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223: COP28: Will The Word ‘Out’ Be In?

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About this episode

This week on Outrage + Optimism our hosts give a crucial update from Dubai’s COP28 opening days.  With Tom and Paul dialling in direct from Dubai and Christiana offering an outside perspective, the hosts ask: Will the word 'out' be in? What role will governments play in the climate crisis going forward? How brave was it for Dr Sultan to launch with a COP outcome (loss and damage) on day 1? They also discuss the incredible commitment from 134 countries to the food systems declaration, and much, much more in this packed episode.

To close this week's episode, we have Louise Harris with ‘We Tried’, a moving and beautiful song about the climate crisis and what will happen if we don’t act. The song became the first ever climate song to reach UK iTunes No.1 and all proceeds go to climate causes.


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Full Transcript

Tom: [00:00:12] Hello and welcome to Outrage + Optimism. I'm Tom Rivett-Carnac.

Christiana: [00:00:15] I'm Christiana Figueres.

Paul: [00:00:17] And I'm Paul Dickinson.

Tom: [00:00:18] This week we bring you an update from Dubai COP 28. And we have music from Louise Harris. Thanks for being here. So Christiana, the first thing to say is that Paul and I here in Dubai and we miss you. And can you please take this as the 25,000 people who have told me to give Christiana a hug as a collective hug, everyone in COP who stopped me in the corridor, this is your hug for Christiana being delivered right now.

Christiana: [00:01:01] Well thank you.

Tom: [00:01:02] So there you are, there's a lot of love here for you.

Paul: [00:01:04] That's a lot of hugs. It's a very long episode because we're going to like take virtual turns. There's huge queues around the block all the way down to wherever. So yeah, no it's true. Big heart out.

Christiana: [00:01:15] Well thank you. Thank you everyone. 25,000. That's, that means what, that's 25% of the 100,000 who are there. Is that the final number?

Tom: [00:01:25] 107,000 is the number that I heard today.

Paul: [00:01:28] Correct yeah. 

Christiana: [00:01:29] It's just beyond, beyond comprehension.

Tom: [00:01:33] Beyond comprehension.

Paul: [00:01:34] Actually I'm going to offer you an alternative perspective. I think it's entirely normal because what is it, last year was it fossil fuel investment was 1.1 trillion and renewable investment was 1.7 trillion. But we have to get like another trillion of renewable investment. My point being, you have to build an industry about as big as the entire global clothing industry immediately that we've never had before, and you've got to build it in a hurry. So there is the most gigantic series of multiple new industries being built here. And there happens to also be an intergovernmental negotiation going on at the same time. And there's a bit of a question about whether those two sit very comfortably together or whether they should maybe split up. I remember back in the day, they used to be like a single internet conference for the whole world, that in the end, 2 million people used to go to CeBIT in Germany. But then everyone realized that was silly. The internet was too big to be one thing.

Tom: [00:02:30] So maybe this is the stage we're at now. We need to get to 2 million people in a COP, and then we can finally disperse into different camps. That's a vision for the next few years. 

Christiana: [00:02:39] It makes it very easy to host the COPs.

Tom: [00:02:42] It is strange, though, Christiana. I mean, the scale of it. And I think that obviously, as Paul said, it's a function of success. So let's just talk about that experience for a minute, because now there are so many people doing deals, making money out of clean energy and land restoration, all these other things. It does kind of have a trade show feeling about it, which is new actually, compared to what, three times bigger than any previous COP. It has a sort of there's an intensity that goes to a COP normally, which this has, but in a different way, because it also feels like it's nested inside all of these other things that are going on. So I've spoken to a lot of people who sort of feel, and this could always be the case a little bit in a COP, but I think even more like there's a lot going on and they can't quite wrap their arms around it, and they're spending a lot of time wandering around trying to work out where rooms are. But that's probably normal. But yes, it is a new world with a COP of over 100,000 people. Now let's get into it. And this will inevitably, having taken that as a beginning, be a partial account as to what is going on at the COP. It is right now, Sunday, the 3rd of December in the afternoon. And we're going to give you a few reflections from what's been going on here. Christiana, have you been following what's been happening, or have you been blissfully sitting in Costa Rica and enjoying the ocean? Load More
Christiana: [00:03:55] Well, I'm blissfully sitting in Costa Rica, but since the two of you are there. Am I under the correct impression that it seems that there is a frontload strategy here to frontload the declaration on how many countries are backing up, tripling renewable energy by 2030, to frontload financial commitments to frontload health announcements. Et cetera. Et cetera. Is that, does it feel like a frontload strategy, front loaded with good news? Is that what it feels like?

Tom: [00:04:38] Do you want to answer Paul?

Paul: [00:04:40] No. I mean, well, maybe yes. I think Tom is actually closer to this than me. But my observation is that the whole story about and the thing we covered in the last podcast about, you know, this is an oil, massively oil producing, oil exporting country. And the president of the COP is also the chief executive of a big oil company and the BBC story and all of that means that there's a sort of enormous expectation of kind of contradiction and problem. And then, yeah, these attempts to get in with good news and achievements early on is quite a big counterblast to that. But that's about the end of my political analysis. For political analysis we go over to Tom Rivett-Carnac in Dubai. Tom.

