Sir Crispin Tickell: Environmental Pioneer
In the past half century, Sir Crispin Tickell has alerted political leaders and the public of the potential threat posed by climate change and the need for international cooperation in responding. From his first assignment as a British diplomat in 1954 when he had responsibility for the British Antarctic Territory, he has developed an intense interest in climate related concerns. Although Sir Crispin comes from a family with a distinguished history in both science and literature, his formal training at University of Oxford was more in history and public policy. His great intellectual curiosity, however, has driven him to develop a remarkable grasp both of climate science and of the potential challenges disruptive climate change could pose to humanity and to vital ecosystems.
In 1977, Sir Crispin’s book, Climatic Change and World Affairs, both described the influence of climate on human history and alerted decision makers to the possibility that human activity could profoundly alter the global climate. In the early 1980s when he was serving as British Ambassador to Mexico, Sir Crispin spoke on climate change at UNAM. During his service from 1987 to 1990 as Permanent Representative from the United Kingdom to the United Nations he played a key role in moving climate protection to the United Nations agenda. Sir Crispin’s close relationship with the Climate Institute began in June 1988 when he was the luncheon speaker at a climate change symposium organized by the Climate Institute for UN Missions under auspices of UNEP. A few months later he joined the Board of the Climate Institute and has been an active member since. In September 1990, a few days after retiring from the British diplomatic service, Sir Crispin became Chairman of the Climate Institute, a post he held until November 2002 when he became Chairman Emeritus. With Sir Crispin as Chairman and under auspices of the IPCC and UNEP, the Institute held Presidential and Ministerial briefings on climate change in 22 nations, the first in Mexico at Los Pinos in March 1991. Soon after this Sir Crispin chaired a steering committee of the Climate Institute overseeing a major study of an emerging environmental refugee challenge. During three years of his service as Climate Institute Chairman, Sir Crispin was President of the Royal Geographical Society.
No one has exemplified the international nature of the climate challenge and the need to work across national boundaries more than Sir Crispin. He has been an advisor on climate change and global environmental issues to Prime Ministers of both major parties within the UK. He was the only non-US citizen to serve on a climate change task force of the US National Academy of Sciences on Policy Implications of Climate Change. Beginning in 1992 he served as a founding member of the China Council for International Cooperation and Development where he advised Chinese leaders on climate and related matters. He currently serves as Co-Chair of the India-EU High Level Dialogue on Climate Change. Yet nowhere has Sir Crispin had a more profound impact in creating public interest in climate protection than in Mexico.
The grandfather of three young Mexicans, he has long had a special concern for the environmental future of Mexico. Working with his fellow Board Member, Luis Roberto Acosta, Sir Crispin built strong interest in Mexico’s having the world’s highest climate observatory atop Sierra Negra. At the time he had no idea that this would be named in his honor. Sir Crispin is so highly regarded in Mexico that educational parks and museums sought to link with this effort. The result was the creation of a Tickell Interactive Network on Climate Awareness and Response which links the Tickell Observatory with a growing network of climate theatres in Mexico and internationally. Its purpose is to empower young people to become innovators and problem solvers to address climate change. It is fitting that one of the world’s greatest diplomats has inspired a mass movement that may ultimately bring millions of minds to bear to achieve results far past those possible in international negotiations.
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