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168: From Climate Week NYC: No Other Option But To Solve This

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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 bring us all the news from the first half of Climate Week NYC, the annual event that coincides with the UN General Assembly every September. 

You’ll also hear from Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf on the essential role political engagement by the masses plays in addressing the climate crisis.



This year’s Climate Week NYC conference, which began in 2009 and has grown into one of the most influential annual climate events on the globe, took on greater significance as it was the first time the event was held live since the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s gathering was centered around how governments, communities, and corporations can work together to reach critical climate goals, including cutting carbon emissions in half by the decade’s end—which experts say is critical to preventing the worst predicted consequences of the climate crisis. 

When our very own Christiana Figueres posed a question to the audience about the global climate community’s ambitious carbon targets, she was shocked by the response. 

“Who here is confident we’re going to be at half global emissions by 2030?” Christiana says on the podcast, recalling the exchange with the audience. Only one person raised their hand. It shocked her and Tom.

She doubles down on the critical point that believing we can solve the climate crisis is fundamental to the solution itself. 

“A challenge here is to reinject a sense of purpose, mission, and above all, a can-do attitude,” Christiana says. “Because for a whole bunch of reasons over the past three years, we have lost that determination and that conviction that, yes, we can get this done for many understandable reasons, but none of them can actually be above the mission itself.”

Christiana’s message recalls her widely viewed 2016 TED Talk in which she talked about how injecting optimism into discussions over the Paris Agreement was crucial in getting member nations to agree to the historic international treaty. 

As Tom says, two seemingly contradictory things can be true at the same time. His conversations with various organizations, leaders in the movement, and others this week have centered around the need to invest in strategic communications. Specifically, the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that the U.S. Congress passed last year have fundamentally changed the movement’s trajectory and people’s attitudes about what’s possible—all in a positive way. It’s opportunities such as these that we must seize upon.   

Tom adds: “Almost everybody—so many people, philanthropists, heads of organizations, you know, leaders in the movement—come up and say: We now need to invest in communications, to get people to understand the moment that we're in, to build the political economy in lots of different countries. So we're not subject to these different swings.”

In a way, this requires a fundamental switch in advocating for climate-friendly policies, says Paul. 

As a movement that has grown up in opposition to things (“No, you mustn’t burn all this coal,” for instance), the climate movement has not yet learned to lead with positivity, Paul says. Perhaps we’re approaching that moment of transition.

He’s also inspired by the role cities can play in implementing much-needed governance and policy without the obstacles present in high-level government.

“What I learned [from the conference] was recognising that that notion of governance exists in many different levels of our society from international agreements like the Paris Agreement right down to those responsible for your city, for your region, for your town, for your village,” Paul says. 

The group agrees that a conversation with Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf comes at the perfect time. He’s a brilliant commentator who speaks at the nexus of democracy, governance, climate, biodiversity, and what it all means in an evolving global economy. 



Tom begins the conversation by acknowledging the complicated challenges facing nearly every country on the planet: The past summer’s extreme climate events and ongoing inflation. Despite the grim news, Tom wonders whether we address both issues at once. 

Martin views himself as a climate realist (rather than an optimist) and expects things to get a lot worse before they get better, even if we act decisively一which hasn’t been the case. The pain from fossil fuel inflation illustrates the world’s continued high dependence on oil and gas. 

Christiana brings up the rise in populism一both politically and economically一and the adverse effects it’s having on ESG (Environment, Society, and Governance) investment, what detractors refer to as “woke capitalism.”

Martin underscores his grave concerns about the rise of populism. He contends that changes in first-world economies (including the rising income inequality gap) are prompting a sizable proportion of the population to feel increasingly insecure economically. They’re angry and frustrated. They’ve become a powerful coalition that can be marshaled against the “elites” and so-called “woke capitalism.”  

According to Martin, businesses can only prioritize sustainability if politics supports it, underscoring the importance of electing lawmakers supportive of such measures. Despite his concerns, he’s optimistic that enough people can unite around these hugely consequential issues and engage in productive discussions, including with people of varying political ideologies.