Tom: [00:05:27] Well I mean I agree with what you said there, Christiana. I think that they have realised they were going into this COP with negative messaging around, you know, petro state and all these other things which was very complicated. So I think they knew they had to flood the zone both from a broad communications and also in terms of setting up the negotiations and the multilateral piece of this for success. And I think they've been very smart. I mean, coming out and actually capitalizing on operationalising the loss and damage fund on day one, agreeing the agenda to the COP on day one, which, as you know, better than almost anybody is a.

Christiana: [00:06:02] Wait, can I just say something there Tom? Sorry to be such a COP nerd here, but actually having a COP decision on the first day is quite unusual. Usually you just call the COP for the, you know, the diplomatic protocol, more for the protocol of it. And then you close the COP and go into all of the other bodies that are meeting, and then you open the COP again for adoption of decisions at the end. So let's give credit where credit is due. This was a very interesting strategy to open the COP, do the protocol that needs to be done and have a decision adopted, which was the loss and damage fund that they knew had a lot of political support behind it and would get them honestly, you know, quite a few brownie points expressed in the enthusiastic applause that came with it. So, you know, it was not just that they announced, they did it in a very interesting procedural way that made it more important than simply announcing it, you know, at any point during the two weeks. So let's give credit where credit is due.

Tom: [00:07:35] Yeah, 100%. And I think that that's a very important point. So thank you for explaining that. And I think you know and you've implied this as well. It also made the COP feel like something significant had been achieved collectively early on. Right. It wasn't just an announcement. It was a collective achievement to do something that has been important for so long and the numbers have been rising. So now there's $655 million has been committed to the loss and damage fund. Of course, people will criticize that as saying it's insufficient. Of course it's insufficient. But it's very impressive that we got, as you say, a COP decision. Capitalization started us off in a really good way. And actually that provided a huge momentum on day one. As we then went into the opening of the World Leaders Summit, which was on Saturday so yesterday.

Christiana: [00:08:23] Which is also interesting, Tom, you know, again, I do apologize for being a COP nerd, but those.

Paul: [00:08:31] Don't apologize, Christiana. Everyone says to me that you can interpret the COPs by listening to you speak on Outrage + Optimism. What you're apologizing for is actually what everyone is tuning in for. So let's have it.

Christiana: [00:08:41] Those who have been following COPs may remember that the Paris COP in 2015 was the very first COP in which leaders came in at the beginning of the two weeks, ever before that, the minister, no the lowly negotiators come in the first week, do their technical job and clean up as much as possible. Then at the beginning of the second week, usually ministers came in and started to up the ante on the political level decisions. And then in the last 3 or 4 days heads of state used to come in, and Paris was the first time in which heads of state came in at the beginning, and it was quite a revolutionary step at that time. Now it seems like that's moved into being the tradition of the COP. And one should really understand why that is so. Because it is expected that when heads of state come at the beginning, that they give the political direction to their own delegation, but actually to everyone. So my question to you is, do you have the sense that by doing this again, on top of the decision on the loss and damage fund, do you have the sense that that has been achieved? Do you have the sense that there is a clear political direction that has been given to negotiators?

Tom: [00:10:35] So I, so yes. And but to also just add that little nuance there, as you've talked about, the interesting innovation here, is that the COP opened for a day, reached this decision on loss and damage, and then world leaders came on days two and three, which is also a sort of unusual nuance there that you have a day of everybody doing normal business and getting procedural stuff out of the way, and then the World Leaders Summit, once you're really into it. So I thought that was also an interesting innovation. And then obviously, what was the intention in those two days, which was your original question, is to then flood the zone with all kinds of significant commitments that demonstrate political momentum, demonstrate ambition to reduce emissions, demonstrate commitments on finance. And I think actually those have been racking up over the last few days that do feel like they've given real political momentum to what's happening here, and we'll get into what's going to happen next, of course, in a minute. But there has been some significant breakthroughs. I mean, one of those is 134 countries committing to the Food Systems Declaration, which is a commitment to incorporate sustainable, 1.5 aligned food systems into their nationally determined contributions and their national plans. You know, again, better than anybody, food has never really been incorporated in this way. That was an innovative.

Christiana: [00:11:59] Nor health, nor health.

Tom: [00:12:00] Nor health, right. So we should get to health as well. But that is an innovative. And I was actually in the room when this was announced, and it was really exciting for, for all these different folks to feel like we're beginning to join the dots on these different pieces and bring the food agenda in.

Christiana: [00:12:15] Yeah.

Tom: [00:12:15] One other that I would point to, and we've sort of known this has been coming for a while, but was the UAE commitment to a $30 billion fund which is intended, which is a climate focused investment vehicle. Now, this is somewhere that we might begin to sort of pick up and look at some of the nuance that sits underneath the headline. This is interesting, a $30 billion fund on the surface of that, that seems really remarkable. But let's point out it is a fund. And so the capital will be deployed as projects become identified. Only 5 billion of that 30 billion is going to be for emerging economies in developing countries. So there's something happening where there's a, this is, we'll get into the oil and gas piece as well. There is a whole range of commitments that have real headline grabbing elements to them. But I think what's going to happen now is we're going to begin to think about what does that really mean, what's that going to look like in terms of emissions reduction trajectory.

