Sir Crispin Tickell, the diplomat, and environmentalist who passed at the age of 91, was remembered this week.
Tickell was widely credited with encouraging Margaret Thatcher to make what would become an extremely significant lecture to the Royal Society in 1988, in which she cautioned that “we have unwittingly initiated a major experiment with the system of this planet.”
“I think she saw me as someone valuable who could stir the pot for her and possibly challenge the traditional knowledge, whatever it might be,” Tickell once remarked of his membership in Thatcher’s tight circle of trusted advisers.
He would go on to advise both John Major and Tony Blair on climate problems, as well as provide direction to the generation of climate diplomats who would finally deliver the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement through the UNFCCC negotiation process.
On Twitter this week, Nick Mabey of the E3G think tank said Sir Crispin Tickell’s death marked the “true end of an era,” recognising him as “one of the genuine pioneers of environmental diplomacy and multilateralism.”
“He was extremely kind in sharing his thoughts and experience in changing the system,'” he noted. “A role model for community leadership.”
Tickell retired from the foreign service in 1990 and became warden of Green College, Oxford, as well as president of the Royal Geographical Society. He recently served on the advisory board of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU).
Tickell’simpact on how the UK and indeed the world addresses climate change was considerably higher than his public image, according to Richard Black, the senior associate at ECIU.
“In the 1980s, he raised the subject with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who, as a former scientist, determined that climate change constituted a major global hazard to which the UK should take the lead in reacting,” he added. “Her address to the United Nations General Assembly in 1989, in which Sir Crispin played a key part, elevated climate change, ozone depletion, and other environmental concerns to the world stage and helped bring in the UN climate treaty in 1992.” His perspective is largely responsible for the UK’s ongoing agreement on the need to reduce carbon emissions and promote climate research.
“We were privileged to have Sir Crispin on our Advisory Board from its inception until 2019, and we benefited enormously from his knowledge, intellect, and experience, as well as his dry sense of humour. He will be greatly missed.”
The Times reflected on Tickell’s diplomatic postings in Mexico, the Hague, Paris, and the UN, as well as his hugely influential and foresighted 1977 book, Climatic Change and World Affairs, which argued that mandatory international pollution controls would eventually be required through a climate change treaty. It concluded with a quote from a 1999 interview in which Tickell said he was pleased he was in “life’s departure lounge rather than the arrival lounge,” adding that “the following generation is in for an exceedingly turbulent trip.”
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