199: Climate and Nature: One and The Same
About this episode
Welcome to another episode of Outrage + Optimism, where we examine issues at the forefront of the climate crisis, interview change-makers, and transform our anger into productive dialogue about building a sustainable future.
This week, Christiana, Tom and Paul cut straight to heart of our collective outrage following yet more announcements from Oil and Gas companies disclosing record-breaking profits. The fact that these record breaking profits are juxtaposed with record-breaking temperatures directly causing devastation to people and planet leads to a line in the sand moment for Christiana:
"My patience has run down to zero because these unprecedented profits are not being put to the use of humanity. These unprecedented profits are being put to the use of the industry and its shareholders, a very tiny, tiny little portion of humanity.... I am actually outraged that that is the choice that they have been making."
Our esteemed guest this week is Her Excellency Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP28. Tune in as the hosts explore with Razan her journey to her current role, her passionate focus and belief on the integral role of nature in tackling the climate crisis and the importance of engaging, understanding and preserving different cultural relationships to our environment.
This week's music comes from a wonderful artist called Arya with her superb track: "The Art of Letting Go."
As mentioned in the episode, Paul's mini-series looking at the challenges and necessity for policy and regulation in financial markets entitled: Lifelines versus Deadlines: The Need for Science Based Policy, kicks off next week with the first of two co-hosts, Dylan Tanner, and a range of incredible guests including Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Naomi Oreskes, Chris Skidmore MP, Steve Waygood and more. With the friendly rivalry between Tom and Paul alive and kicking, please download and share as many times as possible if you would like to hear Paul sound the horn of victory if his mini-series outperforms Tom in terms of downloads.
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Tom: [00:00:00] Hey friends, welcome to this week's episode of the podcast. Now, before we get started, we have something very exciting for you next week, and neither Christiana or I know anything about it. So Paul, this is your big reveal. What is your episode about next week?
Paul: [00:00:12] Well, we have a mini series in two parts, and I think of it as a follow on from your wonderful Momentum versus Perfection, because you were dealing with one of the great struggles in the climate change movement, which is like how we manage to balance those two. And I've been digging a little bit into both the problems with why we're a bit stuck, not least that we have difficulty getting policy passed to get the laws that we need to reduce emissions at 7% a year, but also what can be done about it. And had just great co-hosts, Fiona Macklin, who used to run the Race To Zero. Dylan Tanner, who runs InfluenceMap and super guests like Chris Skidmore, who signed net zero into law for the UK. Adair Turner, the Chair of the Climate Change Committee, and a million other things. Senator Whitehouse, who's given 200 speeches to the US Senate on climate change. Naomi Oreskes, who speaks about the Merchants of Doubt and many, many other brilliant guests. So please listen. Even though it won't have Tom and Christiana, it's still going to be pretty good because of the fantastic people that we got.
Christiana: [00:01:13] Yay! Paul, This is very exciting. How did you do all of this behind our backs?
Paul: [00:01:20] Well, I mean, a sort of sense of wanting to be recognized. This feels to me like a debut moment, you know, the snail is coming out of it's shell.
Christiana: [00:01:28] A debutante. Are you a debutante?
Tom: [00:01:30] Standing there in his gown ready for the ball to start.
Paul: [00:01:33] A caterpillar is becoming a butterfly. In a certain sense, the prince is becoming a king. That's how I see it. Topical, actually. But also the bar is set so high by Tom that I've been recording from morning till night. Sarah, Clay, Catherine's fingers have been worked to the bone. Mandy organizing everything. It's going to be spectacular. It's going to be bigger than Ben Hur, as we like to say, but that's how I've done it.
Tom: [00:01:58] I am very excited by it. I think you've got great guests, you've got great co-hosts, you've got a brilliant vision. So really, really looking forward to figuring out what on earth you've been doing these last few weeks. So that's next week. But for today, we've got a great episode for you as usual. Here's the podcast. Hello and welcome to Outrage and Optimism. I'm Paul Figueres.
Christiana: [00:02:28] I am Tom Dickinson.
Paul: [00:02:31] I am Christiana Rivett-Carnac.
Tom: [00:02:33] Today we talk about bumper fossil fuel profits for oil supermajors, why we're still discussing the end of coal. Plus, we speak to High-Level Climate Action Champion Razan Al Mubarak, and we have music from Arya. Thanks for being here.
Tom: [00:02:58] All right, friends. Paul, welcome back. We missed you terribly. It's been horrible without you. But now we feel all complete that you're back with us. Christiana missed you, didn't you Christiana?
Christiana: [00:03:08] Paul. We haven't laughed in two whole weeks at all. We are really missing you.
Paul: [00:03:16] Well, yeah. I can try and make you laugh.
Christiana: [00:03:18] I don't know if I can remember how to laugh. We're going to have to figure that out. But we've really missed you.
Paul: [00:03:23] Climate change is a very serious topic, and I'm not sure laughter is always appropriate, but, well, you know, seeing as we're together, I think we have to be optimistic. We have to be upbeat. We have to believe in things. We have to have a dream or we cannot have a dream come true.
Christiana: [00:03:36] Okay. Thank you. Don Quixote.
Paul: [00:03:39] I think it's actually it's from, um. You've got to have a dream. If you don't have a dream, how are you going to have a dream come true. It's from Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Christiana: [00:03:49] Oh no no no. I was thinking of the impossible dream. Can you sing that one?
Paul: [00:03:53] I don't know that one.
Christiana: [00:03:54] To dream the impossible dream. Come on. You know that one.
Paul: [00:03:57] Ok, you sing it. Start us off Christiana.
Christiana: [00:03:59] Oh no no no no no. You're the singer here.
Tom: [00:04:01] Christiana you've got a whole history as an opera singer. That was your first career, wasn't it?
Christiana: [00:04:04] Yes, that's right.
Paul: [00:04:05] That's true. I can't claim that. Nor can Tom.
Christiana: [00:04:07] Right.
Tom: [00:04:08] I think we should. I think we should right a historical wrong here. And listeners may know that Christiana and I often read the briefs as we're dialling into the zoom calls for these podcasts, not because they're not brilliant and we don't enjoy them, but because, you know, there's a lot else going on. Whereas Paul, in his own words, reads them and translates them into Greek and into sonnets and other things. And so, Paul, you should be introducing the topics. What's been going on this week? Load More
Tom: [00:05:14] This is definitely more meta than I was imagining you were going. But yeah, carry on.