Christiana: [00:13:11] Does it move the needle is the question.

Tom: [00:13:13] Does it move the needle or was it a moment of headline grabbing attention. And I don't want to be unfair to say that $30 billion is obviously significant. But the oil and gas commitment was another right. We had 50 oil and gas companies come forward and make a shared commitment. Big applause. The first time we've ever had national oil and gas companies step forward. 

Paul: [00:13:34] ADNOC, Saudi Aramco. You know, I mean whether the commitment is good or bad. And I certainly haven't gone anywhere near it with a slide rule and wouldn't know how to. But there's a sort of fact in the statement from sort of denial and opposing through to sort of acknowledgement through to commitment, however small the steps are, and they need to be measured. The direction is what's interesting.

Tom: [00:13:56] That is true and it's, you know, a few conversations I've had with people have noted this kind of shock and awe of like, wow, those oil and gas companies are in. But then they've looked at the detail and said, oh, it's only methane and it's only operational emissions. And it doesn't include the oil and gas they sell.

Paul: [00:14:12] And the bad side is Darren Woods having a moment, the chief executive of ExxonMobil in the Financial Times yesterday on the front page actually with the headline where he's being quoted, UN climate talks on how to limit global warming, have focused on renewable energy for too long. According to the chief executive of ExxonMobil. So there's, I would actually call that overreach. I would say that there's a degree of sort of slightly bizarre tone deafness in that particular statement.

Tom: [00:14:40] Well you're getting to the point I'm trying to make, which is that you, these things feel like they are really shock and awe, but then they settle and you look at them and think, well, are they really as transformative. Do they shift the needle in the way that it is implied. And I think that's an important conversation for us to get into, because that will suggest what's going to happen next in this COP.

Paul: [00:15:01] There's a very wry smile, almost mischievous on Christiana's mouth. What is it, Christiana?

Christiana: [00:15:07] Well, it's so difficult right, to thread this needle because, yes I mean let's look at this, you know quote unquote commitment from the oil and gas industry. They've, through OGCI, which is the Group of Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, is what it stands for, and it's the oil and gas industries that have been at least looking at climate change, not necessarily doing much about it. So they've been looking at methane for, you know, I almost want to say, my entire lifetime. That's probably an exaggeration, but that's what it feels like.

Tom: [00:15:53] Probably my lifetime, right. 45 years or.

Christiana: [00:15:58] So yeah, they know that they have to cut down the emissions that come from their, their production process. Okay. And let me say yes, that's important because it's a short lived gas. And, you know, you can really if you really cut down on methane quickly, you can really cut down on emissions. So yes, that definitely is a contribution. But here's the problem. It's 2023, that's the problem right. I mean if if this announcement had come ten years ago, you would say, okay, well, you know, they're beginning to, you know, get the picture. The problem is it's 2023. We have seven years to go to cut emissions by half, I mean cutting their own emissions. Hello. I mean their own methane emissions. Hello. Right. It's just especially, especially against the backdrop of what they decided to do with their unprecedented profits over the past two years, this is the thing the contrast between those two realities, you know, it just sort of feels, you know, what it feels like to me. It feels like someone is sitting at a table with an incredible dinner in front of them. And then they take the little, migajas, the crumbs, and they fall off the table. And we are no longer no longer at the time and place for crumbs. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. We just can't do that anymore, it would have been fine ten years ago, but this does not address the emergency that we're in.

Tom: [00:18:05] Yeah.

Paul: [00:18:07] And I think the, the short sightedness, so to say, of those same companies is if they don't address that emergency, then people will follow Norway and ban the sale of internal combustion engine cars in 2025, or follow the EU and ban the sale in 2035. And you know, the thing that consumes their product will be banned. And then what. Then where's the oil and gas industry so in a sense by failing.

Christiana: [00:18:32] Well, we know, exactly to the point. Right. We know that demand is already declining. Right. And they should take that seriously. Demand for oil and gas has already declined in OECD countries. Demand for oil and gas will decline within the next two years globally, they know that. And then this is what they do. I mean, it's very interesting that they continue to be blind or to pretend to be blind. I'm not sure to the impact.

Paul: [00:19:12] I mean, Tom, you have a view. I think there's something about the COP being located here in a, you know, a major oil and gas exporting country. I think it sort of changes the sort of the feel, the cultural feel for want of a better word. But, Tom.

Tom: [00:19:30] So, I mean, I agree with all of that. And the comment I mean, I remember the OGCI  you just referenced Christiana coming out with their commitment, you know, eight years ago before Paris. That was also a methane commitment right. So, you know, you've got to put this stuff in a historical context. The thing I've been reflecting on, though, is that, you know, we're going to have to go and try and get our arms around this whole lot and say, the global stocktake that's this year. We know we need to reduce emissions by 43% by the end of the decade. We know we're on track for them to rise by 9%. Given that basic input, the outcome from Dubai has to be unambiguous that we will not fall asleep at the wheel at this critical moment, and we will do what's necessary to come back on track. And that unambiguous signal, that unambiguous signal needs to be shared commitments, negotiated outcomes, political statements. And there's some good stuff happening, right. I mean, you can't be against methane reduction. You can't be against a $30 billion fund or a food statement or a tripling of renewables, but are they going to add up to an unambiguous signal. I think probably they're not, even though they're all good. So we need to find a way to thread the needle between those two things. And, you know, the tripling of renewables. There was an announcement today that's good. Triple renewables by 2030, we're going to have to see a negotiated response to the global stocktake by the time we leave here in 11 days time. And that has to really pull these pieces together with a shared signal from all the countries that are here that gives that political, unambiguous statement. Otherwise, it hasn't quite met the task that it was supposed to meet at this important moment.

