Monday 24th October 2016                 Change text size:

#COP21: Francesca Baker on The Winning of the Carbon War


Across the world protesters are marching, groups are convening, petitions being signed and rallies forming as people seek to have their voices heard by key leaders gathering in Paris for the UN Climate Summit. It’s been estimated that over 2,000 events have been planned across the U.S., U.K., Germany, Australia and France ahead of COP21 and as a significant milestone and in some ways the climax of conversations, with a real hope for practical measures being implemented, it’s been a long time coming.

One person who has been following the conversations through their gestation is Jeremy Leggett, author of a new book The Winning of the Carbon War. Although, in some ways his book, when published in hardback in January 2016, won’t be ‘new’ as each chapter has already been published, for free, on his website, as he responds to events in the ongoing saga.

The aim of the summit is to develop a deal that starts to see a shift away from the dependence on fossil towards cleaner energies such as wind or solar power – and it’s a debate that has seen its ebbs and flows. Leggett has been keeping diaries, videos, and notes on the topic since 2006, using them as source material for his work, and putting his views out there in an almost real time format.

The reason for this is the level of change we have started to see. Momentum is accelerating, as the situation becomes more urgent. Leggett has published four books, (The Carbon War, Half Gone, The Solar Century and The Energy of Nations) all of which went through the traditional publishing route, but he realised that when dealing with subjects such as the ‘great global energy transition’ that working with publishers would mean that by the time an essay or book was published its subject could ‘be hopelessly out of date.’ His latest book is essentially a first hand diary covering events from 2013 to the present day, written in his informative style, presenting his response to events as they happen.

Having worked for BP and Shell for many years, before a realisation as to the damage his work was doing led him to leave, join Greenpeace, and eventually set up his own renewable energy company SolarAid, Leggett knows his stuff. This allows him to present the facts in his book in a very measured way, not generating hyperbole or seeking to slander anyone. Although, as he says, ‘there are however some dreadful people making a lot of money out of this and so fighting very hard to defend the indefensible.’

Essentially, Leggett has found that he is able to spread his message further and wider than traditional publishers have been able to do. He’s received reviews from Richard Branson, The Observer, Caroline Lucas MP, and Sami Grover of Tree Hugger. He’s found that his ‘experiment is working’ and knows that key political influencers, UN policy makers and government staff have been reading chapters. The accessible and immediate nature of his delivery means that it can have a timely and powerful impact, and can be written with timely response.

The Winning of The Carbon War is a narrative driven by desire for change, where endless meetings and frustrations pile up, diary extracts reflect on political reports, and glimmers of hope come briefly but quickly. Told through one man’s eyes, it is a story that affects the whole world and its entire future. It’s a story that has the potential for huge impact. We wait to see whether COP21 gives Leggett the content to allow him to write something of a happy ending.

Francesca Baker is a freelance journalist and writer. Her website is here.

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