169: Do The Work
About this episode
Welcome to another episode of Outrage + Optimism.
As always, we examine issues at the forefront of the climate crisis, interview change-makers, and transform our anger into productive dialogue on building a sustainable future.
In this episode, co-hosts Christiana Figueres, Tom Rivett-Carnac, and Paul Dickinson reflect on a difficult week, including nature breakdown in the U.K., troubling comments made by the president of the World Bank about the relationship between fossil fuels and climate change, and the threat of nuclear war amid the continued war between Russia and Ukraine.
You’ll hear from Helen Clarkson and Catherine McKenna on everything to do with greenwashing, carbon tax, and the power of talking plainly on climate.
The co-hosts begin with the very sobering update that Russian President Vladimir Putin is further escalating his war in Ukraine with a rare and significant Russian troop mobilization and the threat of using nuclear weapons.
To underscore the gravity of the situation, Tom cited an academic paper he recently read that laid out the terrible consequences of Russia using nuclear weapons.
“If Russia deployed 50% of its nuclear arsenal and there was no response because the West realized that it would be mutually assured destruction,” he says, “50% of the arsenal would be sufficient to create sufficient dust in the atmosphere that the northern hemisphere would not rise above zero degrees for 15 years.”
“99.8% of people would die,” he continues. “And the phrase that got me in this academic paper was, ‘The living would envy the dead.’ This is not something that we [bleep] around with.”
On the climate front, Christiana recounts the shocking exchange between a reporter and David Malpass, president of the World Bank Group, at a recent UN event. Malpass refused to affirm his belief in the impact of man-made fossil fuels on climate change because, as he put it, “I’m not a scientist.”
“Unacceptable,” Christiana says. “Someone who does not understand the threat of climate change, especially to developing countries, cannot lead the top development institution of the world. He's just got to go.”
Paul compares it to someone saying, “I’m not a doctor, so I [can’t tell if] I’m ill."
“That doesn’t work,” he adds.
Not to be outdone, the economic plan unveiled by new leadership in the U.K. prompted a strong rebuke from Tom—an agenda he fears would lead to economic disaster. The pound sterling is at its lowest level in history, interest rates are climbing, and (as of this recording) the U.K. government is trying to sell a package of tax cuts for the wealthy.
And, Tom continues, the one dividend of Brexit, subsidizing U.K. farmers to protect the nature on their land rather than destroy it一per the EU Common Agricultural Policy一has also come under threat. Now that U.K. economic growth is slowing, that policy will be nixed. People will receive subsidies regardless of what they do with their land.
This is a tragedy because the U.K. is the most nature-depleted country in Europe. Most of the U.K.’s natural forests are gone, and this was a chance to recover them. This is, in Tom’s words, “heartbreaking.”
A very difficult week, indeed.
INTERVIEW WITH HELEN CLARKSON, CEO, CLIMATE GROUP
Christiana and Paul wrap up their week at Climate Week NYC 2022 (CW or CW22) with Helen Clarkson, CEO of Climate Group, a leading coordinator of the annual climate event.
The broad theme of this year’s conference was moving away from commitments and pledges to taking meaningful action, with a focus also on accountability, justice, and urgency. How can this be accomplished? Clarkson suggests plenary sessions or closed-door roundtables with high-level executives, including chief executive and chief sustainability officers.
Christiana notes that chief financial officers, whose role generally includes making corporate investment decisions, should also be involved in such discussions.
Clarkson agrees: “I think it's all of the above…Anyone with a ‘C’ in their title should be a marketing officer. It’s existential for business.”
She adds: “Everyone thinks they're Netflix, and no one thinks they're Blockbuster…I think everyone's mental model is kind of 'We'll be fine,' but you're only going to be fine if you bring all those decision-makers in.”
Paul asks about broader policy development and whether it’s time to push for specifics. He also wonders whether it's important for public affairs officers to attend conferences such as Climate Week NYC as well. The answer from Clarkson is a resounding, ‘Yes,’ because there’s often a disconnect between the corporate sustainability team committed to climate and the public affairs team down the hall lobbying against it.
Bringing companies together to focus on specific policy barriers can be extremely powerful.
Clarkson offers this example: “[This] is a lot of what Climate Group does…It's very powerful to say to the Japanese government, you've got 50 companies here who really want to buy renewable energy.”
As is customary, Clarkson ends the interview with a big-picture view of the world’s response to the climate crisis. She says she’s outraged by the surprise people still demonstrate at events such as the calamitous floods in Pakistan. Paul sums it up nicely, saying, “If I can quote you, Helen, you said we can be shocked, but we can't pretend to be surprised.”
And is there anything that makes Clarkson hopeful?
“I'm optimistic about the sheer number of people who want to be involved, you know, turning people away from events saying, ‘Sorry, we're overbooked,’ she says, adding, “It shows the level of enthusiasm, and that gives me a lot of optimism.”
INTERVIEW WITH CATHERINE MCKENNA, CHAIR OF THE HIGH-LEVEL EXPERT GROUP ON THE NET-ZERO EMISSIONS COMMITMENTS OF NON-STATE ENTITIES
If CW22 was about taking action, O+O’s next guest, Catherine McKenna, is in the business of testing this very metric.
After a collective giggle about McKenna’s exceptionally long title一even for UN standards一she explains that her group analyzes net zero commitments made by corporations, financial institutions, cities, and regions and whether they’re making progress or simply engaging in greenwashing—which essentially means organizations are deceiving the public about their stated climate promises.
McKenna, whose role was established by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in March, is also responsible for clarifying what net zero really is and what it means in practice.
As an aside, McKenna laments that climate can be overwhelming for many, if only because of the complicated and scientific lingo.
“Can we just talk like real people in climate?” she says. “No wonder everyone tunes out.”
On that note, she says there must be clear standards and a price of admission for any organization or government claiming to be “net zero.”
Another point of concern: What do credits and carbon offsets actually measure? Are they permanent?
“We're not offsetting our way to climate, to saving the planet…we need everyone to reduce their own emissions,” she says.
Transparency is also key to measuring climate impacts, McKenna notes.
“We can’t always tell who’s making progress or not,” she says. “Data isn’t always comparable.”
Tom follows up with a philosophical question: Even if carbon offsets are not equivalent to stabilizing emissions, should we criticize those trying to do something? How do we support those doing real action and simultaneously not kill efforts, even when they’re not perfect?
“You can't just say you're net zero or, you know, or carbon neutral and not do the work,” McKenna says, adding: “Part of it is just taking the drama out of this and just actually saying, ‘okay, what do we need to do?’”
Paul wonders whether two things can be true at the same time: That huge corporations, such as Walmart, should commit to net zero (while understanding that there are sometimes factors outside of their control that can impact success), and acknowledging that governments can take immediate action to accelerate the pace of change.
McKenna agrees but suggests the way to regulation is through corporate buy-in. And while it’s happening to an extent, there are challenges. For example, misalignment within organizations between the ESG and other units slows things down. There’s also the problem of greenwashing and, importantly, not understanding the risks and opportunities climate change poses to businesses.
“[Climate change] is the biggest economic opportunity ever, $3 trillion a year that needs to go to clean [energy],” she says.
Christiana brings up the challenge of accurate reporting. There’s a lot of self-reporting, inconsistencies between standards and frameworks, and a lack of nesting. This last issue occurs when independent results are reported by lower-order entities (such as corporations) and are added to the results of a higher-order entity (such as a country). In short, results are double-counted. McKenna agrees, noting that it’s a significant initiative requiring coordination from the top down and bottom up. In the end, we have to understand where we are.
The team reflects on the work McKenna is doing and how her practical, no-nonsense attitude will significantly benefit the project. They briefly revisit the tension between perfection and momentum. McKenna must also contend with this, they said, and there must be a balance between these forces if the planet is going to survive. But there must also be a way to “separate the wheat from the [greenwashing] chaff.” The team agrees we can do it. We can figure this out!
MUSIC FROM FINNEGAN TUI
We finish this episode with the song “The Guard,” written and performed by London-based multi-instrumentalist and producer Finnegan Tui. The song is about wanting to let your guard down, being vulnerable, and involves the ocean.
If you love it as much as we did, check out Finnegan’s nature-inspired EP “Zephyr.” See more in the resources section below.
Notes and Resources
Thank you to our guests this week:
Helen Clarkson | Chief Executive Office at the Climate Group
Catch all of last week’s Climate Week NYC On Demand
Catherine McKenna | Chair of H-LEG - the UN’s High-Level Expert Group on the Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities.
Thank you to our musical guest this week, Finnegan Tui!