Paul: [00:21:12] So just to chip on that specific point about the way countries are performing, I have been in an awful lot of conversations where everybody seems to agree that the way countries are actually accounting for what they do is insufficient. The nationally determined contributions are a fantastic mechanism. It's brilliantly designed. Everyone's really happy with it. But actually this is really big and serious now and we would like much better structured data from governments and we would like it more frequently, you know, perhaps even annually. You know, as you all know, I've been involved with getting corporations to respond in some considerable detail annually against a set of criteria. Why wouldn't governments do exactly the same thing. They're selling their debt to investors who consider in just the same way where they're going to apply their capital. We are starting to see the global stock take, a youth activist I was with this morning pointed out we are starting to see competition between countries. Now you can actually see which countries are behaving in a leadership position, and which countries are far behind. And I think we need to sort of be very sensitized to that race being better accounted for. It's, you know, how are you crafting your country to be the kind of winner in the transition.

Christiana: [00:22:19] I'm going to try something out on the two of you. A very simplistic statement. I'm interested in how you react to this. Here's my simplistic statement. The only thing governments can do is confirm the direction of the shift in the global economy. The pace and scale of the transformation is not in the hands of governments. It's in the hands of the market forces, it's in the hand of users, citizens, as Paul would call them. It is in the hands of the political economy. It is in the hands of the forces of demand. Not in the hands of governments and policy. Policy can support, but policy and government decisions are so behind the curve, so behind the curve. And I just don't think that they can have the pull effect that we would want them to have. They're basically coming in behind the pull effect of demand. Go for it, go for it.

Paul: [00:23:46] So my pushback is that we got rid of cigarettes. And if you compare fossil fuels to cigarettes, it was essentially government regulation at the local and the national level that got rid of cigarettes. And there were bans on advertising and there were very significant taxes, and there were bans on smoking in public places and lots of different ways. The health ministries had budgets to run anti-smoking adverts and, and all the rest of it. We know the story of cigarettes. And my point is that I don't think we should actually surrender on government. I think we should say government has been very, very late to the party. But I would argue now is a time where ambitious businesses, because ambitious businesses will say they can't decarbonise quickly because there isn't a level playing field and they haven't. But the potential for businesses to be crowdsourcing the policy, the regulation that they need to combine their innovation function with their strategy function with their public affairs function to organise the incentives that we get where we want to go. Someone said they'd heard this. Someone said made a presentation saying, oh, we need carbon pricing. We need more regulation. I agree with that. I think we all do. The question is, imagine we've got it. Think, how did we get there? How did it happen? What needs to happen? How do citizens get together with the media, get together with companies, get together with civil society, and push in effective ways for these transformative actions that only the referee, I would say in the game can can bring in. If you change the rules of the game, and that's the job of the government as the referee, then it can happen. But we're fighting. I wouldn't give up on government. I just think it's been fighting a lot of negative inertia and we need to get that positive inertia.

Christiana: [00:25:22] I'm not giving up on governments. I'm just trying to be a little bit more, grounded or realistic in what is their role given the fact that it is 2023.

Paul: [00:25:35] I mean they've definitely performed very badly, Tom.

Tom: [00:25:39] So I would agree with a change. So I would say they can set the direction and the minimum speed. The way that governments are, they're not going to set the maximum speed. They're not going to lead. We know that. Right. There's going to have to be a lead of innovation and technology and all these other good things that set the pace at which we're actually moving towards the future we want. Governments can indicate the direction we're going in and through policies, and this has always been the case that government keeps up the rear. They can sort of once things are moving, they then legislate and regulate to set the minimum bar.

Christiana: [00:26:17] Exactly.

Tom: [00:26:17] That keeps moving it forward. So it's the direction and the minimum speed. The thing about that though is that we need to first of all, that's why this COP is interesting because there's 100,000 people. Everybody's moving faster. It's going in the right direction. But if the governments fail to set the unambiguous message about where we're going and what the minimum speed is, they can still slow it down, right. If we come out of this.

Christiana: [00:26:39] Yes, yes, good point.

Tom: [00:26:39] With a decision that is soft, that doesn't go as far as it needs to. We don't talk about phasing out fossil fuels. Everyone seems to like be going a little bit limp on the direction of what we're doing. Then you can take the air out of the balloon of where the private sector is trying to rush to. So even though we can't expect them to actually lead, it's still important they don't fail, because if they fail, then actually everybody enters a very complicated world in which we don't know which direction we're going in.

Christiana: [00:27:06] Yes, we can't expect them to lead, but we also cannot have them pull the handbrake.

Tom: [00:27:13] Right, exactly. 

Paul: [00:27:14] 100%. We live in fear of the handbrake.