“I do believe very passionately that the best way to do so is not to ridicule or condemn people for being deplorable, however deplorable one may think they are,” Martin says. “One has to persuade the public at large that this can be done. It should be done, it needs to be done. And actually, it will allow them and their children to lead better lives, not worse ones since I happen to believe that's true. It's a political cause that people on our side have to take up.”

The group discusses the likelihood of enabling the kind of change needed in the small amount of time we have to do it. Martin concedes he’s somewhat pessimistic on this point, adding, “I don't like the conclusion that the only way out of that is to have a benevolent global dictator. We don't want a global dictator.”

For some, as Martin notes, it might take a seismic event, even worse than the horrific floods and extreme heat the world experience this summer, to come around. 

It seems we would need some catastrophe [to] happen that is so big that it cannot be ignored and it is not so big that we can't…that vast numbers of people can't survive it,” he says. “We need a huge shock, I fear, and I don't think what happened this summer is, alas, big enough.” 

Nevertheless, Martin is hopeful that leaders will eventually recognize that solving the climate crisis is the world’s top priority. 

Our hosts agree that it’s difficult to imagine global events worse than those experienced this summer or the fact that one-third of Pakistan was underwater. Tom worries that as events worsen, people will only move to protect themselves, which is an even more frightening realization. On a personal level, people don’t typically make the connection with the choices they make, such as driving high-emitting SUVs that contribute to climate change, and as a result, historic flooding events such as those we witnessed in Pakistan.

On a hopeful front, Paul cites recent comments made by David Milliband, president and chief executive officer of the International Rescue Committee and a former British Labour Party politician. Milliband contended that the world has more resources than ever to solve the climate crisis, and it’s up to everyone to leverage what’s available and organize effectively to reach our collective goals. 

Indeed, Tom says he’s hopeful that NGOs and philanthropists will now focus on strategic communications to help the masses understand our current predicament. One way to do that is to explain how to connect the dots, and with the right efforts, we can.



We finish this episode with the song “Allah,” written and performed by Nigerian artist, storyteller, and Afro Indie-Folk musician Tommy WÁ. The song is about the purity of dawn and how wonderful it would be if it could last the whole day. 

If you love it as much as we did, check out Tommy’s three-song Live in New York City concert, produced by So Far Sounds, featuring Tommy WÁ, in the show notes.




To learn more about our planet’s climate emergency and how you can transform outrage into optimistic action subscribe to the podcast here.


Financial Times Chief Economics Commentator, Martin Wolf 



The Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit 2022 was a major highlight this week. Christiana moderated! 


Tommy WÁ - Check out Tommy’s Live from NYC 3 Song Concert on YouTube

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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: [00:00:16] And I'm Paul Dickinson. This week, we are all together in New York City for Climate Week.

Tom: [00:00:20] Here we are!

Paul: [00:00:22] Bringing you some updates on what we're hearing on the street. Thanks for being here. Okay. So it's so nice to be together. We get to do this so rarely. Listeners may not be aware that 99% of the time we're in different places.

Christiana : [00:00:42] 99.9%.

Tom: [00:00:43] Sometimes different continents. But right now we are squeezed all around a tiny table in my hotel room in Midtown, as we were in the I'm not going to say toilet the restroom in San Francisco, although Paul has a habit of saying we record our first episode in a toilet, which for United States listeners, that means in a bathroom. Right. But anyway, it's nice to be with you both. And we thought this week we're just share with the listeners some of the things we're hearing here in New York has been the first climate week for a few years that I've been to anyway. What are you both picking up in terms of what's animating the world of people concerned about the climate crisis?

Christiana : [00:01:14] So can I say something that is from last week?

Tom: [00:01:16] Okay.

