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Seeker After A Greener Earth

A climate-change expert joins a quest for heroes trying to save the planet

Dan Kadison – SCMP – Updated on Aug 03, 2008

Sir Crispin Tickell has an asteroid and a Costa Rican moth named after him – and, soon, an observatory will also bear his name. While he’s honoured by the tributes, the British climate-change expert came to Hong Kong to celebrate the achievement of others.

On Friday, Sir Crispin helped launch the Hong Kong Earth Champions Quest – a search for specialists and everyday heroes who have made an environmental difference in this city. The quest “gets individuals recognised for their efforts, and that has an infectious effect”, Sir Crispin said after the kick-off event at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Central.

“It’s like a sort of an epidemic of concern, which individuals and Earth Champions can promote.”

Moments earlier Sir Crispin, 77, had delivered the keynote speech, in which he described the costs of “human-driven change” on the climate.

“The most likely effects in China, as indeed elsewhere, are that we’re going to see changes in weather. And we’re going to get more extreme events – that’s to say more storms … more destabilisation,” said Sir Crispin.

“We’ve got an accelerated melting of the Antarctic and the Arctic ice, and, of course, the Himalayan glaciers.”

Sir Crispin soon switched gears, and said it would take a local, national and global effort – with individuals, businesses and governments getting involved – to better the planet.

“To cope with this intimidating set of problems, we have to accept a sort of bewildering complexity of responsibilities,” he said.

“We need individual champions to see what should be done, we need community champions, we need government champions, and we need global champions – all interacting with each other to try and cope, as cope we must.”

A day before Sir Crispin helped launch the Earth Champions campaign, he spoke at his Hong Kong hotel.

Sir Crispin – who in the 1970s wrote Climatic Change and World Affairs, a pioneering book about climate change – said he had visited Hong Kong several times over the past 40 years. He has seen the air pollution move in and out with the winds.

“It’s a lot like Beijing, it happens one day, it’s gone the next,” he said. “Then it stops for one day, and it’s back again.”

Hongkongers, like people anywhere, can improve their surroundings. People can reduce their carbon footprint, “which means not wasting but conserving energy”, Sir Crispin said.

Solutions, he said, ranged from choosing the right light bulb to reducing your amount of travel.

Governments and industries must do their part, too. For example, China must pursue new energy policies and become less dependent on coal, a premise “the Chinese leadership fully accepts”, he said.

This year, Sir Crispin, a former member of the China Council for International Co-operation on Environment and Development, delivered a lecture about environmental sustainability in China. Towards the end of his speech, he said: “Within China, the environmental costs may be high, even unworkable.

“The struggles will continue. But the government seems well aware of the risks and hazards, and knows better than its critics that it has to do a lot more to look after the only China, indeed the only Earth, there is.”

Tomorrow, Sir Crispin will meet the Business Environment Council, and, later in the day he will deliver a speech, “The Meaning of the 21st Century”, at the Royal Geographical Society in Hong Kong.

Sir Crispin is currently director of the Policy Foresight Programme, a think-tank in the James Martin Institute for Science and Civilisation at Oxford University.

His resume is vast, and includes many highlights.

He was British ambassador to Mexico from 1981 to 1983, and was the British permanent representative to the United Nations, as well as permanent representative on the Security Council from 1987 to 1990.

He was also the president of the Royal Geographical Society from 1990 to 1993. He was knighted for his diplomatic work in 1983.

Nomination forms for the Hong Kong Earth Champions Quest, of which the South China Morning Post is a media sponsor, can be obtained at

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