Paul: [00:05:17] Democratic capitalism and communism when that battle ended.
Tom: [00:05:20] It's just getting bigger and bigger. Okay.
Paul: [00:05:21] I'm getting as big as I can get here. When that battle ended between between, you know, the west and and the communism of of the Soviet Union as was, then, all beliefs were sort of gone and we just focused on the market.
Tom: [00:05:39] The end of history.
Paul: [00:05:39] It was the end of history because the market was going to take us forward. And, you know, technology and technology basically delivered this extraordinary volcanic chocolate box of all the crazy stuff we got now, some of which was amazing and some of it is terrible. But the point being, humans stopped believing in anything. And now everything I read on climate change is about, well, what what will we do now we don't believe in anything. And we've got this big problem called climate change. And so I just wanted to focus on that and actually, you know, the corrupting influence of wealth I'm going to talk about for a moment. I think that there's a lot of stuff in history about how wealth carries with it obligations. And if you lose those obligations, then even the wealthy can't help us. So I think we're at a we're at a moment now where that's the deciding factor. That's the navigational instrument and the wealth of the oil companies. For example, I couldn't believe Equinor made 9,000,000,000 in 1 quarter. It's not the world's largest oil company. That's incredible money. So then the oil and gas companies are becoming a sort of like a symbol of how we're torn between believing in nothing and our lust for money. And I want to make that a theme. And now I'm going to stop talking because you're both just leaning onto your microphones like we have to stop him now or he's never going to stop.
Tom: [00:06:52] I mean, I just want to ask Christiana, do you know what's going on Christiana.
Christiana: [00:06:54] You mean with Paul? I don't know what's going on with Paul. I mean, it's lovely to have him back.
Tom: [00:07:03] It's lovely to have him back.
Paul: [00:07:04] This is my, this is me trying to master the brief. And clearly, I don't think, I've not, I've either gone straight through you. I've missed my target.
Tom: [00:07:11] We've gone, we went right to the beauty of the world and the paragon of animals rather than anything sort of like subset of that. So maybe we should try and dial it down a bit.
Paul: [00:07:17] I wonder how that quote finishes.
Christiana: [00:07:18] No, but just just so seriously, just to take a page out of what Paul has said, it really is quite shocking that we now have again, again and again just record breaking profits from oil and gas companies. Shell first quarter, 9.6 billion, BP 4 billion on and on and on. And it is just it I don't even know what words to use, especially because they come exactly at the same time as record breaking temperatures across Europe and Asia like we just talked about last week and the news that not only are we dealing with these climate change record breaking temperatures, but in addition to that, we're going to have an El Nino season starting somewhere between the summer and the fall in the northern hemisphere of this year. That is going to take those temperatures even higher. And so how do we bring these two realities together? Record breaking profits from oil and gas companies and record breaking temperatures across Europe and Asia to begin with, we don't know where else that is going to happen. How do we bring those two records together?
Paul: [00:08:47] Buck stops with you, Tom.
Tom: [00:08:49] Well, I mean, I think that it points to a fundamental weakness in our global economic system, doesn't it? Is that the rewards for privatising and damaging common goods have often been richly rewarded throughout history. And we've reached a point now where we can no longer afford for that to be the case, because not only is it a moral outrage, but it's on the cusp of destroying us all. So those those incentives have to be realigned through public pressure, through rethinking our economics, through the right tax incentives that actually shift our economy to where it needs to go. Because I mean, I remember when I, I remember when I first met you, Paul, this was like 2007, and we were talking about fossil fuel companies at the time, the and this I mean, I don't know whether you want to share this publicly, actually. And we were having a drink over a beer and I was sort of saying, well, where does it all end with the fossil fuel companies? And you said, you know where it all ends, being strung up with piano wire, because actually there is a point in this where the public outcry and the anger about what's being inflicted on all of us for the sake of private profit leads to a really dark scenario. If we're not able to change the trajectory of where we're going in time. Because otherwise it's it's it's not good for anybody.
Paul: [00:10:00] Well, spoiler alert in the miniseries coming up, we interview Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and he's been a tireless advocate warning the US public and the US Senate, specifically where he's made more than 200 speeches on climate change, that the impact of the fossil fuel industry on the conduct of political affairs in the United States is, you know, a lamentable history of of just kind of almost intolerable behaviour, I think you have to say. And particularly, he notes how since Citizens United in 2010, when there was unlimited funding for political causes, that bipartisan climate discussions in the Senate just stopped, he said it didn't slow down. They ended like a heart attack. And, you know, well, we must resist the tendency to repeat the same problem every week for our listeners because we need to think about solutions.
Tom: [00:10:53] Well and on solutions if we're ready to move. But Christiana, you want to make a point first.
Christiana: [00:10:57] Yeah, I just I just wanted to say. What astonishes me is that the oil and gas industry makes apparently no effort to get on the right side of history. No effort to even be more, let's say, discreet about their actions and their decisions. They're just flaunting their their profits in front of everyone without any sensitivity to the impact of that. And I just cannot imagine how this is going to end up positively for that industry. I was just thinking last night, the slavery industry self justified itself during a certain period of time, but, now post-factum. There is no one who would justify the slavery industry. The same is going to happen to the oil and gas industry. It is impossible and they're making it impossible to justify their continued action. Seen now just from the movement of history forward.
Paul: [00:12:22] Christiana, can I push back to you just for one second? Because the oil and gas, the oil and gas CEO, she or he on this podcast would say, if I don't carry on drilling, I get sacked by the shareholders.
Christiana: [00:12:36] Yes. And there is a heck of a lot of education of shareholders and of investments that needs to occur. So, you know, don't you know, CEOs cannot simply blame their shareholders or their investors. This is a collective responsibility.
Tom: [00:12:58] I want to go on to a solution because something quite interesting happened in India this week. But Christiana, I just want to ask you very quickly, in the years I've known you, you have been willing to give oil and gas CEOs the benefit of the doubt to a certain degree. You and I have been together. We've met with the CEOs of some of the oil supermajors. We even went and spoke to the board of Shell, I remember, some years ago. Where are you now on them. You've worked very hard to keep your relationship with the oil and gas CEOs cordial. You have understood and you've had many private conversations with them around how they are trying or not trying to evolve their companies. And you've been willing to to to acknowledge that they're in a difficult place given the speed of transition of the world. Do you still feel that or do you feel that something has changed that is affecting how you see this issue? I just want to pause here for one second to say, if you don't want to answer this question, you just want to delete it. That's fine.
