Environmental degradation is a life- and-death questionNational Assembly for Wales

This document is a very remarkable achievement in itself, representing a fusion of serious and wide-ranging research, lucid argument and moral passion. As such, it is a worthy product of Cambridge at its best – and what it does is to appeal to Cambridge at its best. If we claim, as we rightly do, that a good university is an institution that poses large and serious questions to society overall, and that seeks to shape minds and lives which are not passive, conformist and afraid of responsibility, then the issues raised in these pages are a proper matter for the university and the colleges to consider. Environmental degradation of one kind and another is a life-and-death question for many communities around the world, especially for some of the most economically vulnerable; this is something which, as Chair of a global development NGO (Christian Aid), I am made conscious of very regularly. The cost of our slowness or indifference to these matters is immensely grave for the poorest in our world, and many of them are bewildered by our sluggish responses. We repeatedly and rightly insist on our public commitment to opening the resources of the university more and more widely, and this means that we have recognised a duty to those whose voices are historically muted or silenced by poverty and inequality. The climate issue is one that is seen increasingly clearly to be bound up with these basic matters of justice.

But the argument here is not only about ethics; it is also about the long-term prospects for our economic life. Patterns of profit and investment are changing fast, as people recognise the impossibility of expecting limitless returns from limited resources in our world. To change our own patterns of investment may be, as the authors of this report contend so forcefully, the most realistic future to plan for. It is not as though we were being invited to undertake a bit of reckless moral posturing with no economic basis. The pragmatic case is as solid as the moral, and deserves the most careful scrutiny.

Not all readers will agree with everything in these pages. But as an invitation to serious debate, we could not have a better starter. Clear, well-documented and deeply challenging, this is a case that demands attention from all of us in the university and the colleges, and I hope very much that it will have the readership it deserves.