Tom: [00:27:17] So speaking of that, I mean, what's interesting now and Christiana I would love your thoughts about what happens here because the creation of Loss and Damage Fund has made.

Christiana: [00:27:26] Wait wait wait, you are there. I'm not there so you have to do the thoughts.

Tom: [00:27:28] But your insight into this is well beyond mine so.

Paul: [00:27:33] Well, no, let me make a point on that. I mean, I've been doing I've been meeting people from, you know, I've not been doing the stuff, Tom's been doing the grander stuff. But genuinely, I don't think anyone can grasp what's going on here. This is not a kind of. It's like this. It's like that situation. It's like a lot of things. And I think we have to find a sort of new skill of finding a way to sort of sum up the un-some-upable, if I might suggest. But sorry, Tom.

Christiana: [00:27:59] Yeah. And it's a good thing. Sorry, sorry, Tom. We're jumping in before. Will you forget what you were going to say? In which case, please do write it down, because I don't want you to forget. But that's a good thing, right. That is a good thing, that it is actually getting more complex. And I think we talked about that at the very beginning of the episode. The fact is that climate does affect every single human endeavour. Everything. Everything is affected by climate, and many sectors of human endeavour can contribute to solving the problem. So the fact that it is getting more complex, the fact that there is more, let's say, representation from different sectors is a good thing because that is what it's you know, that is what it's going to take. I feel sorry for future hosts of COPs. I feel very sorry who don't have, you know, these incredible conference centres that they can just fill. But, is a I would say yes it must be crazy with 100,000 people there. But it is a good, it is good evidence of the fact that there is more and more participation from sectors that had not actively participated before. Sorry, Tom, you've been trying to say something and Paul and I are just jumping in on you. 

Tom: [00:29:24] It's totally fine. No, this is all good stuff. So my question is simply this, based on the conversation we were having earlier. I've spoken to a lot of journalists since I've been here, I've done a whole variety of different bits of media in the UK and the US, and they all want to know one thing, are we going to get phasing out fossil fuels in the final text. And as we all remember two years ago in Glasgow, we nearly got phasing out. Then Alok Sharma was challenged on the podium by the US, India and China, it ended up being phased down and then nothing was in the final decision last year. So my first question is, given what we've just said about setting the pace, does it matter because there's an enormous amount of energy being expended in that direction here as to whether it's phase out or phase down, or is it orderly phase out or orderly phase out of unabated. You can imagine the kind of conversations that are going on. Does it really matter what the outcome is?

Christiana: [00:30:16] Well, it's such a good point, Tom, because I think nothing is going to get more commentary from now until the end of COP and after the COP than those two little words. Right. It is always astonishing to me the power of words. And nothing is going to get more commentary and more different opinions.

Tom: [00:30:41] Diving opinions, totally.

Christiana: [00:30:42] Dividing. That's it. Dividing opinions than those two words. Is it phase out or is it phase down. So is it out or is it down. And what qualifying words are going to be put into that sentence because as we know, creative ambiguity is the art of the United Nations. And the only way to get to agreed text very often relies on creative ambiguity. So is it still phase down. Will there at least be an echo of Glasgow there, which we didn't get last year. Or will we up the ante and go to phase out. And if so, with what mitigating and couching creative ambiguity language in that sentence so that it doesn't hit as hard as it ought to. So yes, this is it. That's the nerve, right. That is the central nerve of this COP. And just to go back to the conversation we were just having and to reiterate your words, Tom, if we had phase out language mitigated, attenuated, softened, da da da da da da da da da. But if the word out is in. 

Paul: [00:32:07] If the word out is in. If the way out is in. 

Christiana: [00:32:10] If the word out is in the text, even if mitigated. Et cetera. Et cetera. It would send a different signal. It would send a different signal about the minimum speed, as you call it. Quite rightly. So the direction is clear, right. Nobody is questioning the direction. Well, maybe the fossil fuel companies are questioning the direction, but they're the only ones in that little world that they inhabit that question the direction. The direction is absolutely set. The question that is still out there is speed. Speed and scale. And so what is let's call it the MVP, the minimum viable product that the COP will send out with respect to phasing out fossil fuels is going to be a question. And sadly Tom, I think but let's see, you know when it ends. I think that in many corners of these 100,000 people plus the press and everybody looking around, I think the COP will be judged on that tiny.

Tom: [00:33:25] That one issue.

Christiana: [00:33:27] That one word. 

Paul: [00:33:29] That one word.

Christiana: [00:33:30] How is that amazing? It will be judged on that one word and everybody will say, yes, of course. You know, the commitment to renewable energy on the part of what, 118 countries was great. And, you know, the 30 billion was great. And the loss and damage fund capitalization was great. And da da da da da da da. But is that one word in or not. How amazing, how amazing the power of words to set not just direction. Direction is there, but to set the speed or the minimal viable speed.

Tom: [00:34:10] Yeah.

Paul: [00:34:11] I mumbled about this before, but I'm just going to repeat myself because it is worth it, I think. We love and we want everyone to listen to the amazing podcast from Plum Village, The Way Out Is In. And for this COP, we really, really want the word the way out, no, we want the word out to be in. Exactly we want, there's some kind of unity in the universe operating here, and I can feel the resonances, like the force in Star Wars a little bit.

