Paul Dickinson on reasons to be optimistic and why you really matter

Paul Dickenson headshot

Giki co-founder, Jo, was joined by inspirational climate-change-maker, Paul Dickinson on our monthly event with the amazing people that we work with at global organisations who are using Giki Zero Pro in their organisations. Here are just some of the highlights.

I was delighted to welcome my friend, and inspirational leader, Paul Dickinson, onto our December Chief Greenie call. Paul was the first person my co-founder, James, and I talked to about our idea to set up Giki in 2016. Since the beginning, he has been hugely supportive and full of great advice.

Paul set up CDP with Tessa Tenant, in 2000. This was at a time when companies were not focused on sustainability, their impact on the planet, or their carbon emissions. Very few companies even knew what their carbon emissions were. But in a quiet, determined, and understated way, the team at CDP has changed the world. Paul’s inspiration and positivity have been an ingredient that has made carbon measurement, management, and reduction standard business practice in thousands of listed companies worth trillions of dollars. It has also led to regulations, like the TCFD, which mandates climate-related disclosure to achieve market transparency.

Paul also co-hosts the brilliant podcast Outrage and Optimism, where the guest list reads like a “Who’s who” of the most influential and powerful. If you haven’t listened to it, tune in! It’s one of the most shared podcasts for good reason.

Here are some of the things we talked about:

The importance of individual action

It doesn’t matter your function, whether you’re in Finance, HR, Sustainability, Sales, Marketing, or Operations, everyone is a climate person now. Paul cited the internet as a great example of how new areas become the norm. When the internet first became used at work, there was a separate internet team, but now that would seem crazy, and that will soon be the case with sustainability. Everybody is in the green team, and what you do today to prioritise sustainability will help accelerate that.

Change takes time

The US government has just announced that all federal suppliers over a certain spend threshold will be required to report their carbon emissions and reduction strategies through CDP. But, of course, this agreement didn’t happen overnight. This started incredibly small, with a representative coming to speak at a CDP event over a decade ago, but acorns grow into oaks. Many individuals worked hard, starting with a small trial, which grew into the relationship today. Everybody has contributed individually to this transformative change in US federal government procurement practices.

How to deal with climate anxiety

Having worked in climate change for over 20 years, Paul says that recent years are more promising than it was between 2005-2015, the time before the Paris agreement at COP21. In those lost years, few people were interested, and it was tough to get people to talk about climate change. That has changed. The public is aware, people are concerned and it is a time for positivity. But when things do get really tough, go for a walk in nature to calm any anxieties.

On the 1.5-degree target

We’re in Act 1 of the Climate Change play. Climate change will likely be a factor in human life for the next 100 years, so to hit 1.5C we need to work to decarbonise the economy. The work will not stop at a 1.5 degrees temperature rise, and it’ll be for future generations to play out Acts 2, 3, and more. The transition is not only required, but it’s also inevitable, and we will see this play out across societies in the decades ahead.

It’s too expensive

Money is often cited as a barrier to change. As Paul said, ‘I could go out to a nightclub and take my things along in a plastic bag, or in a bag made by a brand which may cost me hundreds or thousands of dollars. They both have the same use, but we know people pay for the branded bag.” People will pay when the incentive is there. Windfarms, solar and electric vehicles all demonstrate this point, and as they reach scale, prices come down.

What optimism has his podcast Outrage and Optimism brought?

Paul and his co-hosts Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac have interviewed top scientists, heads of state, business leaders, and climate campaigners. A few names include Sir David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg, Lily Cole, Alok Sharma, Dame Ellen MacArthur, Jens Stoltenburg, John Kerry, and the list continues (listening is like being in the inner sanctum of all things climate change).

What Paul has taken from so many influential and powerful people is that they are rooting for our success. He interviewed actress Jane Fonda, who described herself and other celebrities as ‘repeaters’ of the word of the real experts. They can use their platform to spread the word on the importance of action, and this gives cause for optimism.

After a hard 2022 for so many people, it’s important that we stay hopeful. From finance to technology and people to the pace of progress, Paul can always provide an optimistic viewpoint. This doesn’t come from blind optimism, this comes from decades of working on climate change and seeing that things can change.

Thank you Paul for finishing our year on a high.

Paul joined Jo and our network of clime-change-makers who work support their colleagues to learn what they can do about climate-change and cut carbon through Giki Zero Pro (we call them Chief Greenies). If you would like to find out more, get in touch.

If you’re inspired by Paul and want to live more sustainably, start using Giki Zero today.