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Interviewer: Okay, first question then. Was there a moment that made you think this is the kind of work you want to be doing and you want to be involved in environmental change?
Andrew Kerr: Yeah, about just over 12, 13, 14 years ago, I was doing climate science as an academic and thoroughly enjoying my time travelling around the world, but I was very aware that the science at the time was, primarily, identifying problems and was doing very little to identify solutions. But the solutions had to lay in the first instance, at government level, so that was my primary interest in getting involved in climate policies in the first place.
Interviewer: And what are you working on right at the moment? Where has your career progressed to now?
Andrew: Well, over the first few years after that, I essentially worked with policymakers looking at policy formation, policy formulation to create a structure that would deliver emission reductions at national levels. It was very clear, fairly shortly thereafter, that we needed to engage companies, businesses, because a lot of what we do, in terms of producing and using energy, involves companies in one form or another. So, I then got interested in the commercial end and specifically around one of the many instruments that we can use, which is the carbon markets.
So I then spent many years working with companies, with NGOs and with the governments, helping them understand the implications of some of the environmental markets that had been set up over recent times. A year or so ago, I had an opportunity to come back into the academic environment, and it was obvious that there was a lot of interest in taking our understanding of business practices and our policy practices, and using that to help develop a forum with researchers that would give us better or more effective solutions, and that was my interest in moving back into the academic environment.
So my current work is around, both pulling together forums that allow businesses, policymakers, third sector and researchers to come together to tackle particularly difficult challenging problems. Specifically on issues like the carbon markets, I suppose my interest is particularly around how these instruments are used and in particular how things like business behaviour in the emissions trading schemes, because people have tended to treat them as if they are economically efficient and rational and so on, and actually they’re very different, and that then determines how you frame and how you set the policies around emissions trading schemes, amongst other instruments that you might want to use.
Interviewer: So when you look at over the next sort of one, five, ten years, where do you think you might be? Do you think you’ll still be working on this or will it have?
Andrew: I certainly think that there will still, I mean, I will still be interested in how you create instruments, from sovereign governments, or from groups of governments, that deliver large-scale emission reductions, and there will be a range of instruments they may use, of which carbon markets will be one of them, and so I’ll be interested both at the national climate programme level, but also at the specific business orientated instruments as well.
Interviewer: Okay and when you look at this next ten years, which is going to be a key decade in environmental change, are you optimistic or pessimistic?
Andrew: I’m optimistic in one sense, in that if somebody had said to me 12 years ago, in 1997, that within 12 years you would have hundred-and-something leaders would come to a meeting thinking that, not only thinking that climate was vitally important, or mitigating climate change was vitally important, but that they had, in their hands, the opportunity to do something about it, I don’t think many people would have believed you.
Does that mean we’re going to get an agreement at this meeting? No, I don’t think so. I don’t think actually that’s the... I mean there has been a lot of talk about the end of the world, and all the rest of it, and I personally think that’s nonsense, but I do think there is widespread awareness across many countries, with very different backgrounds, of the need for the broad, if you like, sustainability agenda around reducing fossil fuel use, resource constraints and so on.
So, in that sense, I think there is a recognition of the problem now, which we didn’t have five, ten years ago. I don’t think we’re going to get solutions anytime soon, but we are starting to see the elements of solutions. So I think in ten years’ time I’d be surprised if we didn’t see where the solution was going to be.
Interviewer: So there’s a very long vision, kind of optimism that you kind of think we’ll get there?
Andrew: Yeah, we’ll get there and we’ll get there primarily when, you know, people will start to do more things, if there are adverse impacts on what they’re doing, and that doesn’t matter whether it’s peak oil or whether it’s more intense storms, and so on. There will be, there tends, it’s very difficult to deal in the abstract, and we tend to react to events, as a human race, and so, I don’t think that will be any different.
So does that mean that we’re too late to do things? No, I think we’ll actually, if we need to, we can move very fast, but I don’t see an agreement in one year, and I don’t see a perfect agreement in five years. In ten years, we’ll have lots of imperfect agreements, which I think will take us quite a long way towards where we’re trying to get to.
Interviewer: Thank you very much.