Christiana: [00:34:41] Okay.

Paul: [00:34:42] It's a Yoda thing.

Tom: [00:34:45] So Christiana, I agree with you, and I think that I would go further than that to say that whether or not that word out is included in the final text will cast its colour on everything else that happens here. If we don't get phase out, then things like the food commitment and the 30 billion fund and everything else will be seen as smokescreens to distract the world from the fact that they didn't want to actually talk about fossil fuels. But if we get that language in there, then all of those things will be seen as supporting elements. And I would say that's a little I mean, taken in the large, that's a little unfair that we are going to collectively make that decision. But I think it's probably a reality of the current situation we're facing. 

Christiana: [00:35:29] Is it unfair?

Tom: [00:35:30] Well, it's not in the control of the UAE, so whether or not we get that word in, they can obviously have a significant role in that, but they can't actually force that through as no one knows better than Alok Sharma. So they may have done and I honestly don't know. And I would love to know if either of you know, or if anyone else listening to this podcast, just how hard Dr. Sultan either is or isn't pushing to have phase out in the final text. But on the assumption that he is, because I do believe that he wants to see an ambitious outcome. In fact, historic and unprecedented are the two words I've heard him say more than any other word since I've been here. If he wants it to be historic and unprecedented, it's got to be the first COP that calls for a phase out of fossil fuels to be done in a fossil fuel producing country. I mean, that's the bar, right.

Christiana: [00:36:22] That's the bar.

Paul: [00:36:24] I saw, one of his early speeches at the Atlantic Council in February of this year, he said he began his speech by saying the last barrel of oil will be burnt, the last gas will be burnt, and we will celebrate that on that day. And so that word I've just been thinking about it is actually kind of about what you might call a global ban. I mean, there is no such thing as a global ban, but the concept of the idea that there's a date after which no fossil fuels are burnt. The real question is, do people have the courage to acknowledge that that's how it will be.

Tom: [00:36:53] Yeah. And interestingly, over these negotiations, because that will be in the global stocktake text or in the final decision. One of the things that a few negotiators have commented to me is that because we got loss and damage on the first day, there are various countries like the the island states and others who no longer are as distracted by the loss and damage negotiations as they might otherwise have been, and they can now turn their attention to trying to get mitigation language in there, as well as other things from adaptation. So that may end up being one of the big legacies.

Christiana: [00:37:24] So funny that you say that, Tom. Honestly, that was like when I heard that, you know, that they had announced it on the first day. I went like, okay, brilliant and very dangerous.

Tom: [00:37:36] You have no idea what you've unleashed because now there's flexibility to actually call for something ambitious, which ultimately would be good for Dr. Sultan if he wants to be remembered for this, then it is.

Christiana: [00:37:46] Oh my God, oh my God. He has such a historic role to stay, to stand into, right, to step into. But honestly, he also has it's very difficult for him to do it. I totally agree with you, Tom, that it is not easy for the presidency to land phase out language. It's not easy. And to be honest, I don't think that whether that language is included or not should then be ascribed single handily to the COP presidency. This is governments with an S at the end, right. This is governments. This is a multilateral process. And yes, he can, you know, do a lot to navigate the conversation. But it's the COP itself that ought to be judged about that, not just the COP presidency.

Tom: [00:38:53] Yeah. Do you think it's fair to say that he can stop it happening, but he can't make it happen and none of it.

Christiana: [00:39:00] Correct.

Tom: [00:39:00] Right. And something else that another negotiator said to me today is that he's about to discover that you can't control the COP, even though for the first few days you can control the narrative. But then after that you get to the point where it has to.

Christiana: [00:39:12] So he hasn't discovered that one yet.

Tom: [00:39:14] Well, I mean, if he hasn't, it's coming. Paul?

Paul: [00:39:19] I was just going to say that, you know, things are different at this COP, as you said, with the agreement at the start. There's different configuration, there are different dynamics. And I had the pleasure to be on a panel this morning with Xiye Bastida, who's been on the show before, somewhat inspiring 21 year old Mexican climate activist. And she said.

Tom: [00:39:41] Very inspiring 21 year old Mexican climate activist.

Paul: [00:39:43] Yeah, very actually I was using the English understatement, which is actually an overstatement. But thank you for de-nuancing for people. No, the absolutely phenomenal human, she said we evolve as a movement constantly, and that's, I think, you know, kind of stating a sort of great truth of what we're trying to do not to be stuck in the same loops, but to shuffle the deck and take things that seem to be one thing and use them in another way and push and be incredibly innovative in the moment and try and sort of seize everything that can be done within the context of sort of almost unimaginable levels of complexity and finding the signals out of it, which is what I think you did.

Tom: [00:40:24] So I think we've taken this.

Paul: [00:40:25] Christiana, one more important thing I have, I have a very important thing I have to share with our listeners who are at the COP.

Christiana: [00:40:32] Okay. Okay. I was going to shut us down, so please do.

Paul: [00:40:35] Yeah no, this is my last comment. So there's millions and millions. There's like there's about 100 million people at the COP right. And they're in these long corridors, and then you go round these zigzags, zigzags, and then there are zigzags. All these people walking back and forth, back and forth, upstairs, upstairs. Up these triangular stairs.