Christiana: [00:13:54] No, no, no. That's it's a very good question. And I think, you know, just from my recent comments, I think you already I foreshadowed how I feel. I probably, Tom, in the climate space, I probably have been, if not the most patient with the oil and gas companies, at least one of the most patient. My patience has run down to zero. Because these unprecedented profits. Are not being put to the use of. Humanity. These unprecedented profits are being put to the use of the industry and its shareholders. A very tiny, tiny little portion of humanity. If they had these unprecedented profits and took them to invest dramatically and deeply into all of the spaces of the solution, renewable energy, electrification of vehicles, of of light transport, of heavy transport into hydrogen, if that were what they were doing. Then I would be actually still interested in how they how and what they can contribute. But they seem to have turned their back to that whole exercise that they had started. And I am disappointed is a diplomatic term. I am actually outraged that that is the choice that they have been making.
Tom: [00:15:36] Yeah.
Paul: [00:15:38] Could I just build on that, Tom, and speak of Christiana's outrage to those fossil fuel management and direct it at the investors. And actually some high profile Republicans like, you know, Mitch McConnell recently have suggested that investors have been elevating environmental aims above asset manager's primary responsibility of earning the best possible return on their clients investments, which means I guess some kind of short term share price rise by avoiding the investments Christiana is referring to. Now, I want to just emphasize this notion of fiduciary duty is about acting in the best interests of the beneficiary. And there was a very thoughtful paper written by Steve Lydenberg some time ago about fiduciary duty, quoting many brilliant thinkers, including SEN, but specifically mentioning that if a doctor was told by a patient, you know, drinking a bottle of scotch in the morning makes me feel good. So I'm just going to carry on doing that. You know, the doctor's got to say, well, hold on. You know, you may feel good doing this, but this is not good for your health. Right. And, you know, the idea that investors are not allowed to think of elderly people, for example's grandchildren, the idea that an investor can't think of the impact of investments on the grandchildren of the beneficiary is absolutely outrageous. So alongside the fossil fuel management, I would hold investors who push fossil fuel management in that direction of avoiding investment in the transition. They are equally culpable in this circus of idiocy that's dooming Earth. Tom.
Tom: [00:17:16] Yeah. Certainly and certainly they're used as one of the reasons that slows the transition. But this has been a really helpful conversation about oil and gas. I think we have to return to this and get some other oil and gas folks on the podcast as well in the coming months. But just before we go to our interview today and we have a fantastic conversation to you with Razan Al Mubarak, I just want to raise this point about this interesting thing that happened in India this week. And as everybody probably knows, India and China remain the last two countries in the world that are open to new proposals to build new coal plants everywhere else has said no new coal. China, there's a couple of other interesting things going on, but everyone's been really worried about India, like when is India going to peak coal? And this week there was a provision put into the final draft of the new national electricity policy document that stated that India would no longer welcome building any new coal fired power plants apart from those already in the pipeline. Now, obviously, two things. One, we shouldn't even build those in the pipeline, but nevertheless, this is a big step forward. And secondly, this does need to be approved by the prime minister. But the fact that it's being proposed by a cabinet committee in India makes it likely that it will get through. This is a big deal. India moving away from coal in this way would say.
Christiana: [00:18:25] Well, it is and sorry to temper the enthusiasm a little, very uncharacteristic of me to not be jumping up and down at good news, but it is tempered by the fact that Indian Power Ministries Central Electricity Authority put out a report saying coal will remain India's largest source of electricity generation by 2030 and additional new plants will be required even as the nation adds record clean energy installations to hit climate targets. So.
Tom: [00:18:59] So two things happening at the same time.
Christiana: [00:19:02] A mixed a mixed mixed picture there. However, we have always said on this podcast that policy does tend to follow, sadly not lead, but to follow public sentiment. And I thought it was very interesting to see a report that also recently came out about climate sentiment in India specifically, 54% are hugely alarmed about climate change, 29% are concerned, 11% are cautious now and 7% are disengaged. If we just take the top two alarmed and concerned, that is, 82% of the Indian population is either alarmed or concerned. That is new. That is new. That I think is the result of the very difficult and huge impacts that climate has been having on India in just in the past 2 or 3 years and where people are beginning to connect the dots. So let's remember, India is a democracy. It is the largest democracy on the planet. And if this is already public sentiment and probably growing as India suffers more and more heatwaves, that I think will support the kind of policy, Tom, that you have mentioned.
Tom: [00:20:33] Yeah, a bit slow, though. Could be a bit slow.
Paul: [00:20:36] I mean, here is little data point because millions of people in the UK went to our local elections recently. The Labour Party gained 537 seats, the Liberals 407 seats, the Green Party 241 seats. We have to recognize now that people are starting to use their votes, their their sentiments, the concern about extreme weather. I was I was really enjoying listening to your your podcast last week, which I was terribly sad on to be on, Christiana, you spoke about the two dance floors that the COP president was dancing on. On the one hand, speaking about how we needed to end the fossil fuel age and on the other hand, not speaking about the phase out of fossil fuels. Is there something about coal being potentially if we can focus our intention on driving coal out of the energy system, that this may be a way that we can move faster towards, in fact, actually taking oil and gas out of the energy system? Should we be more should there be a sort of a greater focus on the outrage of coal in every country? Would that be a tactic that could work and could unify?
Tom: [00:21:45] I mean, there absolutely should be for, Christiana.
Christiana: [00:21:49] No, go ahead.
Tom: [00:21:49] No, I mean, there should be. And the route to that is is choking lungs and kids with, you know, kids looking like they've smoked 50 cigarettes for 30 years or something. And we've seen lots of evidence of this in India. I mean, a long time ago, we had Indian pulmonary surgeon on the podcast who talks about the fact that 17 year olds in Delhi look like they've been smoking for decades. So this outrage should be precipitated and should be well fomented. And we've made a lot of progress on coal, not as much as we need to, but, you know, we have come a long way.
