Monday, 21 October 2019

Environment Monday - Is the Guardian's climate change pledge worth the paper it's written on?

If you've read our environment Monday column before, you can skip this paragraph. It just explains what it is all about. So you want to save the planet, combat climate change, leave a legacy for your children that you can be proud of but you just don't know where to start? I started the Environment Monday series of blogs to try and spread a few practical ideas, things that are practical and work. I'd love your ideas, guest blogs and help. The old adage of think global, act local has been my mantra for decades. If we all start with ourselves, look at our lifestyles, look at the small changes we can make in our carbon footprint, on our own we will make a miniscule difference, but if we do it and it works, maybe our friends will sit up take, notice and over time (which is precious), together we can start to make a big difference. Each week, we will explore a different theme, a different way that we can all make a difference.

So today we are looking at the media and the Guardian in particular. They have made a 'Climate Change Pledge". This intrigued us. Regular readers of this blog will know that we have made a real commitment to the environment. My business has worked to become carbon neutral, and we are net exporters of electricity to the national grid and our new studio block has the highest achievable rating for insulation. We have work to do, but we believe every business should work as hard as possible and be honest about their aims and achievements. The Guardian, as a paper that has lead the way in reporting on climate change for decades issued their pledge on Tuesday. Is it worth the paper it's written on?

Let's start by looking at what they are doing.

 We will continue our longstanding record of powerful environmental reporting, which is known around the world for its quality and independence. In April 2019, the Columbia Journalism Review said, 'For some time now, by far the best daily reporting on climate change has come from the Guardian, which covers the science, politics, economics, and health aspects throughout the world with great force and clarity.' We will prioritise and give prominence to environmental journalism from The Guardian and Observer, bringing you the news and information you need. Our reporting on the environment, from our international team, will never be influenced by commercial or political interests and will always be rooted in scientific fact.
 We will report on how environmental collapse is already affecting people around the world, including during natural disasters and extreme weather events. We will bring you the world’s leading voices on the climate crisis, and we will cover issues across food, travel and lifestyle in order to help readers live sustainably. We will undertake investigations into the economic and political structures that underpin the carbon economy, and examine the role the climate crisis plays in many other critical issues - including inequality, migration and the battle over scarce resources.
 We will use language that recognises the severity of the crisis we’re in. In May 2019, the Guardian updated its style guide to introduce terms that more accurately describe the environmental crises facing the world, using “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” and “global heating” instead of “climate change” and “global warming”. We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on the urgency of this issue.
 The Guardian will achieve net zero emissions by 2030. We are developing a detailed plan for how to achieve this, involving a full audit of our emissions. Our priority will be to reduce our carbon footprint meaningfully and permanently.
 We will be transparent with our progress. We have announced today that we have become the first news organisation to acquire BCorp certification, which means joining a community of businesses from across the globe who openly commit to driving positive societal change. This is an important milestone in public transparency and accountability for our global environmental footprint.
Environmental journalism from the Guardian and the Observer has a powerful impact around the world and we have received financial support from readers in more than 180 countries. This support means we can keep Guardian journalism accessible to everyone. We hope you will consider supporting Guardian journalism today with a contribution or subscription — every form of support, however big or small, is so valuable for our future.

I was quite excited to see the news of the pledge. I naively assumed that this would be a blueprint that other UK organisations, big and small, could use. Sadly I was very wrong. As a friend of the Guardian, I was more than disappointed. So here are my views on their pledges.

1.  We will continue our longstanding record of powerful environmental reporting, which is known around the world for its quality and independence. 

So the Guardian is going to carry on doing what it's been doing for years and give itself a pat on the back for being marvellous. This is not a good start. Any organisation which starts by patting itself on the back and saying how marvellous it is, needs a good kick up the backside. My view is that we all need to do more and if we start from the perspective that we are amazing it means we have our heads shone up a place where the sun doesn't shine. There are plenty of things wrong with how the Guardian does their business and fixing these should be priority one, before lecturing us on how marvellous they think they are.

2. We will report on how environmental collapse is already affecting people around the world, including during natural disasters and extreme weather events.

I despaired when I saw this. Surely this should go without saying. This has all the hallmarks of an editorial team sitting around and saying "we'll what should we be reporting on about climate change". They have not done the one thing that they could that would really make a difference. They give news space over to people who are at the front line of fighting climate change. They should be encouraging genuine debate and they should "blank column" polluting organisations who won't respond to serious questions. The Guardian has a massive platform and there are plenty of people out there, who are not journalists but who have important things to say. The paper should also offer serious editorial support to make sure their messages are put across eloquently. I have no problem with balance, so have a section a day (maybe a page) entirely written by members of XR, etc, with responses (or blank columns if they refuse) from polluters etc. Also engage academics and experts to provide proper commentary on these.

3.  We will use language that recognises the severity of the crisis we’re in.
This is yet another typical Guardian response to a forthcoming disaster. It should go without saying that they should use appropriate language. The Guardian is a serious paper and are they seriously saying that they've been using inappropriate language up until now. It is worthy to state this, but we've had three pledges so far and it has all been waffle.