Christiana : [00:01:17] Yeah, because yeah, now that I'm sitting next to Paul again, like last week, then I was sitting next to Paul in his flat in London. Oh yes. He has just removed his little notes and turned them around so that I can't see them, because last week I was sitting shoulder to shoulder with Paul and he always does this absolutely detailed, in-depth preparation. Not only not only does he read and study and research everything that we're going to do on the person we're going to interview. But then he writes a whole page of notes with all the brilliant ideas, all the brilliant ideas that he wants to share with the listeners. So I am sitting there, you know, minding, minding my own business right next to Paul, shoulder to shoulder. And I happen to glance over, I mean, how you can't really look at the microphone the whole time. So I glance over and Paul is like protective about his little notes and he begins to raise the papers at an angle so that I can't read his notes, which I can't read anyway. Then he puts his hand on the notes and he's like don't read my notes. 

Tom: [00:02:25] We're getting an insight into the kind of schoolchild you were, Paul. No, no, it's terrible. I'm now I'm better. This is like this is the school child that you would have wanted. I'm doing preparation, as you're supposed to know.

Christiana : [00:02:32] It's called the cheat sheet.

Tom: [00:02:33] No, no, no, no.

Christiana : [00:02:35] It's a cheat sheet and you don't want to share the sheet.

Tom: [00:02:39] So if it's a cheat sheet, what do you call the person who is looking at the cheat sheet. That's a cheaters cheat. Well, that's helpful for the listeners to understand on. Well, I'm sure this is fascinating for listeners to understand the dynamics of Outrage + Optimism, which for those who don't know, is basically the Cristiano Ronaldo. I do no preparation and Paul does a lot. But the interesting to know if that comes through the public service announcement from Outrage + Optimism, I apologize on behalf of Christiana and Tom for their lack of engagement with the seriousness and the severity of this communication. But I shall do my best in the interim to make up for. To carry it for all of us. There's very good energy and diligence. All right. So back to the task in that New York City this week. It's a privilege to be here. We need to spend the miles we use going on airplanes with great care and diligence, obviously. And we don't take it lightly that we come over here with the associated emissions, but we do so because they're key moments to move forward the climate debate. So what are you picking up and what are you hearing and what are you feeling about where we are on climate this week in New York?

Paul: [00:03:41] I'm amazed to be back with people. I was at a wonderful event. The Climate Group organized on something called The Peak, which is some very high skyscraper here and with amazing views. And there were three, maybe 400 people in the room, all without masks, all milling about, all having those spontaneous kind of bounce off the other person type conversations that you can only have in that environment that can never really exist through Zoom. That's actually not strictly true. You probably could do it, but we didn't find a way to do that. We've been very regimented in our communications for a long time, so that was fascinating. That was exciting. I've also been to an incredibly exciting meeting, which I'm going to reveal a little bit of. But what about yourself?

Christiana : [00:04:22] Well, again, a difference between you and me, Mr. Dickinson, is that I am truly an introvert. And so for me, these years of pandemic have been a godsend that I have not been exposed to people. So coming back to UNGA week and Climate Week.

Tom: [00:04:46] UN General Assembly, UNGA.

Christiana : [00:04:48] Thank you, U.N. General Assembly, where we are in meetings and events with hundreds and hundreds of people, is actually, for me personally quite exhausting. And Tom knows that I crawled out of our last event last night on all fours. I was just miserable by the end of it. Now, having said that, it's just my, my, my personal problem, right, that I need to deal with. As I confess to Tom, this is my issue that I need to deal with. But it is truly very helpful to come together in person and begin to grapple with these issues. So Tom and I went to a dinner last night, the purpose of which is to engage more philanthropic giving to climate, because climate is actually still totally underfunded by private investment, by public investment, and certainly by philanthropic investment. And so that was the purpose of it. And so you can imagine if these are current and potential philanthropists, they're all highly educated, highly intelligent people, highly informed about what was going on. And here was an a ha moment for me. I asked. In the middle of something that I was doing on the podium, I said, Wait a minute, let's just get a check here. And I said, How many people here are confident that we're going to be at half global emissions by 2030? No one raised their hand. One person from the US public sector halfway raised his hand and that was it.

Tom: [00:06:29] I didn't feel I could be the only one, by the way, to do that. So I thought, well, not.

Christiana : [00:06:33] No, but but isn't that amazing?

Tom: [00:06:37] It's shocking. It was it was really something.