Watch the ‘ZEPHYR’ Audio-Visual Journey on YouTube
Congratulations to Global Optimism’s very own, Freya Newman on her Masters Resarch being published in Nature Communications!
For more on WBG President David Malpass’s controversial remarks - start here.
@OutrageOptimism is where we are online!Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn
Tom: [00:00:12] Hello and welcome to Outrage + Optimism. I'm Tom Rivett- Carnac.
Christiana: [00:00:15] I'm Christiana Figueres.
Paul: [00:00:16] And I am Paul Dickinson.
Tom: [00:00:18] This week we bring you a conversation about nature, breakdown in the UK, nuclear war in Europe, the downfall of a World Bank president. We also speak to Helen Clarkson, the CEO of the Climate Group, and to Catherine McKenna, the high level, what do we call her? The high level Climate Action Secretary General's group of leading people.
Paul: [00:00:41] That's about right. That's about that one. She's a brilliant person. A rose by any other name would be as smart.
Tom: [00:00:47] Catherine McKenna, Secretary General, Special representative for Net Zero, legendary former Environment Minister of Canada. And we have music from Finnegan Tui. Thanks for being here. Okay. You got to pack it in this week. I'm sorry not to be with you in the same room. It was so fun last week, but this week is equally exciting. We have Helen Clarkson, who we've wanted to have on for a long time, plus our old friend Catherine McKenna on the podcast. So we have a relatively compressed time now to kick in and give some updates in terms of what we're doing and where we are. I'm Paul. You look worried. What's wrong with you or what's wrong in your world? Why are you worried?
Paul: [00:01:27] You know that Doomscrolling thing? And you said that there was nuclear war in Europe. I don't think there is. I'm just checking my newsfeed. I think that there's the...
Tom: [00:01:34] Breaking news on Outrage + Optimism. No, you're right. The threat of nuclear war possibly would have been a happier phrasing. Yeah.
Paul: [00:01:40] But I mean, it doesn't.
Tom: [00:01:41] Perhaps we should start there. There's probably not a bigger story, is there?
Paul: [00:01:44] It doesn't. It doesn't cheer me up, that threat. But oddly enough, I think two things about it. One is I have no doubt many brilliant people have spent quite silent careers working towards this moment to try and make sure that they can keep us safe in a variety of different ways. So my heart goes out to them and their their time, effort, energy. But I also think that actually a moment like this does have capacity to sort of galvanize us a little bit. You know, people suddenly work out that life is important, things are important and things matter. And it's about us sort of becoming what we can become. And I mean, you know, life is about more than luxury and fashion and trying to be cool that there is meaning and challenge. And weirdly enough, with this nuclear challenge, we can't do much about it. But it helps us recognize that in a similar challenge of seriousness, climate change, we really can do things. So I hope it can spur us to to sort of become our better selves. That that although it's a horrific way of getting there, a sort of doom Jim, let's call it.
Tom: [00:02:42] Doom Jim. Christiana, do you feel better already?
Christiana: [00:02:45] Well, no, well Paul I mean, honestly, that's that's quite a push.
Tom: [00:02:50] If you really squint.
Christiana: [00:02:53] How to get to optimism from.
Tom: [00:02:56] Heroic some might say.
Christiana: [00:02:57] From nuclear threats. Yeah, no, but seriously speaking what what a week we have had from these absolutely crazy nuclear threats on the part of Putin to his starting a draft that so many Russians are trying to evade. First getting on planes. Now there is miles and miles and miles of cars in front of the of the frontiers with Finland, with Georgia. People are just desperately trying to leave. You know, it is. It is just unbelievable. Russia has had two drafts in its history. Historians will correct me if I'm wrong. One for the First World War and one for the Second World War. And now this. Yeah, and now this. It is. You know, Russians are just not used to this. They have a professional army. They have dependent always on their professional army. He has promised on over and over again that they can depend on the professional army and that he will keep civilians and he will keep civilians safe. This is unbelievable. Unbelievable. And I'm really quite, quite upset by by that. On top of that, at a completely different order of things. David Malpass, The President.
Tom: [00:04:22] And I just go one place come back to then just one sec, but I just want to go somewhere for just a minute on nuclear war, because I didn't grow up with the threat of nuclear war like my parents generation did and before that. So I was sort of unaware really as to the scale of it. So I'm just going to go there for 30 seconds. You go to David Malpass. I read a paper from Cornell University on the flight back from New York after Putin threatened war, thinking what would actually happen? Would it be that bad if there was a nuclear war? So I'm just yeah, if Russia deployed 50% of its nuclear arsenal and that was there was no response because the West realized that it would be mutually assured destruction, 50% of the arsenal would be sufficient to create sufficient levels of dust in the atmosphere that the northern hemisphere would not rise above zero degrees for 15 years. 99.8% of people would die. And the phrase that got me in this academic paper was the living would envy the dead. This is not something that we walk around with. I need a bleep. Clay. Christiana. David Malpass.
Christiana: [00:05:21] Well, how does one speak after that, Tom? I mean, obviously they wouldn't deploy 50%, but but but it's good to take that extreme. Just to understand the irresponsibility of even even making the threat. And one has to then think, how desperate is he that he is resorting to that kind of a of a threat?
Paul: [00:05:48] Just on that one, Christina, I heard someone on the TV say dictators tend not to have long and happy retirements. And that's what we're facing here.
Tom: [00:05:56] Right. Sorry, everyone. I didn't mean to take it too far down that road, but I realize.
Christiana: [00:06:01] No, no, no. A very difficult week, because while, you know, we were we were trying to deal with climate change issues during Climate Week in New York, just a couple of blocks down at the UN, this is what they were dealing with. This is what they were dealing with. So, honestly, you know, kudos to everybody who, despite this absolutely nightmare scenario, still stayed focus on on climate change. And speaking of focus on climate change.
Tom: [00:06:31] Or.
Christiana: [00:06:31] Not, yes or not, President David Malpass of the World Bank was asked three times in a public panel whether the fact that Al Gore had accused him of being a climate denier was true. Do you actually understand or believe in climate science? He dodged the question three times and finally said, I'm not a scientist. Now, that is just absolutely unacceptable. As I have tweeted several times now and I have repeated the tweet, the tweet because I am so angry. The tweet about the twit. Someone who does not understand the threat of climate change, especially to developing countries, cannot cannot lead the top development institution of the world. He's just got to go. Now we know that there are many in the US government pressing for him to go, and I'm sure it is a very active conversation within the White House. It is not something that the President of the United States can unilaterally do because he does need the board of the World Bank to to support his nomination. But look at this space. I don't think that he has too many days still sitting in Washington, Mr. Malpass.
Paul: [00:07:57] And I mean, just on that one, you know, like this this theory that you can say, I'm not a doctor, so I'm not ill, that doesn't work. It doesn't make any sense to tell him, no.
Christiana: [00:08:08] I'm not a doctor. Therefore, I don't understand that cancer can kill anybody.
Tom: [00:08:12] So therefore, there is not illness, Right. Or I won't take action against illness. So by a peculiar twist of fate, I was sat next to David Malpass at a dinner the night before this came out at some fancy dinner in New York, and I had lots of chats with him about his attitude towards climate. It's probably rather bad form to share. This Is Your Fault podcast. No, no.
Christiana: [00:08:31] And what you said to him, Tom, did you? Yes.
Tom: [00:08:34] Right. Well, I tried, but I didn't get very far. So basically what we were talking about coal and gas. And he was saying that obviously the bank was supported decarbonisation, but we're still would support gas in places where there might otherwise be coal. So I sort of squinted up a bit and said, Well, surely in any situation there's a non-zero chance there could be coal, which was sort of tacitly kind of agreed with. So basically the narrative is we're going to do gas, but we've got a different argument for why we would do gas. So I have to say that evening I was like, this is very strange. And we had a conversation around the table in which he was a clear outlier from everybody else who was pushing. We had a sort of one table conversation for part of the evening, and then next morning I realised this had happened.
Tom: [00:09:17] So it was an interesting experience. Now we're going to get to Catherine McKenna in a minute, but I have.
Paul: [00:09:24] I was at dinner with even more important people. I can't even tell you about it.
Tom: [00:09:28] It was so important that they really nobody knows who was there. Yeah.
Paul: [00:09:32] I might have been on my own, to be honest with you.
Tom: [00:09:33] But right now, before we move on, I have to also just share one source of outrage from little old UK at the moment. Now, those who have been paying attention will know the UK is doing its best to turn itself into a developing country, which it seems to be managing at a remarkably.
Christiana: [00:09:50] Excuse me. Is that meant as an insult to us?