Christiana: [00:22:19] And listeners will know, of course, that coal is the most the most polluting, the most carbon intensive of all of the fossil fuels. So it is the greatest culprit. And interestingly enough, before the invasion of Ukraine, coal was really on its way out. There were very few coal plants being built and many of the old ones were being prematurely stopped because they are so terribly inefficient. So this new, let's call it temporary interest in coal is very much an consequence of the craziness that swept across the world about what is going to happen now with with fossil fuels now that Russia is beginning to close its taps to the rest of the world. And that is why many of those coal plants were started up again and why there is, at least in some countries, interest in starting up coal again. But frankly, frankly, if you look at the competitiveness of coal against renewables, there's just no way there is no way that that fossil fuel can compete with new with new plants that are going in that are based on renewable energy. So the fact that we're even spending, what is it, seven minutes talking about coal is pathetic.
Tom: [00:23:59] Yeah, it's true.
Christiana: [00:24:00] We we should be dancing on the grave of coal. We should be dancing on the grave of coal by now.
Tom: [00:24:06] Now, anything else to add or should we move to our interview? Because we have a fantastic conversation for you today. Um, Razan Al Mubarak is the High-Level Climate Action Champion for the Emirates COP28. So she has been in post now for about six months. She has had a very impressive career herself in the whole field of climate response and nature recovery. She's the Managing Director of the Environment Agency in Abu Dhabi and also the current President of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN. So she is probably well known to listeners who have expertise in the nature space, but maybe less well known to listeners who are spending more of their lives on climate. So the intention here is to introduce her to you. She's a remarkable person. I know her reasonably well now and I happen to know she listens to the podcast. So delighted she's joined us today. We look forward to this conversation and we'll be back afterwards for more discussion.
Paul: [00:25:00] Climate change. Nature. Same thing.
Christiana: [00:25:08] Razan, hello. Thank you so much for joining us here on Outrage and Optimism today. And as Tom has just said all off the microphone, there are so many people who know you from let's call it the green side from conservation and biodiversity. But we're delighted that you have extended your engagement to also now come into the climate space. And as we know, nature and climate are one and the same. But we'd love you to to give our listeners Razan a little sense of who Razan is, because you've had such a long career, you've worked in sustainability, of course, in nature conservation, where you're heading up IUCN now, but you've also done so much for women, indigenous voices. Et cetera. Et cetera. It's it's a long list of engagements. So how did you decide to add climate to an already very, very full platter? And not just to add climate sort of in general, but to accept the position of the Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP28. Quite a responsibility. So can you tell us how did that happen?
Razan Al Mubarak: [00:26:32] Thank you so much for inviting me to be part of the of this incredible podcast. Outrage and Optimism is certainly one of my favourite to go places to learn and understand the discourse. So absolutely I've had the incredible privilege to work in and for nature over the past two decades. And I'm you know, I'm often asked why and where did that interest stem from? And perhaps it stemmed from a context. I'm from the United Arab Emirates. It's a fairly young country. It was developing very quickly and through its development there was this always this inherent sort of red flag to ensure that development does not happen in spite of nature, but rather thrives because of nature. And this was because of this connection that I felt from a from a sociocultural perspective, you know, our tribes, our language, our poetry, our intrinsically connected to nature. And with its loss, there was this sort of fear that we would lose an identity. So it stemmed from this innate belief that also that we are part and not separate from nature and certainly not above it, and that our fate, our global fate collectively, our progress, our health, our identity is intertwined with the fate of nature. And then with respect to its connection with climate change, I think you said it well, it's it's it's one and the same. But I had this incredible conversation with another hero of mine, Yolanda Kakabadse, who was also the President of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the only other woman.
Christiana: [00:28:21] Good friend, very good friend, Razan.
Razan Al Mubarak: [00:28:23] And what she said and what she told me is actually climate change is, in fact, a result of nature mismanaged. And I'll repeat that it's the result of nature mismanaged, and I could not agree more. So addressing climate change challenges by only focusing on the reduction in only focusing on reduction will not lead to to addressing climate change. It will it will not be enough. And so it's really important that we do not destroy at the same time when we need it the most nature, which is the most cost effective and long lasting solution to climate change.
Paul: [00:29:09] So if I may build on that and it's really digging a little bit deeper into that concept, you know, it's clear that nature and nature conservation is very close to your heart. But thinking about the efforts to preserve nature within the context of climate change, am I right in thinking that there are two sides to that? There's both the protection, but also there's the potential for nature in the solution space. And could you help our listeners understand a little bit more about how that plays out?
Razan Al Mubarak: [00:29:39] So absolutely, Paul. So it's, I just wanted to clarify, it's there's a lot of heart in this, but there's also a lot of science and brain, and it's the sort of brain and heart connection that I hope to convey. So yes, I am passionate about nature as a critical solution to climate change. But I also want to say at the onset that it is not and cannot be, instead of accelerating the transition to a green and clean energy, but a clean and and green energy on its own is not sufficient. So in other words, we need to collectively progress on both the net zero emissions, but also the nature positive discourse because we need to be able to deliver on both the biodiversity agreements and the climate change agreements. And in other words, we cannot deliver on the Paris Agreement without biodiversity, without halting and reversing nature loss, but also we won't deliver on the Montreal Kunming agreement without addressing the issue of climate change. The science. Nature provides a third of the mitigation required to achieve the 1.5 degree pathway. Nature is critical in building resilience, particularly for climate vulnerable communities. It is the second most powerful tool after renewable energy on mitigation, but we are losing it at an unprecedented rate when we actually need it the most.
Paul: [00:31:17] Thank you. I think that we're coming to terms with the fact that that in a sense the natural world and then the highly technical industrial climate change problem, not separate. Same thing. Two sides of the same coin. Thank you.
Tom: [00:31:33] Razan, can I can I jump in? I want to ask you about the COP that you have such a responsibility for delivering. But but just before we do, I'd love to just touch again on something you just answered a minute ago. You spoke very eloquently about the interconnection of language and culture with nature, and I think that's something we don't really think about enough as we begin to lose some elements of the the human interweaving. And one thing I just thought of is not not everybody grows up with that awareness and that connection. How how did you end up becoming an adult in your part of the world, deciding to connect your life? Because we all have different journeys and stories into that to do with wonder of the natural world or a sense of loss. I'd love to just have you share with your listeners. Why did that happen for you? Is there any stories or anything like that from your past that you can share?