Christiana : [00:06:39] I was almost dumbfounded. Right. I was almost dumbfounded. And I thought, well, you know, what we haven't really understood here is that if we are from the bottom of our gut, because that question came totally unexpectedly. Right. Nobody expected that question. So the response was from the gut. It wasn't from the head. So the response from the gut, if in our gut way down there, we are not confident that we can do our task, guess what? It's not going to get done. Yeah, that's the piece that is so concerning to me because, you know, you try to get something done when you're like only halfway convinced that you're going to reach success. And so to me, yes, there's a lot of technical conversation going on, and I hope that you both will share about that. But for me, the underlying challenge here is to reinject a sense of purpose, mission and above all, can do attitude. Because if for a whole bunch of reasons over the past three years we have lost that determination and that conviction that, yes, we can get this done for many understandable reasons, but none of them can actually be above the mission itself. Yeah. And so to me, you know, I crawled out of that meeting because I'm an introvert, but also because I was so upset that we have lost that, we have lost that sense of of agency.

Tom: [00:08:16] Yeah. So, so, so it's interesting. So a few things to that and my heart goes out to you going to these events because I know and most people don't, don't believe that you are a raging introvert. But it is true. I'm reminded a few years ago of being with you at the World Economic Forum and being at one of those very posh first dinners with all the heads of state. And you came down from the high table to me, and I thought you were going to just like whisper something about the strategy towards the Paris Agreement. You said, Tom, how soon till we can leave? And sort of underline for me the reality of these things for you. But just a couple of things.

Paul: [00:08:45] The reverse, by the way, I'm not in the and all I want to do is stay as long as possible. And later, it's very odd. You know, the universe delivers these different parallel existences to us. It's so unfair. We need to dress you up as Christiana Figueres. Now you're talking.

Christiana : [00:08:58] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh, your favorite.

Christiana : [00:09:01] The first thing you would have to change, however, was your accent.

Tom: [00:09:04] Really? Yeah, I can do that. I can do this. I can do it. Christiana.

Christiana : [00:09:06] Can you? Let's hear.

Paul: [00:09:07] Say I'm slightly just like like a tiny United States in lilt, just a small.

Tom: [00:09:11] I'm sure some listeners find that uncanny in their recognition. Right. But just to build on what you just said, I mean, I, I agree with you. And that moment was was really shocking when no one put their hands up and there was this like it sort of sunk into everyone's gut, the reality. So I think I think that's here. But like so much in climate at the moment, multiple things are true together. That seemed to be contradictory at the same time, because I would say a couple of other things I've observed. One is the Inflation Reduction Act has changed a lot. Yes, yeah, yeah. Yes, it has changed a lot and it's changed a lot in terms of our trajectory and it's changed a lot in terms of people's attitudes. I remember after the Paris agreement, I would say to people who'd worked on climate change for a long time, has the Paris agreement changed your personal quality of life? And people would pause and think from it and say, You know what it has. I feel lighter and I feel happier. And I were making progress. And I actually feel like for those brilliant people in the US who have spent decades struggling against such a difficult political system, the adoption of the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Bill has changed an enormous amount about what they feel is possible in the world. So those two things are kind of coexisting at the same time, both of which are kind of true.

Christiana : [00:10:23] We learned last night that those two bills are now lovingly called Ira and Bill.

Tom: [00:10:28] Ira and Bill.

Christiana : [00:10:28] The the infrastructure bill and the IRA. Yeah, climate bill. So now they're called and they're being seen as being really very complementary to each other. So it's Ira and Bill, the perfect marriage.

Tom: [00:10:41] Yeah. And the sweetest couple in the world. We love them. Yeah. And a couple of other things. I mean, one thing that I noticed in that dinner with all of those philanthropists and in several other events that I've been to, and I'd be curious to know if you both have picked this up, too, is the moment for strategic communications and political economy building has arrived? And what I mean by that is so many of these ideas like bubble up from multiple places at different. And I have had almost everybody, so many people, philanthropists, heads of organizations, you know, leaders in the movement come up and say, we now need to invest in communications, to getting to people to understand the moment that we're in, to building the political economy in lots of different countries. So we're not subject to these different swings. And I think that will end up being one of the mega trends of the next couple of years in philanthropy and in the climate movement. Do you see the same?