Tom: [00:09:52] No, it's not, actually. It's doing its best.
Paul: [00:09:55] I appreciate that, Tom.
Christiana: [00:09:58] You're in such trouble.
Christiana: [00:10:01] I think you would like to rephrase that.
Tom: [00:10:03] That's true. The UK is basically doing its best to totally screw itself up, I suppose is the best way to phrase it.
Christiana: [00:10:08] That's a much better way.
Tom: [00:10:10] So first of all, from an economic perspective, the new government led by Liz Truss, has come in. Interest rates are going up and tax cuts are going through which someone smartly described as driving a car with both the accelerator and the break down full all the time, which is an interesting situation. The pound has plummeted to roughly parity with the dollar, the lowest level in history, which has never happened before. And the piece I want to get to after Brexit happened, one of the dividends that they claimed and we all know how I feel about Brexit on this podcast, is that we could now pay farmers to protect nature rather than simply because they own land and allow them to destroy it. There are all sorts of problems with the EU Common Agricultural Policy and the claim was that we could now improve this situation. This was always looked at with a certain degree of skepticism by people like me who were afraid that the Conservative government, as soon as growth was under threat, they would throw that on the scrapheap and just do whatever they could and continue not supporting nature recovery in the UK. I should pause here and say the UK is the most nature depleted country in Europe. Most of the nature in the UK has already been destroyed and this was the one chance to get it back. And now we reveal that as the Tory government, the new Tory government is coming in. They are also reversing that one ray of light that was seen as one of the positive things about Brexit and turning it back to the old model of just paying people to have land as a subsidy, whether or not they destroy all the nature on their land or not. We were going to move to more like a Costa Rican system, Christiana, where people are paid to protect nature and allow it to recover. This is heartbreaking.
Christiana: [00:11:45] Through the rewilding.
Tom: [00:11:46] Through rewilding or just different kind of land management that brought some of those species back. I cannot believe this level of betrayal. Well, sadly, I can believe it, but I am appalled by this level of betrayal. And there's a still a small window that it could be changed. So I would encourage anyone in the UK who cares about this to get behind this.
Paul: [00:12:04] You thought of paying for rewilding with the Euros, frankly, than pounds at the moment. That's the problem.
Tom: [00:12:08] Yes.
Christiana: [00:12:09] So, Tom, I appreciate that you would like to compare. The UK to Costa Rica. But just to get the record straight, Costa Rica is at 52% of forest cover. Not exactly what the UK can boast, but yes, you can try and they better make more of an effort.
Tom: [00:12:27] Hey, I would take 15% at the moment or anything above. Yeah.
Paul: [00:12:31] Long ago a squirrel could get from the top of Scotland to the south of England without touching the ground. You know, we had a lot of forest here once. Made it into ships and firewood and I don't know what else.
Tom: [00:12:42] I know. Right, now we have two interviews today. I couldn't join you for your conversation yesterday with Helen Clarkson. But are we going to go there first and hear a wrap up from her as to what happened in Climate Week?
Paul: [00:12:52] Yes, let's go to that interview because we've just been at Climate Week and Helen Clarkson is the sort of queen spider at the centre of the Web, coordinator of all of Climate Week. So she'll be the absolute expert on what went on.
Tom: [00:13:04] Helen Clarkson is, of course, the CEO of the Climate Group. The Climate Group are the organisation that come together and coordinate Climate Week and Helen herself has been in this space for many years. She was previously at Forum for the Future. She's a great leader. So here's Helen.
Paul: [00:13:16] Wise Person.
Tom: [00:13:17] Helen Clarkson, Queen Spider.
Paul: [00:13:19] If you will.
Christiana: [00:13:25] Helen, thank you so much. We're going to keep this short and sweet because honestly, you're exhausted. We're exhausted. Honestly, so exhausted after that Climate Week and and everything that you did to prepare before that. And Helen, you've been pretty vocal and public about the fact that commitments and pledges are great, but they're just not enough. And it is. High. High. High. High time to turn those into measurable, transparent actions that are full of integrity and impact. So how did Climate Week help to get that going?
Helen Clarkson: [00:14:09] Thanks, Christiana. Yeah, and I guess that we're all exhausted. So as you said, a good week where a lot happened. So yeah, I've been this year as it was last year for Climate Week, NYC was getting it done. We think it's really important to do this move from commitments into action and so we had a lot less. There were some big announcement this week, but for us it's much less about the kind of announcement moments than it is about those conversations around action. And so that happened for us on on different levels. We obviously do the big public facing events, the opening ceremony at the Hub, we have big plenary conversations and across those we were kind of keeping that theme. And underneath that three sort of subthemes, Gosh, I can't talk anymore, accountability, justice and urgency. And so in all our conversations, we're trying to bring that out. But we also did a lot of roundtables and closed door roundtables where CEOs and CSOs sustainability officers can actually learn directly from one another behind closed doors and say, actually, how do you do this? And so a lot of what we're talking about with them is how do you get from that big commitment you make you make it publicly. And I think we've seen a bit of a kind of over the years. You know, you set your 2030, 2040 commitment, you pat yourself on the back, but then someone's got to wake up tomorrow and turn that into action. And we did a lot of those across the week as well.
Christiana: [00:15:38] Is it actually not the CFO who should be entering into this conversation? Because it is about the decisions that are made by companies about how do they use their resources, where do they invest, where do they invest into new assets, into new products? How do they how do they manage their their balance sheets? Isn't that where the real difficult decisions get made?
Helen Clarkson: [00:16:08] I think it's all of the above. I mean, I think maybe anyone with C in their title should be a marketing officer.
Paul: [00:16:14] You know, you've got to sell this to the people and maybe whoever you say it's going to be.
Helen Clarkson: [00:16:18] Yes, right. Yeah. Yeah. Everyone. So and I think I said this last year at the opening, like there shouldn't be a Climate department now. It needs to be right across because this is existential for business. And we know that. And we know that when we talk about economics, people get really into like, oh, creative destruction and things come and go. But no one thinks their company is the one that goes right. Everyone thinks that they're Netflix and no one thinks they're Blockbusters. I've used that example before, but I think it's everyone's mental model is kind of 'We'll be fine', but you're only going to be fine if you bring all those decision makers in. So I think CFO, CSO, CEO, we do get a mixture of those here, but essentially now we've got to move climate right into the heart of the strategy, of the business, and ask that question of what are you doing in a carbon construct? What is this business doing in a carbon constrained world and how is it contributing, but also just those sort of fundamentals of business? And obviously something much better carbon pricing regimes would help that decision making happen more automatically. But without that, I think there's lots of tools that all of us can push on why this is so important for businesses.
Paul: [00:17:25] And don't be Kodak, I think. I mean, I'm always dazzled by your ability to bring together non-state actors. The under two coalition corporations, particularly some of the amazing work you've been doing, kind of aggregating demand and trying to push things through. And I know that you've talked before about speaking to your members, corporations, whatever, about what's stopping you from going fast. I had a question about, you know, to what degree do you think we need to start being more specific on on policy specification? And I ask this because I was talking to someone about this from a big company and they said, Oh, I'm not here with my policy person or my public affairs person. I'm wondering, should the public affairs people be coming to climate weakness? Yeah.
Helen Clarkson: [00:18:06] Yeah. I mean, I think this is one of the really big barriers now is particularly in the US. I mean, maybe that's just a bit finger pointing, but there's quite a divide between, say, the public affairs people and the sustainability people. And I think we all have to work out how to get over that because we I think we all know that there are people in companies who are fully committed doing the right thing down the corridor or there's someone going and lobbying against it. And I think that I mean.
Helen Clarkson: [00:18:31] I'm not a conspiracy theorist in any way at all, but I think it's true to say there's a lot of money going into the other side of this fight and the kind of rallying around every sort of little bit of grit you can throw in the wheels on policy is happening and people wanting to slow the agenda, wanting protect the status quo and so on. So I think, you know, where you see really good joined up policy, that's what we we we really want to see. And you know, with the companies that we work with, they do engage in policy. They do understand that what you do when you've aggregated this demand side signal, which is what a lot of what climate group does, it's not just about sitting around and pointing and then going, Oh, look how many companies want to do this, saying, right, well, actually, what are the barriers to doing that? And going after quite specific policy barriers and doing that in places like, you know, I think last year we did a big letter in Japan because the structure of PPA is meant that the companies in R 100 can't hit their renewable targets.