Razan Al Mubarak: [00:32:23] I mean, there are plenty. I mean, I grew up, like I said, you know, I'm a little bit younger than the age of my country, but not much younger. And it was a country that was living off the pearling economy. And and and and so, you know, the the community were traditional pearlers or fishermen or camel herders and through this sort of tribal structure, a certain social construct, was formed how the community understood the various seasons the to be able to better go pearling or rather look at the right the types of fishing tools that would provide the best impact for the for their harvest. And all of this was was essentially being challenged by moving from one type of economy to a different one. And so, so my interest then was, you know, it wasn't necessarily, you know, looking hundreds of years historically, but rather it was in the here and now. I could see my society, my both sort of environmental but but also socioeconomic reality changing and changing very quickly. So it was that interest to try to ensure that with that change, you don't lose the languages of the various phases of the pearling season, for example. Because that of course inspired art. It, it inspired poetry, it inspired many, many things in, in within the history and the culture and tradition of, of the UAE. So it was that, that sort of interest that, that led me into a deeper appreciation of of nature, not just as a commodity or a resource, but rather as a, as, as a recognition, like I said, that that it was intrinsically very much associated with who we are as a species.
Tom: [00:34:37] Yes. How interesting and how interesting to see that and see that change in a period of in an area of the world that has changed so much over those years. Right. I mean, I actually lived in Dubai from 83 to 87. So when I lived there, my friends, you know, it was fishing villages and we'd drive between Dubai and Abu Dhabi along the beach because the road wasn't very much. And I went back a few years ago and the change is obviously phenomenal. So. So that's fantastic. Thank you for sharing that. I'd love to just turn a bit to to the COP as well. I mean, you have this. Sorry. Yes.
Christiana: [00:35:05] Tom, can I interrupt you? Because I just, um, Razan, I just wanted to invite you to go a little bit further into that story that you just told us, because for those who are far away from your cultural reality and your legacy, one one could be startled about the contrast that you have just pictured here for us, which is a culture, a series of tribes that were completely nature driven because.
Razan Al Mubarak: [00:35:45] And dependent.
Christiana: [00:35:46] And dependent, because the pearling industry obviously depends on the seasons, on the quality of the water. I mean, it's it's very much a water driven society, culture and economy. And and and then the UAE discovered fossil fuels and then you made this dramatic shift in the space of very few years to to fossil fuels that, let's remember occur also naturally but whose use or overuse use is, as Yolanda has said, is actually mismanaging our our nature and therefore producing climate change. So it is just a dramatic, dramatic shift in the space of very few years. And I find it so inspiring that you have chosen to position yourself right into that drama, so to speak, that cultural drama. And how do you bring those together for yourself, for your children, for your family? How how do you explain or how do you bring those two cultures, those two reference points together in a way that makes sense for who you are personally, but also who the Emirates are today?
Razan Al Mubarak: [00:37:22] Absolutely. It's this, as you said. So it's a it's a you know, the period of time that we're talking about is, you know, 50 plus years. So as you said, it's quite small. And within that, you see quite a few significant transitions, economic transitions and any economic transition has to be underpinned by a what I call a sociocultural transformation, because ultimately it's people who are involved and jobs are not jobs. Jobs are also an identity and a purpose. So when you're moving from one particular sort of established economic sort of, you know, a stream, income stream and then you're moving from one to the other and you're doing it very rapidly, that is really dependent on what that narrative actually means to you as a nation and as a people. So, as you said, so so, you know, the fossil fuel sector perhaps, you know, it was much more than an economic engine because it predated the establishment of my country. And it was really interwoven with, like I said, the identity of its people. And it was part and parcel of the, you know, the foundational fabric of the country. So as we move on, it was very important to then build this new narrative, a new identity, you know, build on the prospect of future energy. But what was important is that you don't do that. You know, it wasn't a sudden sort of narrative change or shift. You needed to ensure that you cascade this narrative through the various cultural educational institutions so that you have a generation that has now embraced this transition, understood its necessity and is frankly excited by it. The challenge perhaps, is that we don't leave behind the, a previous generation whose purpose was very much aligned to a fossil fuel industry that is now we're now we're moving away from. So how do we accompany that, the sort of the original generation into that journey and into the story?
Tom: [00:39:44] Razan, that's so fascinating. And I think what you've put your finger on there is encapsulates so much of the moment that we're in around how do we tell the story of this next phase of human evolution in a manner that is inspiring and takes account of the change we need to make and is exciting. But also and I think all of us on this podcast kind of feel strongly about this that doesn't demonize something that maybe went in the past for which we need to be grateful for certain outcomes, but from which we need to move beyond. My my family, as I said, I lived in the Middle East. My family were all involved in oil and gas. And so I grew up very much involved in that world. And I saw the the investment in how that could improve human life for a certain period of time and how we now need to move beyond that. And we need to shift our narrative to something different that we see ourselves in, and that's inspiring. So I love that you've you've pointed to that. So so you have this fascinating role. COP28 as the High-Level Climate Action Champion, really responsible for everything that isn't a national government. So how are the investors going to show up. How are the businesses going to show up. The cities. And it's this this we've had Nigel Topping and Gonzalo Muñoz and others on the podcast in the past and Laurence Tubiana and you're very much carrying on that tradition. I'd love to just ask you come at it with this nature instinct from the past of how you've seen the world, and that has been something that's been lacking maybe less in recent years, but certainly there's some road to be run to bring those things together. So now that you're in this position, bringing nature and climate together, what are your priorities and what do you hope to see from that part of the agenda at COP28?
Razan Al Mubarak: [00:41:24] So first of all, I think it's also important to give a heads up to the you know, to, you Christiana, for, you know, it was under your tenure that the High-Level Champion idea was conceived. And so I'm really proud to continue this legacy and hopefully strengthen it moving moving forward. So we also have to remember that the there are always two High-Level Champions, and that is to ensure that we we ensure that there's continuity between two COPs. So I share this great responsibility with my Egyptian counterpart, Dr Mahmoud Mohieldin. And, you know, and from the onset, we recognized each other's strengths and tried to build on them. And so, you know, one hopefully I could say that one of sort of my networks and areas that I'm mostly engaged with is certainly nature. So it was, you know, no surprise that I sort of picked that one up. But also what it's important to say that it was also very much driven by science. Like I said, you know, we can't address the climate change issue without without nature. What I also wanted to say is I came and went about this. And so my strategy was really not to reinvent the wheel. There are so many initiatives out there, Tom, Paul, Christiana and it's so overwhelming. And so I really did not want to add to this menu of ideas that were out there, but rather I had the opportunity. I mean, I've been appointed five months ago, so over the last for the past five months to really study the market, the nature market, to understand what are the types of things that I could work on to accelerate and and scale up.