Paul: [00:11:37] Yes, I don't disagree. I've got just a sort of different perspective on the same thing that you've both been saying. I was at a different sort of meeting yesterday, kind of NGOs together. But, you know, my first comment to the to the group I was in was that as we try and reconfigure for what we're trying to do, I think that our movement is actually a little bit unfamiliar with knowing how to lead and knowing because we sort of grew up in opposition to things.

Paul: [00:12:04] You know, we're the sort of no, you mustn't movement, you know, no, you mustn't burn all this coal. We haven't we haven't we're not really the kind of you know and we will movement and then we should movement and this is best movement. So I think. No, you shouldn't be. Exactly. No, no, seriously. Yeah, it is demoralizing. And and so so that that was interesting to think about how we might learn how to take advantage of the fact, you know, make hay whilst the sun shines, as it were, because the sun is shining at the moment. You know, we haven't got Donald Trump in his second term doing whatever kind of damage this is. This is our time. And, you know, the meeting was a little bit about this pivot to policy, which I think is sort of super interesting. And there was we we were talking about who we need in the room as we start to sort of configure our movement around.

Tom: [00:12:49] You know, somebody said we need to have regulators in the room. And then there was someone there, a leading representative of the cities network who said, Well, all my members are regulators. And actually one of the ways to really advance what we need to do is to devolve from some of the gridlock at national government level down to city level, because cities can go and get things done. And this kind of thinking is really exciting, really empowering. I mean, maybe we could call Martin Wolff later, because I think that he's been incredibly eloquent on this need now to sort of advance what we're doing by moving more towards the inevitability of of having kind of government leadership. But just what I learnt yesterday was recognising that that that notion of governance exists in many different levels of our society from international agreements like the Paris Agreement right down to those responsible for for your city, for your region, for your town, for your village. Yeah.

Tom: [00:13:40] And I have to say, I've been very shocked by the cynical utilization of climate refugee catastrophe by Fox News to include a narrative suggesting that wind power is...

Christiana : [00:13:54] Here is what's happening for those who cannot see.

Paul: [00:13:58] So unfair!

Christiana : [00:13:59] Paul has all his notes here. Now he has Tom on one side, Christiana on the other side. Now it's Tom who's peeking over his shoulder to look at his notes. But different to me, Tom is actually reading from Paul's notes.

Paul: [00:14:16] So Cassandra, when she was looking at my notes, wasn't reading them, but what was she doing when she looked at my notes if she's not reading them?

Christiana : [00:14:21] Did you hear me reading from you?

Paul: [00:14:23] Didn't read them out loud, which is what Tom just did. Okay. So we do a different levels of of.

Christiana : [00:14:28] Can we get back to serious business here? Right. I actually do think that it's a very good idea to call Martin Wolf. Now, he may not take a call because he's writing his column.

Tom: [00:14:39] Today is column day.

Christiana : [00:14:40] Today's column day, but he is one of the deepest thinkers for decades. Right on the evolution of the economy, on the evolution of this tension between democracy and governance at state level, country level versus or in contrast to global issues such as climate and biodiversity and others. And he he's just incredibly thoughtful. I'm not sure that he has all the answers, but he has a fantastic way of illustrating the challenges that we face.

Tom: [00:15:20] I think it's a great idea and I think in particular because one of the thing I've picked up is that there's this tension right now between the alarming summer we've had and rising prices and inflation and war in Ukraine. How do we pull those things together from a policy perspective? So, Clay, can we can we try and call? Christiana, you have Martin Wolf's number, I'm sure.

Christiana : [00:15:38] Let's call Mr. Martin.

Tom: [00:15:39] All right. Whatsapp his number to Clay and Clay, leet's try and call him.

Clay: [00:15:43] Okay.

Tom: [00:15:45] Paul, can I reach? Can I read a few more of your notes when Martin's on the line?

Clay: [00:15:49] Got it.