Helen Clarkson: [00:19:28] It's very powerful to say to the Japanese government, you've got 50 companies here who really want to buy renewable energy. And I think one thing that we're finding with the corporate commitment to 100% renewable electricity globally, when they get to sort of 97, 98%, which a lot of the companies are doing in a company's mind, very generalised, but you know, well that's a rounding error, right? You know, whereas for us that 2%, that 3%, that's the most interesting bit. Why can't you get to 100? Where are the markets where nothing is happening at all? How can we find other companies in those markets that can't buy renewable energy? And I think for something like renewable energy, there can be a bit of a story like, Oh, it's done. We've hit a tipping point. And I worry about that notion of tipping points that our sort of mental images, you hit a tipping point and everything is like downhill from there. We've done it. Whereas actually those last bits, we've really got to keep going and we know that that that energy transition is so, so urgent because we electrify other bits of the economy.
Christiana: [00:20:27] Indeed. Indeed, Helen. So after an exhausting but very productive week, what are you still outrageous about and what are you optimistically looking forward to?
Helen Clarkson: [00:20:40] I'm outraged that we see pictures from places like Pakistan and feign surprise at that somehow. And I think we've it's right to be shocked by that. But sort of some of the tone of like who would have thought this would happen so soon when we've all been saying it. So I think that, you know, I'm not surprised by what we see on the news. And I think it's yeah, that sort of story that somehow this is I can.
Paul: [00:21:06] Quote you, Helen said you said we can be shocked, but we can't pretend to be surprised.
Helen Clarkson: [00:21:11] Yes, that was my quote. Yes, I was recycling it. I guess what I'm optimistic about, as I said, just the just the sheer number of people who want to be involved, you know, turning people away from events saying, sorry, we're overbooked, but go over there. That's you know, you don't want to send people away, but it shows the level of enthusiasm and that gives me a lot of optimism.
Christiana: [00:21:33] Awesome. Well, Helen, thank you so much. Do get some rest now that you're at home and get get quickly get some rest, because then we have to keep going.
Helen Clarkson: [00:21:45] Absolutely. Yes. Thank you very much.
Paul: [00:21:47] Very well earned.
Christiana: [00:21:48] Thank you so much. Thank you, Helen.
Helen Clarkson: [00:21:51] Thanks.
Tom: [00:21:58] How great to hear that conversation with Helen. I was so sad. I've been so excited to have her on the podcast such a long time. And yet when the moment came, I couldn't make it and I couldn't intrude upon my Sunday. But thank you both for making the time. Anything you want to. Sorry.
Paul: [00:22:10] Couldn't or wouldn't.
Tom: [00:22:13] Couldn't. Paul, Couldn't. Couldn't. Couldn't. Yeah. If I possibly could have done, I would have done. However, what did you both leave that conversation with? And then we've got a very, a very exciting second conversation that we're going to dial in in a minute.
Christiana: [00:22:26] Well, as I said at the beginning, I was truly impressed that with all of this incredible craziness going on at the UN, that so many people and she herself said so many people were still focused on on climate. Now, the whole purpose of the Climate Week, as she has explained, was to go from commitments to actions. So that's going to be an interesting take when we talk to Catherine McKenna because that is what she is trying to test for. Are we actually moving from commitments to actions? But my concern is we have been doing that for several years. It's not like that is the novelty in 2022 as far as I'm concerned, that is exactly where we were after the Paris Agreement. Now we have an agreement. Now let's implement it. So.
Tom: [00:23:22] Oh, no, no. I seem to remember in 2017 the slogan for Climate Week was Let's just talk a bit more, wasn't it? No, no. I mean.
Paul: [00:23:31] Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit Tom? Is it? It's my only form.
Tom: [00:23:35] Paul, what did you leave the discussion with?
Paul: [00:23:37] I kind of. I like Climate Week because it's a bit like Davos, except it's all about climate. I even went to an event where there was at the other side of the room, the extraordinary Klaus Schwab hovering amongst executives, talking about Christiana is right, talking about things that they've always talked about. But there was this concentration of people. You know, there were very interesting events with kind of high level people partnering. I think I've mentioned to you that I went to a very exciting meeting on on Monday, which was a sort of NGOs talking about a pivot to policy. But then then on on Wednesday, the Pivot Point report was launched by the UK climate. The climate champions Nigel Topping spoke and all the rest of it. And I actually think that that narrative that we're moving more now towards getting serious all, you know, all the ships in the flotilla pointing towards this single decisive point that we need to sort of change the rules of the game to make sure we don't all lose it. That came through. So I was very excited by that.
Tom: [00:24:38] Cool. Right now, we should press on because we have another interview today and we've been trying for a long time to get the brilliant Catherine McKenna on the podcast. She has of course been on the podcast before, but she's particularly relevant at this moment because the secretary general, after the last COP, the secretary general, asked her to lead a high level group looking into the integrity of net zero. That's obviously a topic we've come back to many times in the course of the last few months, and that report is going to be out in just a couple of months now. And she was very active in Climate Week, running consultations, talking to people. This is such a delicate balance. How do you get the balance between integrity and momentum right in those commitments to ensure you don't scare people off and make it seem impossible for them to achieve it? But also you have enough integrity to ensure that they really do do what they say they're doing. Getting that right is Katherine's job at the moment, So. We try and give her a call. A very big job.
Paul: [00:25:30] That's the magic telephone.
Tom: [00:25:31] All right. Clay, can we dial her in?
Clay: [00:25:33] Yeah. Once. One second. You guys are recording. I've got her. I'll put in her number now.
Paul: [00:25:40] Go for it.
Clay: [00:25:41] Into the magic telephone.
Tom: [00:25:44] So, Paul, do you remember Adam from AGI who came on the podcast a little while ago? I do, yeah. So they're playing in London on Saturday and he just WhatsApp me and offered us tickets. Do you want to come?
Paul: [00:25:55] Wow. I am supposed to be having dinner with some old friends, but could. What time is the concert?
Tom: [00:26:01] I think it's like 8.30. I've got my Natasha's coming. The kids are coming. It's good.
Clay: [00:26:05] Right? Yeah, I saw them in Detroit.
Tom: [00:26:08] And he said we can come backstage and hang out with him afterwards.
Clay: [00:26:11] Backstage? Paul.
Paul: [00:26:12] I'm sorry. You might have to, but I have to put my old friends on the shelf.
Tom: [00:26:16] Christiana, you'd be in on this if you were in London, but you can't leave.
Christiana: [00:26:18] I know I will not be there, but have fun.
Catherine McKenna: [00:26:21] Hello?
Tom: [00:26:22] That's Catherine.
Christiana: [00:26:23] Hello, Catherine.
Tom: [00:26:25] Hi, Catherine.
Catherine McKenna: [00:26:26] Good to see all of you. How's it going?
Christiana: [00:26:29] We just see you in New York.
Catherine McKenna: [00:26:32] I know we did just see you. I was laughing because I was just reading about the tweets about Malpass. I saw you were out there, Christiana. I just said it to me too. I'm like, okay. You just like, I don't really know what's going on. You don't have time. Why? Why is he still there?
Christiana: [00:26:48] Why is he still there? Exactly. Exactly. Yes. Out. Out with that guy.
Catherine McKenna: [00:26:53] I mean, I mean, like the fact he doesn't believe in climate change is obviously a problem. The fact they're not scaling money and leveraging the private sector's bigger one. But I mean, they're related.
Christiana: [00:27:02] Well, but they're related. Exactly. Exactly. Because neither does he understand the threat nor the opportunity.
Catherine McKenna: [00:27:08] Yeah.
Christiana: [00:27:08] Voila.
Clay: [00:27:10] Hey, Katherine, this is Clay. I'm the producer.
Clay: [00:27:13] Hey, welcome back to the podcast. We're all set. I'm recording your side of the call, and you've got your AirPods in, so thank you.
Catherine McKenna: [00:27:23] You're welcome. Okay, we're all good.
Paul: [00:27:27] Anything else, Clay?
Clay: [00:27:28] No. Over to you.
Christiana: [00:27:30] Thanks, Clay. Okay, great. Catherine, thanks so much. You must still be jet lagged from not from traveling from New York to Canada, but actually just by running around New York City for for such a long, long Climate Week for you. But, Catherine, I have a question for you, and that is, having spent six years in the bowels of U.N. nomenclature, how on earth, how on earth do they make you the chair of the high level expert group on net zero emissions commitments of non-state entities? I mean, honestly, right?
Paul: [00:28:13] If it was written on the door. You'd have to get a bigger door.
Christiana: [00:28:16] It's it's three lines long. It doesn't even collapse into an acronym. And yet it it is such an important initiative of the secretary general.
Catherine McKenna: [00:28:28] So, you know, can you can you please climate? Yeah. You know what? Honestly, like in climate world, people need to talk like real people. It's not that hard.