Razan Al Mubarak: [00:43:11] So I just wanted to say so really focusing on what's already out there and the the added value that I wanted to bring to the equation is, you know, two operative words, collaboration and inclusion. So those were sort of my my North Star. And also I wanted to pick up on initiatives that not only could be launched by COP28, but by COP28 actually deliver impact and live beyond COP28. So, you know, kind of moving away from these sort of, you know, one, you know, big, big launches and then they sort of flatten out after the sort of big buzz and and after all the limelight. So I chose to focus within the nature discourse, within the nature climate discourse on five key areas. The first is on forests, unsurprisingly. So land land sinks. So what I'd like to do with the support of of of the non-state actors community and and and governments around the world is to deliver a platform that will showcase concretely and at scale country packages that will protect and restore the world's vital natural carbon sinks by COP28.
Tom: [00:44:38] Great.
Razan Al Mubarak: [00:44:39] And do that in a way that this package will be actually led by the host countries, those that are nature rich and they would be helping to shape the package in a holistic way where governments, private sector, philanthropy, indigenous communities come to the table.
Tom: [00:45:00] Great.
Razan Al Mubarak: [00:45:01] And I'd like to also do that in the realm of the oceans. So within that context, focus primarily on coral reefs and mangroves, including supporting the efforts to deliver $4 billion for mangrove restoration and protection.
Tom: [00:45:21] That's very. And you have mangroves in the UAE, don't you, that you're going to be. Yeah. Okay.
Razan Al Mubarak: [00:45:26] We do, we do. And again, so it's really focusing on initiatives that do exist where we do have concrete examples of them being successful. But what is required is it's scaling up and making it just more obvious in terms of its connection with the climate change agenda. So it's not just it's not seen or relegated to a sort of, as Christiana said at the beginning, sort of the greenie movement, but rather part of a combined effort to address both biodiversity loss, climate change, but also enhance the resilience of people and vulnerable communities. We cannot, you know, move on on both those two issues without engaging with the business community. And so deforestation today accounts for 11% of emissions, and the business community can tackle this head on by eliminating agriculture, commodity driven deforestation. So we really need to get our act from a business community clear on that. And and I plan to do that through, again, existing campaigns. So we've got two campaigns, the Race To Zero and the Race To Resilience and what we plan to do as High-Level Champions, supported, of course, by the Marrakesh Partnership to ensure that we inject a sort of Race To Nature within those campaigns. And it is difficult and it is challenging because sometimes the business case of incentivising nature conservation is not as clear.
Razan Al Mubarak: [00:47:07] So it's really important that we raise awareness not only about the risks associated with the loss of nature, but perhaps also the rewards associated with safeguarding nature. And I'll be working with the community through the various existing initiatives such as the Task Force on Nature Disclosures, dead conversions and other tools to scale up finances for nature based solutions. And sort of finally, my fifth sort of focus area would be to take advantage of the Global Stocktake. So within that context, I think it's important again that we drive the message that addressing nature and climate change needs to be done together and that will only enhance our impact on both of those issues and also ensure a just transition. So I'd like to perhaps advance this idea through the integration of nature targets within the countries, NDCs, to be able to close the ambition gap. So five clear, clear areas focus on forests, oceans, empower the business community to work on nature and the protection of nature, scale up finance, and bring that message within the negotiated process through an enhanced NDC mechanism.
Paul: [00:48:41] That's quite a program, but no, I mean, the thing I think is fascinating is that nations are sort of defined by their leadership. That's, you know, the head of state and the non-state actors, of course, in a certain sense are these stateless citizens of the world who to some degree lack leadership. And I think the extraordinary potential of the Champion's office and and your role is that that authority is taken and not given. So I just wanted to observe that it is wonderful that that narrative is being created and pushed out to the business community. And we have many thousands of people in corporations and investors and cities listening to this podcast. I hope and believe they they will heed your call.
Tom: [00:49:26] And I love what you said. Sorry, I'll let Christiana come in. But in response to the GST. So the GST is obviously going to be the is going to be quite challenging for all of us, right? It's going to sort of provide way markers of the fact we're not doing what we need to do, but that can either be a sort of moment of somewhat depressing realization that things are very challenging or it can be the minute we sort of, you know, for an unfortunate analogy, get on the scales, realize we've gained 10 pounds and we need to start eating differently and go out for a run, right? So that it needs to be the latter. And I think being able to focus our attention on the response to that with the elements you've described in terms of actually integrating nature into the heart of our response is what we need to do. So great to hear those elements.
Christiana: [00:50:06] Yeah. And just building on that Tom, Razan, I'm really delighted that you will open the door to including nature in NDCs for, for, for two main reasons, in addition to the ones that you have already listed. One, because at the international level, in our infinite wisdom, we humans created two conventions way back in 1992 and assumed for way too long that these two conventions, the Biodiversity and the Climate Convention, were separate from each other. And and we you know, we have built up international institutions and processes and monitorings, etcetera, etcetera, that are sitting side by side and also at the at the national level. I'm not sure how it is in the UAE, but in most other countries we have two different sets of people, one set of people devoted to to nature, to regeneration, to forestry, to oceans, and another set of people devoted to energy issues and and climate and in fact, even adaptation as though nature weren't a part of adaptation and a consequence of of mismanagement as you put. So to encourage countries to to bring nature into NDCs begins to close that very necessary gap begins to bring down the bricks in that siloing wall between the two, but also opens up the opportunity for many countries who don't have substantial emissions from their energy or transport sector, but that can contribute to the global effort through their care of their natural environment and their their forestry, their oceans. So for both of those reasons, A, because we need to close a stupid gap that we invented between nature and climate, but also because it opens the door to many countries, many developing countries in fact, who just don't have emissions, don't have certainly not from the energy side. And and this allows them to to put their contribution on the table and feel, as they rightly should, that they are contributing to the global solution through the care of of their own landscapes.