Paul: [00:15:50] Come back to my notes later. I'm going to have quite a long after Martin and B, quite a long session of essentially me talking about what I want to say something for listeners. I've got to travel to your hotel, which is fine. I sort of. I spoke these words into my computer. Hello? I think that's Martin.

Clay: [00:16:06] Hello.

Christiana : [00:16:08] Hi, Martin. Look at you. You look so professional with your headphones and everything. Whoa.

Martin: [00:16:13] I am actually using a microphone here and the headphones from input into me because the microphone is quite high quality. It should be pretty good.

Clay: [00:16:21] Yeah, it sounds good on our end too.

Martin: [00:16:24] Okay.

Tom: [00:16:25] Great. Anything we want to say, Clay, before we dive in.

Clay: [00:16:28] I'm recording, so we should be good to go.

Martin: [00:16:31] Okay, let's. Let's go.

Tom: [00:16:33] Let's go. Martin, thank you so much for taking our call and speaking to us for a few minutes. I just want to start off with a sort of high level question we're hearing in New York for the UN General Assembly and Climate Week. And I mean, I would say that there's two broad topics of conversation. We've heard a lot from policymakers and business leaders. One is the insane summer we've had with records being broken in different continents and a third of Pakistan under water and these other issues. But the second, of course, is these astonishing rising prices for food and energy around the world and the rates of inflation. What would you like to see in terms of policies that can address both those challenges?

Martin: [00:17:08] Well, the the former obviously, is about the climate crisis and changing the trajectory we're on. And so I suppose what I would like to see is some credible shift in the trajectory. And I don't see it yet. And and the longer we wait, the worse it's going to get. I mean, my assumption has been for a long time since, as Christiana knows, I tend to be on the pessimistic or I would say realistic end of discussion.

Christiana : [00:17:40] By your definition, you call yourself a skeptic. You are definitely very healthy.

Martin: [00:17:46] In my in my job. That is I think that's a job description. And so I'm assuming that the climate situation we're in and are seeing will get worse, considerably worse for many, many years, even if we act decisively now and we're not. That obviously links with your other question, which is the fossil fuels crisis and particularly the gas crisis. The crisis has shown what we all know, which is that our economies, all our economies, I think, and certainly all the all the relatively large ones depend very, very heavily for energy on fossil fuels. Still, despite some significant shifts at the margin, and when the supply of those fossil fuels is disrupted, then both the energy and the chemical industries actually are simultaneously disrupted. And of course, when it's a war, a trade is disrupted as well. And that affects the food supplies we are seeing, because this is a war inside one of the world's greatest granaries and grain producers. So we have been reminded of our extreme vulnerability to disruption in the fossil fuel system broadly, which, as I've argued many times has been for 150 years or more, the core of our economies and which we're trying to change. But clearly we're changing it too slowly.

Christiana : [00:19:39] And Martin would love to hear your thoughts on obviously we have had for a few years now a tendency to shift over toward populism in many countries with with few wonderful exceptions right now. But there is a shift over there, both as a political tendency as well as an economic tendency. And that has actually taken to or led to these attacks on ESG, on environment, society and governance, guidance for investment. And that in turn has now, as of late, had the rise of what is being called by some woke capitalism. I would love to hear you. How do you understand that tendency of woke capitalism and the attacks on ESG? And how do we re conciliate that with the very obvious threats that we have at the global level of climate change by. Diversity to certification and on and on and on and on, which clearly need guidance, ESG guidance. But it's being so, so deeply questioned right now.

Martin: [00:20:56] Well, these these are enormously difficult questions. So, first of all, I have been myself now for about ten years, particularly in the last six or seven, increasingly concerned about the shift to populism. My own view is that is a consequence in sizable part of changes in our economies and societies that are seen by a large proportion of our populations. And here I'm particularly focusing on the developed countries because I know them better. And I think it's where this is happening most quickly and most significantly and above all the US obviously, which is the most important. So what is happening is a very sizable proportion of the population, people who feel economically insecure because of the transformations of the economies particularly, but not exclusively men, people who have predominantly, overwhelmingly not gone to university, who are relatively less skilled. They have seen their relative and in many cases absolute incomes decline over a long period. And they are angry and frustrated. And they also feel that changes in societal norms have adversely affected them. This has created what I describe in a book that will be published in January on this topic called The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism is tinder, dry tinder waiting for a demagogue to set light to and demagogues duly come forward to set light to it. They see an opportunity and they exploit it. And obviously it's pretty easy to think of examples. Donald Trump is the most notorious, but there are lots of others. And this is becoming a very, very powerful coalition around the theme coalition between the the more irresponsible parts of our plutocracy with these people to prevent all the changes that people feel are uncomfortable.