Christiana: [00:40:50] How many steps are you doing per day, Paul?

Paul: [00:40:53] The usual, which is a lot. But the point of my story that was something that keeps coming back to me, keeps coming back to me, and I want to share this with whoever will suddenly realize what I'm talking about. One of the biggest shows on Earth on Netflix was Squid Game, and it contains terrifying scenes of highly motivated individuals going up and down triangular staircases over and over again. And please, my friends, now you've heard me say this, notice as you queue up in the morning, the Squid Game like quality of the COP. And I mentioned this to our new chief executive today, and she said to me that says more about your imagination than it does about the COP, but there is something there about the lurking sort of menace and ambition behind everything we're trying to do together.

Tom: [00:41:41] I'm going to propose a different way to interpret that for others, which is I'm part of some WhatsApp groups where people have been in very long queues and they've been putting a picture in the WhatsApp group saying, look at this. The opportunity for an hour of mindful breathing, that's the other way you can interpret those things.

Paul: [00:41:55] Oh yeah, absolutely. And some great conversations I've had with just lovely people that I've come across. Everyone I think has just the best intention and if we can harness that, we have everything we need.

Christiana: [00:42:07] Well, guys, thank you so much for giving us a readout from there. Give me three things that you're going to be looking out for over the next few days. And Tom, since you are going to be there longer than anyone else, what, are you going to be interviewing some of the 100,000 people in the corridors on the zig zag lines or what can the podcast listeners look forward to?

Tom: [00:42:40] So, yes, so I do believe you two will be unavailable next week, but we will be putting out an episode at the end of COP. I will do my best in your absence. I'm going to try and speak to a variety of people that I will come across in the corridors and in the events to try and get our arms around what's really happening as we head towards the end game.

Christiana: [00:42:56] Are you going to record them, or are you going to talk to them and then give us your synthesis?

Tom: [00:43:00] I'm going to do what I did at Climate Week, if you remember, which is to sit them down with my phone and take a voice note and speak to them for a few minutes.

Paul: [00:43:08] That was great, that was really good.

Tom: [00:43:09] To try and get an overall picture of how it's going. I mean, I think Christiana, the the one thing I'm looking out for is, is the signal unambiguous. It's not going to be everything we want, but it has to be completely clear that this is the direction. And here's the minimum speed. And that includes a whole variety of commitments, some of which we've already seen on renewable energy, on fossil fuels, on methane, on loss and damage, on food, on health, along with an ambitious negotiated outcome that signals an end to fossil fuels that collectively will not slow us down if we get that. So all of the pieces that add up, that's where they need to be heading for.

Christiana: [00:43:47] Yeah, I totally, totally agree with you. Totally agree with you. And the United Nations is of the nature of creative ambiguity.

Tom: [00:44:03] Yes. That's, so what you're pointing to there is that the outcome will be inherently ambiguous actually. Ambiguous is, I mean, unambiguous is not something the United Nations does very well. What needs to be unambiguous is our collective response to the situation we're in. The United Nations can help move us in that direction, but that's a very good reminder in terms of how we temper our ambitions. We've never yet had a completely unambiguous response to anything, and so we're not going to get it necessarily this time. Although, I mean, the only pushback to that would be if you're able to put your arms around the entirety of what 100,000 people coming together has achieved with all of the deals and all of the energy and all of the momentum and all of the commitments. Maybe there's a way of us understanding that actually that is unstoppable and unambiguous.

Christiana: [00:44:53] Totally, totally. But that is outside the UN text, right. That's what I'm saying. I think, you know, we have to be a little bit more. I totally agree with you about the need to get an unambiguous signal, but I think it is unfair and not realistic to expect the unambiguous signal to come from the text. I think the unambiguous signal has to come from the entirety of the COP. With, you know, all the accoutrements that we are seeing, that's where it has to be an unambiguous signal. So, you know, to get back to what we were saying, at the risk of repeating what the United Nations governments have to do is to give a push into the direction. But I think the unambiguous signal is going to be, A. the result of really understanding the full, of the whole package, and because of that will be in the eyes of the beholder.

Tom: [00:46:06] Right.

Paul: [00:46:07] And my reflection is that the United Nations, in a certain sense, has always felt to me personally as an invitation that we should accept and that recognize that a creative space has been opened up here for nations and for non-state actors to find their better selves when there's so little time and we haven't got a choice.

Tom: [00:46:30] Yeah. Friends, it's been lovely to talk to you. Christiana, we miss you. We love you. Sorry you're not here. Glad that you're there having a nice time on the beach. And listeners will not hear from you next week.

Christiana: [00:46:42] Tom, that is such a misnomer of what is going on here. But, you know, thank you for your sentiments. And it is a total misnomer.

Paul: [00:46:57] Christiana. And to you, Tom, thank you for staying close to, with your ear to the wind of the world and look forward to hearing your next report.

Tom: [00:47:07] Great. All right. So we're going to leave you with a bit of music as ever this week Louise Harris, the song is called We Tried, which isn't related to the outcome from COP 28. 

Paul: [00:47:16] No connection.

