Alice Bell inspects the environmental credentials of former British PM, Margaret Thatcher.
Margaret Thatcher might seem to some like an unlikely pioneer of the need for climate action but, in the late 1980s, she made a series of remarkable speeches and interventions on the subject and catapulted the issue to the foreground of media and public attention.
In 1988, at a Royal Society dinner, she gave a speech warning of the dangers of what was then known as the greenhouse effect, and the need for action. Tellingly, a key paragraph setting out practical suggestions for global action was struck out by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson.
She encouraged discussion of the subject at Cabinet level, inviting leading climate scientists into Downing Street to educate her Ministers, and described the urge to protect the environment as a key plank of Tory philosophy.
In 1989, she addressed the UN General Assembly on the subject of climate change and called for immediate and urgent action to address it.
Alice Bell is co-director at climate change charity, Possible, and is writing a book about the history of climate change. She reflects on Margaret Thatcher’s brief and vigorous engagement with the question of climate change.
Contributors include Lord Deben, Sir Crispin Tickell, Professor Sir Brian Hoskins and Jonathan Porrit.
Producer: Natalie Steed
Series Editor: David Prest
A Whistledown production in association with The Open University