Christiana: [00:28:39] Yes.
Catherine McKenna: [00:28:40] The funny thing is said the name is so long, but then they've shortened it to HLEG. Like HLEG like that's better. I was like, Oh, HLEG. Like. I don't know what to say about this. Look, I mean, first of all, like, no one knows what non-state actors are like if we just talk like real people. Oh my gosh. So really, it's about net zero commitments by corporations, financial institutions, cities and regions and then sub that if you were to try to explain and the secretary general has been out on this, he's worried about greenwashing in particular by bank, you can buy large corporates and financial institutions.
Christiana: [00:29:20] Catherine, why don't we just say your group is the policing group for greenwashing. How's that?
Catherine McKenna: [00:29:26] That's fine. Although you guys are all about Outrage + Optimism. So of course we're all outraged by greenwashing. But I think there's also the idea that we also want to lift up the folks who are doing the work, which is separating the wheat from the chaff, which is what you do when you tackle greenwashing. Right? The problem is everyone's like thrown into like you're all, you know, greenwashing. You're not doing real stuff. And there are people who are doing things. I met many of them. We're working through this. It's hard, especially figuring this out and getting action right now. So there are good people out there. But yes, yes. Can we just talk like real people in climate? No wonder everyone tunes. You know, there's a number of people who in Canada that is like, tune it out. They're like, I don't know what you're talking about. It sounds very weird. I care about climate, but it doesn't sound very compelling. But not like you guys know I like you guys. You guys talk like real people.
Tom: [00:30:16] Yeah. We've never met anyone who wakes up and says it's a good day for some decarbonization, even, right? I mean, just the normal day to day language is very removed. So, Catherine.
Catherine McKenna: [00:30:23] You know, when I started just to say, okay, we're going to ruin this, but by when I started as minister, like, I'd really been in the job for like 2 minutes and the Prime Minister was like, get on a plane, you're going to COP21. And then I was like, Am I going to ask the question? And then I was like, Well, there are no dumb questions. What's a COP? And then he told me, Conference of the Parties. And I was like, That doesn't even mean anything. I was like, Oh, for the love of God, for the love of God, can we change how we talk? So anyway, I've tried I've tried to talk like a normal person because I was a normal person before I got into the climate world. I actually worked on issues that were related. I worked on human rights and good governance, and I worked in developed countries. But it's funny because I've always maintained that because when I started I didn't know what anyone is talking about there, like mitigation adaptation. I was like, I don't know what you're talking about.
Paul: [00:31:12] So radiative forcing.
Catherine McKenna: [00:31:15] We're going to try to be normal here, right?
Tom: [00:31:17] All right. We're going to be normal regular people.
Tom: [00:31:19] But speaking of normal. I mean, thank you for getting on that plane, going to COP21, because Christiana and I were there and we were very excited when you came in. And I have to say, for many years, I would say I don't think I'll ever get tired of saying Canada's back. That moment when you arrived exactly back in there, Canada's back. It was the first.
Christiana: [00:31:35] That was understood by everyone.
Catherine McKenna: [00:31:37] Oh, after a while, Canadians got sick of that say, Hey, we don't care about Canada back, show me the money. But yes, it was good. I should have retired right after. Load More
Tom: [00:31:47] Yeah, it was quite amazing.
Catherine McKenna: [00:31:47] On the super high.
Christiana: [00:31:49] That would have been a very short career in climate change if you retired right after your very first appearance in.
Tom: [00:31:54] Canada is back. Thank you very much.
Catherine McKenna: [00:31:56] Actually, I did do something, though, like actually Canada back. Obviously, it was not in my notes. I mean, our negotiators were living under like the dark regime, the previous government where it was like obstructionist, probably in coded language. But I looked at the comms and I was like, what is anyone saying here? And I just actually rewrote it. And in a way I was like, We believe in the science. We need ambition, we need a deal, we need to like. And then I just say, Canada's back. And then everyone cheered and I realized, Oh, okay, if you talk, that was easy. People like it will react, people around the table. Then we went back to mitigation, adaptation and. I was like, okay, this is really getting.
Tom: [00:32:34] At a long road to the HLEG. Exactly.
Tom: [00:32:37] A long and winding road.
Catherine McKenna: [00:32:41] It really hasn't gotten better. Right. That's right. We try. So, Kathryn, what is the.
Tom: [00:32:46] To come on to task? Okay, Well.
Catherine McKenna: [00:32:48] Okay, So do you want to know what the HLEG is? Give us a talk to the high level. Well, I mean, the guy has been clear. He's really worried about greenwashing and. And, like, you know what? So, of course, there are voluntary standards. Like people would know race to zero. So on space target initiative G fans, part of race to zero. So maybe they've heard of that, although once again, we're in a lot of acronyms like G fans. But the reality is if you go to a store, they're like net zero bacon, Your regular person is like, is that really net zero? I don't know. Or we've got the net zero Oil sands Alliance. Like there's just like a lot said, net zero going around and different versions like net zero, it's like carbon neutral. There's like, like millions of ways to say all of this. And the reality is I just want us to be less dramatic and less like and more real. So everyone's making these commitments, but we need to just be real. The science is the science. So saying net zero is easy. Yeah, I mean, look, you know, when Canada came out with the new target, that's the easy part. It's doing the work. And so having clear standards and criteria, a price of admission, if you are going to say you were a net zero or like you know now which very few people are or net zero aligned, that's got to mean things. And so it's a whole range of things that have come up, like what does it mean to be net zero? So obviously we need to be based on the science, the science of 1.5 and there are different pathways.
Catherine McKenna: [00:34:18] You need to be on a low to no overshoot pathway once again, not super accessible language, but you need to deliver, you need to deliver on that. You can't say you're going to do this and the pathway is going to take you nowhere near what you need to be on the science. And then there's the idea of net. What is the net of zero? Once again?, and sometimes I'm like, Do people know what we're talking about? But, you know, the idea is you can't just buy cheap offsets and not do the work. You can't we're not offsetting our way to climate, to saving the planet. And so really there's a big discussion around credits and offsets, and there's a lot of other bodies that are working on this. So this is kind of the weird thing in this space. So like, we've got to deal with everything related to net zero. But then you have once again, I'm going to use acronyms, so kill us all. Now, VCMI and ICVCM, who are working on the supply side of credits like our credits, do they have high integrity? Are you actually like, are they real? Are they additional? Are they permanent? Are you working with indigenous communities and local communities? All of that? And then the demand side, when can you use credits? And I think that there's a general principle there that you got to do the hard work yourself. Like that's just the reality. We need everyone to reduce their own emissions. You can't buy your way.
Catherine McKenna: [00:35:26] And there's real concerns around both what kind of credits people are using and whether you're just buying credits instead of reducing emissions. So that's a big piece. Transition plans. You know, there's a good story. I mean, the Australians are actually really good on climate as opposed to other people. And they have this story of a an Australian man who lives in Sydney and he's like, I've decided to stop drinking, but I'm going to do it in an ambitious but orderly way, so I'm going to stop drinking at 2049, I will be 101 and, and by the way, I didn't drink on Tuesdays for a long time, so maybe it will give me an extra ten years and then I'm going to have a beer fridge called carbon Capture and Storage boom. So but I think the point on that, I think it's a good story because it just points like we can't just wait till 2049. The pathway between now and 2049, whether you reduce emissions and they actually we actually save the planet is huge. And so that's really, really key seeing early action, covering all your emissions, making sure that you're delivering. And then there's a little transparency and integrity piece. Like right now, actually it's not very transparent, so we can't even tell who is actually making progress or not, and it's not comparable data. So we should be able to see that you should be required to actually provide this in an annual way for the large corporates financials. It should be audited, it should be like financial statements or corporate what we're doing on climate.
Tom: [00:36:54] And that's definitely coming. Right. And we know that that's coming in the regulations. So, Catherine, I want to ask you a question. So the science is the science, right? And we know that we know where we need to be in that kind of as you roll up to a global level, it's kind of clear. But I want to ask you a sort of almost a more philosophical question and a slight anecdote. So years ago, I was much more on the activist end of the spectrum, and I started something you might enjoy with a friend called Cheat Neutral. The idea that you could cheat on your partner if you paid someone else to be faithful to theirs, you know, you offset infidelity as a way of poking fun at the offset concept, right?
Christiana: [00:37:21] Tom, we will not tell Natasha that!
