It’s Environment Week at Durham University, and one of the key events is a lecture by James Close, a Durham graduate who went on to become Head of Climate for the World Bank and work on the 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change

“We need to be both outraged and optimistic.”

In responding to the question ‘How should we feel about climate change?’, James Close quotes Christiana Figueres, the UN diplomat who led the negotiations for the historic 2016 Paris Agreement which aims to keep global temperature rises to below two degrees Celsius.

Having worked on the Agreement while Director of Climate Change at the World Bank, Mr Close is now Head of the Circular London Programme at the London Waste and Recycling Board.

“At one level we need to be outraged that we’ve got to where we are,” he says. “We need to be able to call out those who are holding us back, or have a vested interest in the status quo.

“But we also need to be optimistic, because we have the means at our disposal to make the transition we need. The cost of renewable energy is coming down so that it’s competitive with fossil fuels and we’re seeing the benefits of clean air from renewables and the increasing use of electric cars.

“The transition is something we need to envision, and drive through stubborn optimism.”

Mr Close was speaking ahead of giving a public lecture for Hatfield College at Durham University, where he studied Chemistry in the mid-1980s.

“It was during the Miners’ Strike, so it was a very dynamic time,” he recalls.

“It helped me appreciate the major shifts that occur in industry and technology. It made me interested in thinking forwards, about what the future might hold, and was part of my drive to work in climate change and sustainability.”

While at the World Bank, Mr Close helped increase World Bank climate funding from 15 per cent to 30 per cent in five years.

In his current role, he is working to deliver the Mayor of London’s aspiration that London becomes a world-leading low carbon “circular” city – where products and materials circulate within the economy at their highest value for as long as possible, through re-use, recycling, remanufacturing, delivering products as services and sharing resources.

His Durham lecture is titled: ‘Climate change – the challenge of our time: from policy to personal action’. So what part in the change does he think needs to come from individuals, how much from business and how much from government?

“The issue is a political one,” he says. “And the political mandate comes from what people want and expect. Policy, finance and behavioural change need to come together to make the really significant change that we need to see.”

Mr Close will deliver The Hatfield Lecture 2020 at ER 201, Elvet Riverside, 83 New Elvet, Durham, tonight (Tuesday, February 25) at 6pm. Entry is free and open to all.

The talk is part of Durham University’s Environment Week, which also includes guided walks, riverside clean-ups, information stalls and more.

For more details on Durham University Environment Week and Mr Close’s talk, please visit