Looking at the big picture

29th Apr 2024


One of the better podcasts you can listen to is produced by Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart – both bright, articulate and challenging individuals.

They spend time with their interviewees getting beneath the surface of issues, which TV soundbites can’t.

The other week they interviewed Dieter Helm and it was worth listening to here

Now you don’t have to agree with everything Dieter says and to be fair to him, he admits he is open to be challenged. But you can’t or shouldn’t ignore what he says.

I was struck by his observations around UK policy towards net zero emissions and how the government is perhaps trying to do everything in some vain quest to be the “world leader” on the issue. Helm puts this claim to the sword with brutal honesty. In the podcast, he makes the case for the UK specialising in what, as an economist, he would describe as our comparative advantages – namely plenty of offshore wind; shallow seas and the ability to store carbon in depleted gas fields. Our geography and geology giving us an ability to lead the world. Then, most importantly, to share our knowledge with the rest of the world so that they too can use these two technologies to help decarbonise.

What he skilfully does is elevate the debate around a global problem, to examine truly global solutions. Looking at the bigger picture; taking that elevated view, is something Dieter can do as an academic. But he also adopts a degree of realism in his observations that makes his case much harder to disagree with. When he challenges the measurement of carbon production v carbon consumption, he’s right; when he states that deindustrialisation has been a key factor in the UK’s apparent success to date, the facts bear him out; when he points to the wider environmental impact around biodiversity losses, not just carbon emissions, he taps into a sentiment that has yet to be fully addressed but it needs doing.

If all this podcast makes you do is stop and think, then Campbell and Stewart have done us all a favour.