Tom: [00:37:26] This is an idea that tried to poke fun at the idea that they're not equivalent. And through that, I actually spent a long. Time with other activists in 2007, 2008, trying to tear down the concept of carbon neutrality, because I felt it was this moral outrage that people would claim this equivalence. And with many other people, we tore it down. And then I looked at it like a few years later and thought, Oh, it's gone. And it wasn't that everybody suddenly started doing it perfectly. It was that all of these people inside corporations have been trying to do something. And it had hit my sense of moral outrage that it wasn't what I thought it was going to be. And then once we made it sort of shameful for them to do that, they just sort of stopped and went back to their day jobs. And then years later, I looked at it and thought, did I do a good thing or did I not? So that's the precursor to a question I want to ask you, which is you are understandably concerned about greenwashing. And that's absolutely right. If people are saying one thing and not being genuine about what they're doing, we should call that out. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those in companies and others who are imperfect, but trying and really trying to do their best. But they don't have all the answers and they don't have all the resources. And as we raise the criteria and as we put more and more scrutiny on them, we say you've got to get this right. It's consequential. If you don't, there's going to be consequences. There's also then a moment of like, Oh my God, this is actually a bit scary, you know, should I really do this? And some of them will then scuttle back into their little holes and say, this is all too much. So I just want to also recognise that we have a lot of people listening inside corporations who really are genuine about trying to make change.
Catherine McKenna: [00:38:56] Yes.
Tom: [00:38:56] They're not perfect and they don't have all the resources and some of them are a bit scared that they're going to be asked to do something that's beyond their capability. So how do we do both? How do we do both meet the greenwashing but not go sort of like down the road of perfection to the point where we stop the momentum and we kill something that we want to see thrive?
Catherine McKenna: [00:39:15] So it sounds like you tried to kill it, but thanks.
Tom: [00:39:18] It's. It's bad Two years later.
Catherine McKenna: [00:39:20] I'm joking. No, no, but, like, look, I mean, you can't just say you're a net zero or, you know, or carbon neutral not do the work. As I say, I mean, part of it is just taking the drama out of this and just actually saying, okay, what do you need to do? But I hear you right. Like you can't make the criteria so tough that you can't make it. But the science is the science, right? It's a journey. It's called net zero by 2050. Although to step back because that's a bit misleading, it's global net zero by 2050. So we actually need folks in in developed countries that can go faster to go faster. Right? That's just the reality. But I think, you know, there are there are is a lot of good action out there. And some of it is really hard depending on what you're, you know, what you do. Scope three Emissions are hard. I think we're well aware of that. I mean, you know, for some folks, for some folks, let's be clear, oil and gas companies, you know what your scope three is just say. But if you have a long value chain with a million with a ton of different companies in your value chain and and for financial institutions, asset managers, it is harder. But we all need to do this.
Catherine McKenna: [00:40:28] And you're seeing so much progress. I was talking to the German minister who's really amazing. She's a firecracker and she was talking about how, you know, they're using blockchain and she is like, you know, this new company that's doing these things. So, look, we all are on this journey, but there is a price of admission, right? So that doesn't mean you can do nothing and say you're not zero and then say it's really hard and then there are no consequences. These are voluntary. You're literally standing up and saying, I want to be recognized in net zero. Why? I think a lot of folks are doing it because it's the right thing to do, but because they see it's good for business, right? So you have to you have to deliver. So I think, of course, But this is why just be having to show your homework. I say to my kids like you want to get an A? Oh, okay, well, go do some work. Like, you know, stop playing video games. And when you do your math, could you show all of your work so we can, you know, the teacher can see it and it may not be perfect. You're going to get better marks. So I think that's that's part of the logic behind this.
Paul: [00:41:25] No video games on the way to net zero makes a lot of sense. You've got to focus on this. But isn't it the case, Catherine, in a sense, it's right and proper for big companies, supermarkets, Wal-Mart, steel companies to commit to net zero. But actually some of the underlying factors here are beyond the company's control or maybe the companies need to lobby. I mean, if you think about something like we were all in New York at Climate Week and there are these enormous cars that weigh four tons, you come over to Europe and the cars are small. It's because we have massive gasoline taxes in Europe and very little gasoline tax in the US. So isn't this ultimately about everyone recognizing that basically the government's got to take some action now? Isn't that the thing?
Catherine McKenna: [00:42:00] Yeah, I mean, we deal with that head on. I mean, part of it is the race or it's the pathway to regulation. So we acknowledge that we also need to have a pathway to regulation. But let me tell you how you get to regulation. Actually, you get the support by the by the business world, how we got carbon pricing. I know you love talking about carbon pricing.
Paul: [00:42:21] I do. I do right now, particularly with you, because you're the superstar, you're the global star. We've got a carbon price. Tell us how you did it.
Catherine McKenna: [00:42:28] I mean, there's well, there's a number of stories. There's a number of lessons, I think, with how we got a carbon price in Canada. But one of them was like, yeah, I mean, the environmental supported carbon pricing that that will get you not that far. I mean it'll get you like they support it. That's good. But I knew that we needed the support of business, so I literally went knocking on doors. Knock, knock, knock. Hi. Do you want to join our Carbon Pricing Coalition and Leadership Coalition? And some people are like, well, I don't know, maybe just to know what you're doing, but but then there were people like, Yeah, we actually want that. So we got two banks. Then that was like the tipping point. We got five all five major banks in Canada. We got we got, we got consumer goods companies, telcos, and we got an oil and gas company. And that really helped because it really showed that we we had the support. And one thing we will deal with, like the reality is businesses can either support climate action or they can thwart it. I mean, I guess they can be neutral too. But if you need climate action to meet your goals, like you need a carbon price, you should say that you should then lobby for it. But what you shouldn't do and I saw this like, you know, people would say, Oh yeah, yeah, we really support what you're doing in climate. When I was Minister for Environment, Climate Change, and then they go next door, the Finance Minister Knock, knock.
Catherine McKenna: [00:43:41] I don't do it all bad. And so we can't have that. We can't have misalignment. And within business they need to also at the highest levels be aligned because sometimes I feel sad for, you know, the ESG people or sustainable people. They were trying really hard, but then there's no alignment within the you know, within the business. You need to have alignment. And there's a number of ways like you can look at executive compensation. There's a number of tools. So I think part of what I'm just a practical person, as you probably know. And so the recommendation we're trying to make are just like practical things many that are out there with the top voluntary initiative. So they say these things and I think but remember, we're dealing with like net zero bacon or carbon positive milk, apparently. Carbon positive milk. That's an interesting I don't know. Apparently, Clay, that's something you know about. But yeah, so I mean, I think that there's we just need to actually just say, okay, this is what needs to be done. And then, then it's up to shareholders, consumers, environmentalists and others to actually look at this, say whether it's real. We are on the pathway to regulation. And looking at the verification piece is still hard because if you're not regulated, it's you know, a lot of this is, you know, on the voluntary side, although you're seeing TCFD principles, disclosure coming into place. So there is a movement there.
Paul: [00:45:02] And there is a big price. No, that's a great answer. If there is a big price on it, it all goes gets audited in the accounts anyway. So that's that's a great thing, you know, So we can, we can, we can get that, that way.
Catherine McKenna: [00:45:11] But I would just say like the one thing that we also can't forget because sometimes people like this is a drag, like we don't really like doing this, but climate change isn't going away. Yeah, we just like had this massive hurricane hit Canada and, you know, the water is hotter, so it accelerates, supposed to absorb the ocean, supposed to absorb the energy, but it isn't. And so everyone like this is a real risk to business. It's a risk that, yes, you might get sued because you're not doing stuff. It's a risk that but it's a risk that Mark Carney calls it the Minsky moment. Whatever. We're like, everyone's like, Whoa, we have massive climate events and everyone's like, Oh my God, we have to adjust right now. So, you know, our friend Faki, a lot of, you know, Faki you always talked about we got a futureproof your company. Yeah. And that's what this is also about. It's understanding risk. Like I feel sometimes we're a little bit weird still in the business world where people should really understand risk better. The risks are clear, like climate change. Even under the best scenarios, it's going to get worse. We know that. And so how are you dealing with the risk? How are you doing things that are sensible and really doing the work and looking at the opportunities, massive opportunities. This is the biggest economic opportunity ever, $3 trillion a year that needs to go to clean. So you can look at it as a risk you're going to reward, but just actually get on the path and do it.