Razan Al Mubarak: [00:52:46] Exactly. And my hope is that it could also be a sort of stepping stone to what, you know, what we refer to as the just transition, because as you rightly said, you know, there are many countries around the world whose resources natural wealth is in fact, you know, the natural capital, the forests and the carbon sinks. And we need to find a way where that is valued within that within the just transition discourse.
Tom: [00:53:19] Fantastic. So Razan we very much hope this will be the first of at least a couple of times we have you on the podcast between now and the COP. We have a closing question that we ask everybody. Christiana, do you want to jump in with the question?
Christiana: [00:53:31] Yes. Our question, Razan, is in honour of the title of our podcast because we feel that we have to be outraged about what we haven't done and optimistic about what we are doing and can further do. So in honour of that mantra that we have on the podcast. We want to ask you what makes you optimistic about what we can do and what is still in your outrage bucket after so many years of working on sustainability and conservation.
Razan Al Mubarak: [00:54:07] So I have to say I prepared for this. So so this is so this is it. So I've had the opportunity to be at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and I sat next to Xiye Bastida, a young climate justice activist from Mexico.
Christiana: [00:54:24] We know her well. She's been on the podcast.
Paul: [00:54:27] She's a superstar.
Razan Al Mubarak: [00:54:29] Oh, wonderful. Wonderful. And she is a superstar. And, you know, she said, you know, the fact that we still have a permanent forum on independent issues just tells you that the issues are always going to be permanent. Similarly, taking inspiration from that, I'm outraged that it's been 28 years since the first UNFCCC COP in Germany, and we're still far from a just energy transition. But I am optimistic when I see the climate action that is being undertaken in the real economy. I am optimistic when I engage with the 11,000 members of the Race to Zero that have collectively committed to half their emissions by 2030. I'm optimistic when I engage with indigenous peoples who are safeguarding 80% of our biodiversity today and I'm optimistic when I engage with the likes of Xiye, of the youth of the world who keep us ever engaged, ever on our toes, because it is their future that we are talking about.
Christiana: [00:55:37] Well, Razan, thank you so much. Thank you. Really, I don't know if listeners heard that you are on double duty here as a young mum of a young, young baby and also doing COP28 High-Level Champions. So thank you very much for for taking the time. We look forward to see you moving further into the role and assuming more and more leadership. And I think everyone who works on that side of the issue will feel so included to see that you are not looking at them as the other side, but rather one and the same. So I think you will bring much, much, much needed cohesion in to the conversation.
Paul: [00:56:28] Thank you.
Tom: [00:56:28] Pleasure. Lovely to see you and look forward to having you back.
Razan Al Mubarak: [00:56:32] Thank you so much for having me.
Tom: [00:56:40] So how fantastic to have a High-Level Climate Action Champion that is so focused on this integration of nature and climate. It feels like the culmination of so many years of work to bring those two issues together. As you are constantly reminding us, Christiana, they are not two issues, they are one issue. But what did you both leave that conversation with?
Christiana: [00:56:56] Yeah, I agree with you, Tom. I think it's a breath of fresh air to have someone who comes from from what I am going to equivocally call the other side of the conversation and to show us that it's not the other side and that all of this really needs to be woven into one harmonious tapestry. Everything that has to do with nature. And I feel quite grateful that she's also reaching out to indigenous wisdom and to women's participation. So she she really is, I think, living what she said, that her two words that she wants to bring here, her two North Lights are collaboration and inclusion. And I think she's she's really being very consistent with that.
Tom: [00:57:51] Yeah.
Paul: [00:57:53] And great to hear her talk about the, you know 11,000 businesses in the in the coalition. You know, if she is able to get those businesses to pay attention and I think you know talking about these two sides. We kind of know that greenhouse gas builds up in the atmosphere, right? The CO2 builds up and and the methane builds up and it traps the heat. But that is only half the story. There's also an enormous machine called nature that is fundamentally responsible for keeping us all alive. You know, there's there's CO2 keeping Mars as a certain temperature. But what James Lovelock discovered was that all the chemical processes on Mars had stopped and in fact, sort of discovered Gaia theory, realizing that the chemical processes on earth were continuing and were rich and were powered by the sun. And so her ability to to bring that together is absolutely amazing. And and as she says, cascade it into a new narrative to help us embrace transition. That's that's that's a great voice.
Tom: [00:58:57] Yeah, absolutely. And I think one of the other interesting elements is, you know, this whole Race to Zero infrastructure, the Climate Action Champions, although it's been around, as you, you know, since Paris, it was really only when Nigel Topping took the job for the for COP26 in Glasgow that it became. People. That was a permanent secretariat that were delivering long term work around the Race to Zero and the Race to Resilience. And and that's great. And it creates inevitably its success creates a tension of the ongoing infrastructure that needs multiple years to deliver things and the changing of the champion every year. Who should be able to come in and put their own stamp on it. And what's nice to see about Razan taking that role is she both recognizes and respects the infrastructure that's been invested in and is willing and brave enough to say, this is my slant and this is how I want to turn it to something that's going to work for me. So her establishing that principle of not trying to reinvent the wheel, but also being able to bring her own thing, I think is the key to that infrastructure having longevity beyond just a couple of years around Glasgow and afterwards. So I was pleased to see that.
Christiana: [01:00:05] Indeed, well put Tom. Well put.
Paul: [01:00:07] Well we will keep, we'll keep an eye on her progress and wishing her very, very well.
Tom: [01:00:12] Wishing her very, very well. And before we go, the other thing we should remind everybody is it's Paul's miniseries next week, next two weeks. So Christiana and I won't be here. It's going to be very exciting. Paul, We'll be listening and observing.
Paul: [01:00:23] Me and a cast of thousands.
Tom: [01:00:25] You and a cast of thousands and brilliant people.
Paul: [01:00:27] Fiona, Dylan. Millions of people. Lots of content. Really, really good. Not in any way better but inspired by your mini series Tom. As we look forward to Christiana's mini series.
Tom: [01:00:39] We all know that you will be sitting there by the listener numbers, hoping that it's more than mine.
Paul: [01:00:43] My bot farm will make that the most listened to.
Tom: [01:00:46] If you want to make Paul happy, listen to the next episodes at least 2 or 3 times.
Paul: [01:00:49] And I will pay you. I will pay you.
