to the opportunity for technology forcing growth, jobs and development worldwide."

The discussion was chaired by BBC Radio 4 presenter and former Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Reverend James Jones.

The evening was organised by St Paul's Institute, in partnership with CCLA, the Church Investors Group, and Shrinking the Footprint.

Questions were taken from the audience prompting further debate on a wide variety of key topics, The whole event, including Q&A, is available to view or listen to now through the links below.