Christiana: [00:46:32] Catherine, It seems to me that one of the challenges that you and your group face is how do you report? Because there is a lot of self reporting right now. Everybody is self reporting. Yes. Based on science, but still a lot of interpretation space there. So how do you really know that apples are apples if you compare? And the second piece that is dangerous about the self reporting is governments are also reporting. And so there is a non-zero chance that what companies are reporting for themselves is actually going to be duplicated, if you will, in the government's reporting, because they're not under any nested approach that I think needs to be developed, which is tech supported, let's call it blockchain for the time being, tech supported standardized accounting that nests the what government, what corporations are reporting, what cities, what regions, what governments are reporting, so that we actually have a good sense of where we are going. Next year we have the stocktake and frankly, with the with those with the very, very lax technologies that we have right now for reporting emissions or emission reductions, we're not going to know in the stocktake if we're actually on track or not. So don't we need actually some much more third party standardized accounting that can tell us where are we going and integrate it with government reporting as well?
Catherine McKenna: [00:48:05] So there's a lot there. But the answer is yes. I mean, I think that you will see in the report, a recognition of that. So I think that we need to make sure, like especially the large emitters right there are like the multinationals, there are very large they have capacity, right. Like some people are like, of course, they're capacity issues. The good thing about my group is like I have a, you know, a businesswoman from Columbia. She's like, you know, small, medium sized enterprises in Columbia. You make this too, like, you know, it's very hard to do. But with the large multinationals or the large emitters, we need them to really do this, this reporting in a standardised way. There are some really good initiatives. You probably saw Michael Bloomberg working together with the UN, which is great to to really have some platform where you actually have rigor and you have comparable data and so that there is a lot of good progress. Like I think it started, it was announced, but sometimes it announcement you're not sure where it's going to go, but they're working with the Global Climate Action Portal. I know Paul is CDP. You guys are part like that's really important. And the Global Climate Action portal can be there. And it's the nexus with the UN though. A question that you're also talking about. That's really important because when I was a minister, like you're doing top down as opposed to you don't have the bottom up. So actually you'll announce policies. But what if businesses are doing more ambitious stuff in the best case or it's not having the impact? So you kind of have to do both.
Catherine McKenna: [00:49:32] And this is where part of our mandate will be talking about the link with the global stocktake. Also not really accessible language, but really how do you how do you bring together what businesses, non-state actors, businesses, financial institutions, cities and regions is a little bit different and probably easier. But how do you bring that into what the UN is doing to actually understand where is the world going and and really see, in the best case scenario, you see more ambition, right? You see corporates, financial institutions really stepping up where governments have not regulated and so that they're pushing that the money is flowing on scale to clean, although we're still seeing flowing on scale to fossil fuels. So that has to change. That's also an equity and justice issue, which we haven't talked really about yet, but we need to see that emissions just have to. I say to people, it's actually not all that complicated Missions need to go down very quickly and the scale of money to clean has to go up very quickly. Of course, equity and justice is across that, but it's not unrelated because those most impacted are the ones who've done the least to cause it. And on the flip side, they're not getting the money they need to go to clean. So but but rigor and detail and step by step. But I'm with a group. I have a very good group. I think we're really trying to be practical, not have 100 recommendations, write them in English. That's really important. People can understand what we're saying and say real things on the areas where there are real concerns about greenwashing but also real opportunities.
Christiana: [00:51:03] So, Catherine, you're in the middle of this. We take it that that report is due before COP27, as in.
Catherine McKenna: [00:51:10] Apparently well before. Well before.
Christiana: [00:51:12] Apparently well before. Okay.
Catherine McKenna: [00:51:15] Just of now in the history. History of the UN, the fastest group ever to get our work. We actually are well advanced in our work. We've had really great submissions. We've done consultations. So and we've had help from a lot, lots of folks. So I'm feeling pretty confident.
Christiana: [00:51:30] Excellent. So with that context and what you have learned, what are you still outraged by and what makes you the optimist that you always have been?
Catherine McKenna: [00:51:44] So I'm one of my average. Okay. I'm just going to take like the most recent one I think I saw you were a bit outraged Christiana Figueres. So there was an interview with the president of the World Bank. Oh, saying the dodgyness. Well, I'm not a scientist on the climate and science, so as I say to folks, yeah, that's a problem. If you're not clear that that climate change is manmade and like we're in a massive pickle right now. But it's a bigger problem because you're the World Bank, that we need you to flow money to actually get the clean solutions at scale. And I was having conversations with many folks that that's a massive problem right now with the World Bank because they there seems to be a view that it's how much money you spend that's actually not that's not the success. The success in the context of the World Bank is how much are you able to leverage from the private sector and how much are you able to get built? That is the measure that we need. And so guess what? As I tell folks, we know who the shareholders are. So there are shareholders. Those are called countries. The countries need to step up us, buy Canada, other countries, they can actually change this. So I think that's key. I think I'm also worried. I'm a bit outraged, a bit worried. People are using some folks are using the illegal Russian war to defer action or to scale investments in fossil fuels. And often they say, well, that's because we need to support folks like in less developed countries, in particular Africa, that don't have electricity. Yes, we do need to do that. But I mean, often that is not the focus. These folks are off the grid. I've seen many amazing companies that are actually working on solar solutions at scale for folks that are off the grid. Like, that's not often when I hear from oil and gas companies, their first thing isn't like, how do they solve the problem of folks that don't have electricity? When I lived in Indonesia.
Christiana: [00:53:39] Thank you! That is one of my pet peeves right now. So thank you for that.
Catherine McKenna: [00:53:43] But I will say there is a quid pro quo and we are well aware of this because I have really smart members that are from Africa, that are from Latin America, that are from India, and they are saying, yes, we need the money though, stop telling us we can't do things, fine. We get that we need to go to renewables. But where's the money? Yeah, show us the money. $3 trillion. So we need a whole new deal. Mia Mottley. So many great leaders from developing countries have said this and we need to show the money. Folks need to do this, and it also does that. Reach me. Honestly, the fossil fuel companies are making massive, massive profits and in Canada are demanding even more subsidies to do solutions that they should be investing in while they're giving the money back to their through shared share buybacks and executive compensation. So, like, let's have some alignment on the positive side here. There's been a big shift. Like, I actually think I meet a lot of corporates that are figuring this out, working hard and the impact they can have on their value on their supply chain. That's massive because they can support smaller companies, they can look for innovation. And so I think that is really, really important. But one foot in front of the other, right? Like everyone needs to be picking up the slack.
Catherine McKenna: [00:54:58] Sometimes governments are not going to be great. And I think we're going into a period of governments not being great. So we're going to need real leadership from the private sector and we're going to need the young people out every single day. But we need regular people who, like in Cape Breton, Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, was hit super hard and I was listening to interviews and folks there are like we now understand these one in 100 year storms are happening every few years. This is like my house may go in the water, we need action. And that's really it. It comes back to carbon pricing like regular people. We gave we gave the money back to regular people when we put a price on pollution because you need people to be part of the solution. But people are smart. People know climate change is real. They know that there's a real cost and they want leadership. So I think real people are also what are going to drive this. But to do that, maybe just start at the very beginning. We have to talk like real people to real people. And so, yeah, like global stocktake and even net zero, to be honest, like most people are, no, no idea what we're all talking about. So certainly not HLEG. They don't know what an HLEG is.
Christiana: [00:56:07] Well, we look forward to the report from HLEG. And here's the thing. Why don't you put it out under a different name? Catherine? That would certainly get a couple of people.
Catherine McKenna: [00:56:18] That is good. I have to have some negotiations with the UN there a little bit wedged with the language.
Christiana: [00:56:23] Yes, I know that. I know that.
Catherine McKenna: [00:56:25] We could have like a little thing underneath. Don't worry. I am very, very focused on this.
Christiana: [00:56:30] Subtitle it so that it's understood.
Paul: [00:56:32] What about the world's back?
Catherine McKenna: [00:56:35] The world is back, or actually do the work, do the homework, do the work, do something catchy, do the right thing. Okay. Okay, great.
Christiana: [00:56:43] Catherine, thank you so much.
Tom: [00:56:44] Thank you so much.
Clay: [00:56:46] Thank you.
Paul: [00:56:47] Bye bye. Bye, Catherine.
Clay: [00:56:51] All good.
Tom: [00:56:52] So Catherine McKenna is such a fantastic leader for such a long time on this issue now clearly just as focused and determined.
Christiana: [00:56:59] She has not lost her spunk, that's for sure.
Tom: [00:57:00] My God, she hasn't. Has she? Absolutely. What do you leave the conversation with?