Tom: [00:47:17] A beautiful piece of music that we have this week. Yeah. So anyway, enjoy this and I will put something together for next week and we'll see you both in a couple of weeks.

Christiana: [00:47:26] Yay!

Paul: [00:47:27] All right. Bye for now.

Christiana: [00:47:28] Thanks, guys. Bye.

Louise Harris: [00:47:31] Hey, my name is Louise Harris and I'm from Hertfordshire in the UK. I wrote 'We Tried' about the climate crisis and what will happen if we don't act. It's deliberately written from a future perspective. Our currently projected future perspective of irreversible climate catastrophe, and the hope with this song, is to get people to feel how they would feel if this horrific future actually happened, if we let it happen, but then use those feelings to motivate you into collective climate action, which I believe is the only solution, and hope that we have left of saving everything that we love. The climate crisis affects me and my family. It affects you and yours, but it's been created by a few handfuls of people in power who I've concluded must not know what love is. But what matters is I know what love is. And I'm sure everybody listening to this also knows what love is. We know, and we outnumber the people in power 8 billion times over. All we need to do is come together into collective climate action, a mass protest movement, mass civil disobedience, because there still is time to save things. I'm so happy to announce that 'We Tried' charted number one in the UK iTunes Single Chart, and it's also entered the Big Top 40 charts in the UK as well, which is absolutely amazing. When I look at the world, one thing that makes me outraged is the fact that the real criminals in governments are walking free yet my friends, non-violent protesters are being sent to prison for six months for simply marching in a road. But one thing that makes me optimistic about our future, actually, is the response to this song. So many people have told me how moved and empowered they have been by the fact they've emotionally connected with the crisis through this song, the power of music and art has not been tapped into yet by the climate movement, so I think there's so much potential for it to spark a global revolution.

Clay: [00:53:31] So there you go. Another episode. Outrage + Optimism. I'm Clay, producer of this podcast. Thanks for joining us at the beginning of the week. A little bit different than normal. Louise Harris on the podcast this week with her powerful ballad 'We Tried'. By the way, there is a full video with footage that left me speechless. I was actually trying to type it out to Louise and I couldn't put it into words. How it made me feel. The visuals are stunning, obviously underscored with this convicting track, so I highly recommend you watch that link to that in the show notes to watch. It's very difficult to be the same after you watch it, so please go check that out. Link in the show notes. Okay, if you were really moved by that song and you're asking yourself, you know, what do I do now? How can I help amplify this message? As you heard, Louise was number one on the UK charts, passing the likes of Dua Lipa and the Beatles. Ever heard of them? She also charted in the top 40 globally at number 26. Let me check the chart. When was that? Yesterday. Okay, so if you want to help, here's the challenge from Louise. This song has incredible momentum and Chris Packham is calling for 'We Tried' to be Christmas number one. So go stream and download the song everywhere you know, wherever you are. Share the music video for 'We Tried' on your social media channels to spread the message. Now I'll remind you again next week, but the week starting Friday, the 15th of December is the week that counts for Christmas number one sales on iTunes. During that week, buy the song on iTunes. Gift it to your friends and family. I think this is super cool. All the proceeds of this song go to climate causes and again, a reminder coming for that. But it's the week of Friday the 15th, which is next week that these sales start counting for the Christmas number one. How cool to like buy this song for a friend or a family member, you know, make a little holiday card, put the download code right on it. You know you can write it down. The revolution will be crafty, you know what I mean? So those are a couple of things you can do. But I also saw that Louise has plans to release an entire climate album in 2024, if she can raise enough funds for it. Music costs money to make. There's a GoFundMe that has begun and people are rapidly donating to the GoFundMe. It's been going up since I reached out to Louise. I've been checking it and so if you would like to see and hear more songs and videos like 'We Tried' from Louise, then there's a link to donate. Or you can even just just go check it out, go see where the GoFundMe is at and decide how you can help. Link in the show notes to go check that out. Louise Harris, awesome to have you on. Thank you. Thank you so much for letting us spin your track. Okay. COP 28 is in full swing and I'm sure you're reading the news, so you're up to date. But if you liked this episode, learned something from it, enjoyed it, please hit subscribe or follow. And also you can go to the show notes below to sign up for our newsletter. I talked a little bit about it last week. It's also on LinkedIn. If you're on LinkedIn and you wear business casual, I actually think they're calling it smart casual now, is that right? I don't know, I haven't read GQ in a while, so I'm not quite sure. But whatever you're wearing, the newsletter will keep you in the conversation. And last but certainly not least, if you are listening to this podcast this far into the podcast, you are a dedicated listener and we want your feedback on how to improve the podcast going into next year. So we've created this ten minute survey. It's linked in the show notes. We read every single response that comes in and deeply consider what you have to say on how best to serve you next year. We really view it as an opportunity to turn to you and ask, so what do you want Outrage + Optimism to be? What do you like about this podcast? And we even ask, what don't you like about Outrage + Optimism? So yes, we will read your rants. Go for it. Looking forward to hearing your input. Thank you in advance for that link in the show notes. Okay, if you want to support Louise, go stream. We tried a thousand times. I'm not really sure what the rest of the week looks like for us here on the podcast as far as episodes go, but I'm sure we will see you soon right back here. Okay, see you then.


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