Tom: [01:00:52] All right, so that's it. I think that's us for this week. We are leaving yourself with a piece of music. Arya, The Art of Letting Go. Hope you enjoy this beautiful piece of music. And we will see you. Paul will be here next week. Christiana and I will not be here next week or the week after, but we'll see you after that. Thanks so much. Bye.
Christiana: [01:01:07] Bye.
Paul: [01:01:09] Missing you already. Bye for now.
Arya: [01:01:11] Hi, everybody. My name is Arya. I'm a singer and songwriter from Italy. That's where I'm speaking to you from. I'm 28 and I'm half Venezuelan and half Italian. So nature has always been a major source of inspiration for me. I've been coexisting with the rush and the frenzy of a city like Milan since I was born, and I sometimes feel the urge to reconnect with nature, to root down and deepen and find again my groundings. The Art of Letting Go, which is a song that I chose, is about the sense of belonging to my natural path, knowing that the universe and nature itself will find their ways to guide me to my goal. Like some sort of awareness, a sense of epiphany. One thing that I'm outraged by is the utter incapacity of decision makers, or at least most of them, to take bold actions against a crisis, or should I say, the crisis of our times. On the other hand, I see more and more young people discussing the issue, creating social turmoil and awareness. I turned vegan two years ago myself, and it's been the most fulfilling choice I've made so far. So go vegan.
Clay: [01:05:47] So there you go. Another episode of Outrage and Optimism. I'm Clay from the Outrage and Optimism Team. I'm back after a week away to say hey. And that was Arya with The Art of Letting Go. Some neo soul on the show. We love it. Arya has another song that I recommend titled Por Amor de Mi Vida. This style of music is like California Dreaming Sunset on the balcony type music to me. And the weather here in Detroit is perfect this week. So Arya, you're on my weekend playlist. I'll see you in the sunshine. Listeners, you can go to the show notes to check for the link to Arya's Spotify and Socials. And she does some really cool behind the scenes music stuff on her Instagram, and she collaborates online with other musicians and so if you like watching musicians do their thing on Instagram, you should go check her out. Thank you, Arya. Now, like Paul, I was away for a week and our friends at Aerofon stepped in to edit last week's episode. So thank you to Adam and James. Great work. Yeah. Last week I was in Toronto visiting the monastics from Plum Village. So you know, our friends Sister True Dedication, Brother Phap Huu, Brother Spirit and the gang. I got to see them perform some original music from their community live and including some new hip hop songs as well, because they were traveling with this artist called bornimusic. And yeah, Zen rap stars. It's just as incredible as it sounds. And that night was really just an amazing night of music and community and mindfulness and creativity, all regenerative forces for good in the world.
Clay: [01:07:42] And I just wanted to give some gratitude and say thank you to Plum Village, as well as Elli Weisbaum for hosting these concerts and mindfulness talks that I was able to join, and it really nourished me. I was on the train back to Detroit and I was feeling kind of filled up, you know, like filled like with a renewed sense of urgency and possibility that another world is possible. I felt validated as a creator and as an artist. And I guess that's what a Zen monk rapping will do to you. I mean, that's why we have music on the end of our show, right? Really great to meet many listeners of Outrage and Optimism there in person. I always enjoy that. And for your personal enjoyment, I've put a link in the show notes to go watch the band play one of the songs that they performed on the tour. Go check them out. Enjoy it for yourself. Nourish your soul. Also two weeks ago, speaking of musicians in Toronto, two weeks ago, I sent you all to go sign up for our newsletter to by teasing a song released on Earth Day titled Drop in the Bucket by Donna Grantis, featuring Tzipporah Berman, former guest on the podcast. Donna is a musician from Toronto and came to the Plum Village Show too and we got to talk a bit more about her new project that you got to see in the newsletter Culture Versus Policy. And I want to talk about it for a second. It's this music project that amplifies the work and message of climate scientists, activists, indigenous leaders, policymakers and all around climate solution drivers through composing and performing music to their words and their work.
Clay: [01:09:22] So it's a project actively doing this thing that Christiana talked about that's so necessary, which is connecting the head and the heart and not siloing those two things away from each other as we create the future. So here's my plug. Culture versus Policy also has an email sign up. And so, you know, our team is signed up for it. Go put in your email. There's a link in the show notes to go go put in your email so we can both experience everything that this exciting project has coming out. I got to hear a little bit in person about what is coming up next you don't want to miss. So listeners go check the show notes, sign up for the email again, nourish your soul. Some face melting guitar action. That was fun. Okay. Thank you to our guest this week, Her Excellency Razan Al Mubarak, for coming on the podcast. I join our hosts by saying we are rooting for your success at COP 28 and into the future. We're big fans of the High-Level Climate Champions team at Outrage and Optimism. So extra shout out to the Climate Champions team for helping make today's interview come together. Razan's LinkedIn and the High-Level Climate Champions team socials are below for you to check out and shout out to my dude Fabio from the High-Level Climate Champions team. It's my friend Fabio. Thanks for your work putting this together. A couple more things. I know, I know. I know Clay enough, right? People have lives. Let them go.
Clay: [01:11:01] So I know I'm back this week. But for the next two weeks, we're going to be broadcasting Paul's mini series. So I won't be meeting you at the end of the podcast. We're not going to have a musical guest for the next two weeks. So yes, after you've added Arya to your playlist, after you've signed up for the culture versus policy email, a friendly reminder that voting for the Environmental Music Prize is open right now, EnvironmentalMusicPrize.com. We are going to be featuring some of the Music Prize finalists here on the podcast. So in a couple of weeks you can look forward to that. But in the meantime, go vote. That's environmentalmusicprize.com. Okay, that's everything. But actually, one more thing. Shout out to Darren, Darren from Detroit. I had an energy audit of my house today and he hooked me up with a bunch of LED light bulbs and weather stripping. And he created this report on what I should do to make my house more energy efficient. So helpful. Early on in the podcast days, Christiana recommended the same thing get an energy audit of your house. I found it really fun and had more questions than I thought I did. And who knew climate action was as easy as wrapping heat tape around your water pipes? Okay, enjoy the next couple episodes. Paul is really looking forward to you listening 100 times in a row. And of course, the easiest way to make sure that you hear these episodes is to hit Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, wherever you are. We'll see you right back here next week. Thanks. Bye.