Paul: [00:57:07] Well, a couple of points. One thing I'm just going to say one thing about blockchain is that it it's amazing for for what you call it, Bitcoin and various currencies. You can just use normal databases. It doesn't have to be blockchain. But the key point is we need to record and verify what's happening and progress whatever technology we're using. I think it is very exciting. She mentioned this initiative from Bloomberg and Macron, the world and the governments and the OECD and the IMF and everyone's coming together around this need. Mark Carney is doing a great bit of convening there along with Michael Bloomberg. But I also want to point out some of the other things Catherine said. Like, for example, she was talking about supply chains are important and, you know, companies, by the way. Do you know who plays your suppliers energy bills? You do. So there's such a strong incentive to manage energy consumption of greenhouse gas emissions through supply chains. And then the final thing I want to really salute Catherine. She got that carbon tax in in Canada and she made a reference to it. But for anyone who missed it, the secret was that the government didn't keep the money. They took the carbon tax in and they paid it straight out to the people. Almost kind of like a wealth transfer from the high emitters to to to the public. And that's where you can get tax in and change the rules of the game. Hmm.
Christiana: [00:58:16] Well, a lot there, but I'm just grateful that it is Catherine who has been given this task, because you can imagine that if we had a highly bureaucratic mind behind this, we would never get out of the rabbit hole. And she is so practical and so clear that I think she's going to make huge efforts to cut through all of that bureaucracy and just put out something that is practical, that is to the point, and that can be used by corporations as as guidance for doing the right thing. And and and to those who are doing greenwashing to be able to differentiate. So I'm grateful for her attitude of of just being incredibly practical and let's get it done.
Paul: [00:59:12] Yeah. Yeah.
Tom: [00:59:13] What did you think, Christiana, about that issue that that I raised that you and I have talked about so much about the balance between momentum and perfection, Did you think that she feels like she's got that kind of in her crosshairs and she's going to deliver something that fits that need of a balance that won't slow our momentum, but increases the integrity. And she's got to balance lots of stakeholders.
Christiana: [00:59:35] Well, that balance between rigor and and broad participation or between integrity and momentum, you know, we we've talked about it ad nauseam. It's always been a part of the major challenges of the climate regime. I remember having these discussions 20, 25 years ago. Right. And it's not going we're not going to solve it with this. It's just that it's an ever occurring challenge that we have to face every time. And I do think that she is well aware of it and she will do her darndest to put something out that, as she says, is separating the chaff from the wheat. Yeah. Without cutting down on those who are really very sincerely trying and still don't know how to do it. There's one thing between trying and don't know how to do it and keep on trying. There's another. There is a completely different scenario if you're gaming the system. I think what she's trying to do here is to cut out those who are gaming the system and open up the possibilities for those who are sincerely committed to doing the emission reductions but are still in the learning curve.
Tom: [01:00:48] Yeah, that's the balance, right? It's to sort of like make it all right to try and not know everything, but that you have to make a sincere effort and you're not actually just being disingenuous and lying. So like threading that needle is a really complicated thing to do. But I agree with you. I felt like she had a real sense of the necessity of doing that. Of course, the implementation of it is difficult and no doubt, you know, everybody will be very unhappy with the outcome, but that probably is a marker of success to some degree, Right, of having found a compromise. Right. Okay. Anything else to add or should we go?
Paul: [01:01:19] We figure these things out? I'm going to give the last word to my my friend, someone I greatly admire, Lois Guthrie, who's been a carbon accountant for for 25 years. And she's an absolute genius. And and people say to her, you know, how are we ever going to calculate all this carbon? She says, Well, we calculate the tax and we've got inter-governmental tax agreements and, you know, we've got frameworks. We can do this. Humans are clever.
Tom: [01:01:40] There's all sorts of things that occur to me in response to that. And I do agree the Lois Guthrie is a genius. But isn't it true that a profit in the US is not the same as a profit in Europe into today's taxation rules? And we haven't really sorted that out. We can't do that.
Paul: [01:01:52] And to be honest, Lois hasn't been doing it 25 years. She's been doing it 15 years. But but we.
Tom: [01:01:55] Know she's a genius. She is a genius. Yeah.
Paul: [01:01:58] She is a genius. She is genius, Right?
Tom: [01:02:00] Finnegan Tui, we've got some music for you. Thanks for joining us this week, everybody. Really appreciate it. What a fun episode. Be back next week. Bye bye.
Finnegan Tui: [01:02:10] I think the thing I miss most is feeling curious. Like, why do I not shout anymore or leap up and down with excitement about the way that sunlight reflects in a puddle? Exclaim about how the clouds look like stingrays or witches again. Or how the sunset reminds me of home and how lucky I am to be here. I remember I used to, But all of a sudden I seem to be flirting with the idea of being an adult for the first time. And whilst I want to be excited about joining the real world, I'm not. And I think it's because as these new responsibilities have fallen on me and pressure has arisen like things. They are not as beautiful as they were. You know, things are right and wrong and true and false and left and right. Everything has its place, its name, its ingredients, and because of this miracle, seem to have become more rare. And so this song is about wanting to let go of that cold but rational skepticism that's kind of grown up in me. My desire to let my guard down and be vulnerable. Vulnerable for someone else. Vulnerable for myself. And just to be able to be and take something in and see something as it is, as opposed to kind of dissecting it. And this song is about a time where that did happen for me, a time where these shackles were kind of ripped off. It involved the ocean. It involved the beginning of love. The song is called The Guard and I hope you like it.
Clay: [01:08:11] Wow. So there you go. Another episode of Outrage + Optimism. Finnegan Tai, folks. That was amazing. The Guard is the name of this song. I am so impressed by this sound that Finnegan has captured on his latest record, Zephyr, and which The Guard is the opening track. So yeah, that's just the start of the album. So much more for you to hear as it plays. And I know you like audio because you're listening to a podcast, but my Weekend Listen recommendation to all you listeners is to go to Finnegan's YouTube and watch the full audio visual journey of the record. I just watched it. It's beautifully shot. It's in 4k, so hey, dim the lights, put it on the biggest screen you have. It's phenomenal. Finnegan Toohey has a Bandcamp, a Patreon. I'm a big fan of Patreon and his own subreddit. He's on the Internet, He's making amazing things and he's 22 year old composing and performing genius and prolific. So this is a great artist to start following now, especially if you want more than just a song to listen to all the links to his socials, music, YouTube are in the show notes. Thank you to Finnegan Tui. Oh, I haven't said my name yet. My name is Clay. I'm the producer of Outrage + Optimism and welcome to the wrap up of episode three. You know, I was thinking about it earlier and I'm kind of like a doorman for the podcast, you know, as you exit the podcast, making sure you don't forget your hat, your umbrella, your goodie bag, you know, everything you need on the way out into the world.
Clay: [01:09:54] So here we go. Thank you to our guests this week, Helen Clarkson and Catherine McKenna. Now Climate Week is over, but did you miss a session? Do you want to share an inspiring quote with colleagues? You know, are you considering attending next year? Do you watch YouTube videos at night instead of sleeping? Helen Clarkson and the wonderful people at the Climate Group have got you covered. ClimateWeekNYC.org. You can go watch all of the sessions from last week on demand. So links in the show notes to that and Helen's socials. Thank you Helen. And Catherine McKenna, friend of the POD, one of our favorite Canadians. Katherine Hayhoe Definitely being in that cohort, actually that kind of brings up an interesting thought, which is maybe, maybe Canadians hold the secrets on how to talk about climate like normal, in a way that makes sense. Anyway, I live near Canada, I like Canada, and we actually have a pretty sizable audience in Canada. So shout out to our Canadian listeners and thank you to Catherine for taking our call. Links to her social media in the show notes. She's really fun to follow, so check her out over there now, Christiana, Tom, Paul and Outrage + Optimism are on social media, posting and sharing all things stubbornly optimistic.
Clay: [01:11:15] And if Twitter were like an urban heat island, stay with me. Which, I mean, it really is. You know, all of our social accounts would be like a beautiful neighborhood park with trees providing shade and like a cool river you can swim in. That's a nice image. I like that. At OutrageOptimism is our tag. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn. Linkedin is hot right now. Don't know why. I can't figure it out. But anyway, we'll see you there. And last but certainly not least, shoutout to our colleague Freya Newman for getting her work published in Nature Communications of her master's research. Freya, congratulations. I'm pulling up the title here. The title of her research that was published is Nocturnal Plant Respiration is Under Strong Non-temperature Control, which to me sounds good. I only understood like half the words. So, Freya, we would love to have you come on at the end of the podcast and explain what this research is all about. And hey, if you're not feeling up for it, totally understand you don't have to do it. You actually could nominate one Canadian to explain this research because they know how to talk about science. And it's my new theory that something is going on in the Canadian education system. That is just the answer to my new theory. Okay. Have a great weekend. Thanks for listening. Another episode of Outrage + Optimism in your feed next week. See you then.