Geoffrey Lean

Geoffrey Lean, Contributing Editor (Environment) at London's Daily Telegraph, has been covering the field for almost 40 years and has won many national and international awards for his work.

Letter from Europe

At Bonn climate talks, it’s a dialogue of the deaf

Climate protesters march in Bonn on June 6.Courtesy Oxfam Germany via Flickr BONN, Germany — Beethoven’s birthplace stands just a few stops down one of Bonn’s speedy tramlines from the conference center hosting the latest session of the international climate negotiations. A modest yellow-painted house with dark green wooden shutters, it is now a museum of the legendary Ludwig’s life. Tastefully scattered through its three floors are the composer’s viola, his last grand piano, scores written in his own hand, and a scrawled codicil to his will laboriously committed to paper shortly before his death. But the most poignant of …

Letter from Europe

Nicholas Stern’s heresy: conceding the West’s climate burden

Nick Stern is a relatively recent recruit to the battle against climate change, but he has rapidly become one of its most formidable champions. A former Chief Economist at the World Bank and top official at the British Treasury, Baron Stern of Brentford (to pay him due deference) is very much an establishment figure, far removed from the traditional environmental campaigner. Nicholas Stern addresses the International Scientific Conference on Climate Change last March in the Danish capital.University of Copenhagen via FlickrShort, graying, bespectacled and compact — with a tendency to talk in academic jargon — he is, as the Guardian …

Letter from Europe

In Copenhagen, it’s the same old business

Actress Cate Blanchett tried to warm business leaders’ hearts on the subject of global climate change.Copenhagen Climate Council If Al Gore and Ban Ki-moon weren’t able to get the job done, you might have thought Cate Blanchett would saved the day. But even an impassioned and remarkably erudite speech by the Oscar-winning actress failed this week to persuade world business leaders to go beyond mere rhetoric in pushing for action on climate change. The scene was Copenhagen, the site of this December’s vital negotiations on a new deal to combat global warming before it runs out of control. The event …

Letter from Europe

The iceman walketh

To study the conditions of sea ice, one must walk very carefully across it. Here, two members of the Catlin Arctic Survey team maneuver a supply sled through a rough patch.Courtesy Catlin Arctic Survey To millions around the world, Pen Hadow — the first person ever to trek to the North Pole alone without any support — is simply one of the most extraordinary people alive. To me, however, he is also the man who didn’t come to dinner. Let me explain. One day last year Pen arranged to come to our village for dinner with me and the local …

Letter from Europe

Treating climate change as a security threat

Photo illustration by Tom Twigg / Grist Old soldiers, as they say, never die — and at 97 the legendary Vietnamese Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap seems intent on proving the point. But he does not seem to be that interested in fading away, either. For the man who drove out first France and then the United States is enthusiastically embracing a new battle — as an eco-warrior. For a European child of the 1960s like me — for whom the Vietnam War was a youthful defining event — this is truly riveting news. It is like someone of my father’s …

Letter from Europe

The greening of Sarko

Think of Nicolas Sarkozy, and what springs to mind? Carla Bruni, of course. His platform heels, probably. A somewhat aggressive manner, naturellement. Napoleon Bonaparte, pourquoi non? Al Gore attended the October 2007 unveiling of the Sarkozy government’s green program, called “Grenelle de l’Environnment.”Courtesy Elysee.frIndeed the French president is often compared to the diminutive emperor with the bellicose mindset, ambition to restore French glory, and glamorous and famous wife. But there’s a difference. To Bonaparte, green was just one of the shades that best suited Josephine. To Sarkozy, unexpectedly but increasingly, it is making his policies sage, in both senses of …

Letter from Europe

Tripping over the fine print on the way to Copenhagen

Punctuation can be the greatest impediment to getting nations to see eye-to-eye on any issue.Jennie Faber via Flickr It was only a comma, albeit a hotly disputed one. For me, the single punctuation mark represents a major reason why the world may fail to get to grips with global warming in time, and why a meeting this week may provide the best chance of a breakthrough. The comma sat there, in all its splendor, deep in a UN negotiating text, penned in square brackets to show it was a matter of dispute. For days top diplomatic talent from the world’s …

Letter from Europe

The Goldman Prize: True tales of bravery

The 2009 winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize. Standing, L-R: Yuyun Ismawati, Olga Speranskaya, Wanze Eduards, and Maria Gunnoe. Front row, L-R: Rizwana Hasan, Marc Ona Essangui, and Hugo Jabini By rights it should be a daunting moment. Every fall a courier turns up at my door with a package containing a thick, densely typed dossier. I know, as I take the delivery, that days of solid reading and hard decisions lie ahead. And yet receiving the package never fails to lift my spirits. Whatever I am doing, I stop, tear it open, and leaf rapidly through its pages. For …

Letter from Europe

Running out the climate clock

The “Countdown to Copenhagen” clock was front and center at the Bonn climate talks last month.Courtesy UNFCC I suppose what happened to the ticking clock says all we need to know about the state of the make-or-break international negotiations on combating climate change. The bright red digital timepiece was affixed to the podium for the first round of the talks so far this year, held in Bonn during the two weeks running up to Easter. Boldly labelled “Countdown to Copenhagen,” it ticked off the days, hours, minutes and seconds to the start of the vital meeting in the Danish capital, …

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