Aubrey Meyer

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Aubrey Meyer (born 1947) is an author, climate campaigner and composer. A former member of the Green Party,[1] he co-founded the Global Commons Institute in 1990.


Aubrey Meyer was born in Yorkshire in 1947. He was raised in Cape Town, South Africa from 1952. In 1968 he gained a Bachelor of Music from the Music College, Cape Town University. He won Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) scholarship for two years study abroad. From 1969 to 1971 he studied at the Royal College of Music in London. There he studied composition with Phillip Cannon and viola with the late Cecil Aronowitz. He won the International Music Company Prize and the Stanton Jeffries Music Prize.

After the Royal College, he earned his living playing viola in orchestras: - principal viola in Scottish Theatre Ballet, Ulster, Gulbenkian, CAPAB orchestras and as a rank-and-file player in the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet and finally in the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

During this period he continued composing. His one-act ballet ‘Exequy’ led to the award of a Master of Music degree in composition from the University of Cape Town. In 1980, Meyer returned to London, combining composition with playing and his ballet score Choros for the Sadlers Wells Royal Ballet together with the ballet by David Bintley, won an Evening Standard Award.

In 1988, while looking for a theme for a new composition, he heard about the environmentalist Chico Mendez who had been assassinated for his work in trying to prevent the destruction of the Brazilian rainforest, and he abandoned music for the UK Green Party. He co-founded the Global Commons Institute (GCI) in 1990 to start a programme to counter the threat based on the founding premise of ‘Equity and Survival’.

At the request of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1992, Meyer conceived and presented his analysis of ‘The Unequal Use of the Global Commons’ to the Policy Working Group of the IPCC. This was dubbed ‘Expansion and Divergence’ and, led to a decisive international rejection, at the UN climate negotiations in 1995, of the global cost benefit analysis of climate change by some economists from the US and UK.

Contraction and Convergence[edit]

This led to the development of GCI’s framework of ‘Contraction & Convergence’ (C&C). Introduced at the UNFCCC in 1996, C&C’s approach to stabilising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at ‘safe’ level (by sharing the limited and finite weight of such gases that future human activity can release into the atmosphere on an equal per capita basis) raises a key issue in the climate change debate.[2]

As a musician and string player, Meyer says the world must collaborate with musical discipline to avert runaway climate change: i.e. play C&C’s ‘carbon reduction score’ in time, in tune and together[3]

On Feb 4th 2009, Lord Adair Turner (chair, UK Climate Change Committee) confirmed to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee that, “it’s very difficult to imagine a long-term path for the world that is not somewhat related to a contract and converge type approach....we have made a very clear statement that we cannot imagine a global deal that is both do-able and fair, which doesn’t end up by mid century with roughly equal rights per capita to emit, and that is clearly said in the report”.

On 24 June 2009, Rajendra Pachauri, (Chairman of the IPCC) said the following (see “ When one looks at the kinds of reductions that would be required globally, the only means for doing so is to ensure that there’s contraction and convergence, and I think there’s growing acceptance of this reality. I don’t see how else we might be able to fit within the overall budget for emissions for the world as a whole by 2050. We need to start putting this principle into practice as early as possible, so that by the time we reach 2050, we’re not caught by surprise, we’re well on a track for every country in the world that would get us there... On the matter of ‘historic responsibility’, there is no doubt that accelerating the rate of convergence relative to the rate of contraction is a way of answering that we really need to get agreement from Developed and Developing Countries to subscribe to this principle.”

C&C was on the agenda for COP-15 at Copenhagen, but was not agreed: -

C&C is the most widely cited and arguably the most widely supported proposal for UNFCCC-compliance in play and many people believe C&C will yet prove to be the overarching principle that is adopted and that allows all nations to find common ground on how to achieve 'climate-justice without vengeance' and avert climate chaos: -


Meyer's environmental efforts have led to many awards,[4] and in 2008 a cross party group of British MPs nominated Meyer for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize.[5] He is the recipient of the Andrew Lees Memorial Prize, 1998; Schumacher Award, 2000; Findhorn Fellowship, 2004; City of London, Life-time’s Achievement Award, 2005; Honorary Fellow of Royal Institute of British Architects, 2007; UNEP FI Global Roundtable Financial Leadership Award, 2007.

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