For nearly a quarter of a century Roger Harrabin has been one of the media’s most influential voices on environment, transport, energy and related topics.
He is currently the BBC’s Environment Analyst, working across all media from the Today Programme to the Ten O’Clock News, Newsnight and BBC World.
He has travelled widely and has done acclaimed interviews with many key figures, including Tony Blair, Al Gore and the EU’s President Barroso.
He is noted for a sharp intelligence softened by a light touch and regular dose of humour. He was founder presenter of the BBC’s Costing the Earth Programme and is a very experienced events facilitator renowned for bringing difficult, complex subjects to life.
It is 23 years since Roger created himself a role as de facto environment correspondent for Radio 4 when most journalists considered the environment was for hippies.
Since then he has influenced public opinion and policy in several apparently disparate areas. He has regularly reported counter to journalistic trends.
Roger holds visiting fellowships at Oxford and Cambridge Universities and his work is driven by the ambition to assess risk scientifically then share it ethically. His training as a tabloid sports hack on The News of the World endowed him with a knack of conjuring abstract ideas into prominent stories for mass audiences.
Many of today’s great environment/equity themes became issues of public concern following Roger’s reports on “Today”. They include climate, biodiversity, carbon footprints, population, over-fishing, green taxation, road pricing, global inter-connectedness, problems with IMF/World Bank, 3rd World debt, and many more. He was years ahead of the pack in showing how the environment links to energy, transport, farming, government aid, foreign policy, planning…even obesity.
After Roger’s research for the King’s Fund found that if you die of measles you are 34,000 times more likely to get on the news than if you die of smoking, he led a pan-BBC initiative on public health. That helped spark a revolution in health reporting and policy. Obesity is now a top headline alongside climate change – and both issues are linked through consumption patterns, as Roger has pointed out.
Another such issue was transport safety. As the media clamoured for ever-safer railways, Roger demonstrated that the greatest need for safety investment was on roads rather than trains. Tony Blair doubled child road targets as a result and Parliament changed its valuation of an individual life.
Roger is one of the world’s most influential correspondents on climate policy, consistently challenging established wisdom. In 2007 he revealed that China was building two power stations a week, not one. But in another typically innovative BBC report he traced an energy-saving product used in British homes back to the factory where it was made in China – and pointed out that we were blaming the Chinese for emissions they create on our behalf.
From Bangladesh he raised the new but vital issue of adaptation to climate change. From India, China, the USA and Spain he drew comparisons between lifestyles and contributions to creating climate change and contributions to solving it.
For all his abilities, Roger’s has a blind spot. He can’t spell “occasion”. He wants his epitaph to be “Ocassionally he made people think” (sic). In 2007, of all years, he can claim to have succeeded (occasionally).
He is a popular speaker on the corporate circuit, providing an authoritative, yet thoughtful view on the environment, and issues of sustainability and corporate responsibility.