4.  The Guardian will achieve net zero emissions by 2030. 
This made me feel physically sick. XR have called for zero emissions by 2026 for the UK and yet the Guardian cannot even get their act together for over ten years, missing the XR target by four years.To launch this "climate change pledge" without even bothering to do a full environmental audit and giving themselves a date that is no way challenging, exemplifies why the organisation is fundamentally in denial. What will be in the audit? We will have to wait and see, but there are many things that the Guardian could do to meet the target by 2026 rather than 2030. Here's just a few things.

a) Adopt a 'No company car' policy.
b) Ensure all staff use public transport, cycle or walk for journeys in the UK, unless impossible due to remote locations. Ensure that this is reflected in payment of expenses.
c) Carbon offset all air travel.
d) Encourage working from home and give staff allowances for installation of solar panels, rather than pay rises and bonuses where possible.
e) Commit to only having fully sustainable food and drinks on all Guardian locations.
f) Use recycled paper
g) Use electric vehicles for all transport of goods and materials.
h) Ensure all buildings and offices are properly insulated and energy efficient and a carbon offset paid to ensure a carbon neutral goal achieved by 2026.
i) Do not take advertising from any major polluters.

I accept that some of that is difficult, but if you are going to make a pledge and blow your own trumpet, you have to suffer pain to achieve it.

5.  We will be transparent with our progress.
Again, this should go without saying. What really grated with me is this pledge finished with the following "We hope you will consider supporting Guardian journalism today with a contribution or subscription — every form of support, however big or small, is so valuable for our future." So the peldge ends with a call for cash. It strikes me that this whole "Climate Change Pledge" is more like a clever bit of marketing with a rather tardy attempt to drum up some cash at the end.

If you are not familiar with this blog, you may think I''m one of the army of Guardian bashers, who despise the paper. The opposite is true. It is one of the two papers I get delivered every day and I read it before I get out of bed. I am a Guardian Top London blogger, and I have written and contributed articles to the paper previously. I thought very long and hard about writing this blog, but concluded that if you can't tell the truth to your friends, then you are not a friend at all. I 100% support the Guardian's ambition which states We want the Guardian to play a leading role in reporting on the environmental catastrophe.  As a friend I want to help them achieve it and I want them to do it in a way that the malicious soul's at large in society can't ridicule and lampoon with ease.


Pete Ridley said...

The Guardian, like our propaganda bureau BBC, is a staunch evangelist for the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change (CACC) religion. It is somewhat similar to the Jehovah's Witnesses newspaper The Watchtower, persistently ignoring science and promoting its chosen faith.

For more on followers of the CACC religion see SpotlightON ExtinctionRebellion at

Rog T said...

Pete, whilst debate is a good thing, context is highly important. One or two of the statements in your blog are factually incorrect, such as " The FACT is that developed country use of fossil fuels mainly pushes those essential, life-supporting substances CARBON DIOXIDE and WATER VAPOR into the atmosphere, not carbon (or fossil fuels, as Roger Hallam is prone to claim when he presents XR TRUTH)". CO2 is a gas made up of carbon and oxygen, in the proportions of two oxygen molecules and a carbon molecule. Because the gas is denser than the rest of the atmosphere, it retains heat to a greater extent. This can be easily demonstrated in a lab with bottles of air and CO2 which contain thermometers and are warmed. Carbon Dioxide is a gas, not particles. It is an insulator, which means heat is retained. Dismissing XR on the basis that one person associated with it has made some questionable statements is rather misleading. You are correct about periods of warming and cooling over the last 4,000 years. Whilst this pattern is not completely understood, many of these fluctuations are due to things such as volcanic activity. Any model projecting temperature should factor such things in. For instance the London Ice fairs coincided with volcanic activity in Iceland that depressed temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere by blocking out sunlight. The rises in temperatures in the last 40 years are attributed to greenhouse emissions by most reputable scientists. If there is a credible alternative explanation, backed by hard science then I'm more than happy to share it.

The good thing about science is that such things are verifiable and repeatable.

Pete Ridley said...

Hi Rog,

I respectfully suggest that you think agqin about what you said. The substance CARBON ( in its several forms in the solud state) has quite different physical and chemical properties than the substance CARBON DIOXIDE in the gaseous state. That is the context of the CACC debate which underpins the scaremongering coming from Extibction Rebellion and other CACC supporters.

Also, your comments about density and heat retention of CO2 (and other atmospheric gasses) are irrelevant as far as the misleadingly named "greenhouse effect" is concerned. Electromagnetic radiation absorption and emission characterisrics of those gasses are what you need to learn about.

I hope that helps you.

Best regards, Pete

Anonymous said...


A few points of scientific fact. Carbon is not a substance, it is an element. Have a look at the periodic table if you don't believe me. Carbon dioxide is a gas formed of a combination of carbon and oxygen, rather like apple pie is still apple pie if served with custard.

The following link explains why Carbon Dioxide is a greenhouse gas
I believe this is a reputable scientific website.