Martin: [00:23:19] That's where we are. And there's particularly obviously a part of that. Essential part of this is the assault on elites, the assault on the university educated, the assault on people who run politics and above all, bureaucracies, and the assault on what you might call the the the bureaucrats of business. The people who run huge companies, who are the managers and so forth, who are seen as part of this so-called woke system. And that's a genuine mixture of economic and class war. Now, ESG is in the in the target sites for obvious reasons, because it's a symbol of the way the capitalist system itself or part of it is being captured. Now, that is how I see it now. What can be done about this? This is really, really hard. And let me just focus on one aspect of this, because we could go on forever. I've always felt that two things about ESG, we should not exaggerate what changes in the behaviour of corporations on their own will ever achieve. I'm not against it at all, but we have to be realistic about this. Companies cannot long pursue policies that their boards and shareholders do not believe will be highly remunerative for them. So ESG works to the extent that it goes along with a more enlightened view of what's going to be profitable. And that's that's the first point. And it's very important to recognise there's a limit to what it will do. The second, in my own view, is the core of this because I always believe in focus should be E I think S and g get a little bit in the way because they're very difficult to define.

Martin: [00:25:21] And I in my view, g matters mainly to the extent it promotes E because that's the biggest crisis of our time and the rest is more difficult. You should focus on the biggest crisis of our time. And the third point I would make, and this is actually a point that Mark Carney has made both in writing and to me personally, is that in the end, business can only operate. Effectively, this area of politics supports them. In other words, there has to be policy and politics. So we have to take this fight on. There's no other way. You cannot duck away from the political fight because unless politicians are elected or in power who believe in the cause, it's not going to happen. So and you cannot expect businesses even run by relatively well-intended, intentioned managers at the moment to take on the task of defeating all these political forces. They have to be defeated politically. And I think there's some hope for this. But I do believe very passionately that the best way to do so is not to ridicule or or condemn people for being deplorable, however deplorable you may think they are. One has to persuade the public at large that this can be done. It should be done. It needs to be done. And actually, it will allow them to examine their children to lead better lives, not worse ones, since I happen to believe that's true. It's a political cause that people on our side have to take up.

Tom: [00:27:02] Yeah. So, Martin, thank you, as always. As a regular reader of your column. I agree with you, I'm afraid to say. But just thinking this through, I think corporations can have a role, I guess, in in communicating with the public and trying to change the public mood. But if I follow your your your your argument that actually you're you're proposing and it's really interesting because I think a lot of people here in Climate Week are agreeing with you that the next stage for the sort of ESG, the corporate responsibility movement, is a kind of pivot to policy and to and to to use the sort of the power of of enlightened capitalism to focus on on increasing government regulation, taxation, carbon taxes, that kind of thing. Is that what you're suggesting?

Martin: [00:27:43] Well, I'm very, very ambivalent on this, and I don't know what I think, but I'll put to you the ambivalence in the book I've written and thinking about this. I am very disturbed as a Democrat. I believe in democracy. There are a few of us left by the idea that and by the extent of influence of corporations in the public sphere. In some countries they are dominant political actors. And I would, in an ideal world argue corporations are not people, they are not citizens. They're not entitled to the right of citizens. And they shouldn't be in the public square. It should be decided by people. On the other hand, that's obviously very naive because where we are now is corporations are everywhere and most of what they do is narrowly self-interested. It's not broadly interested, it's narrowly self-interested to ensure that they don't pay taxes on carried interest or they don't get financial regulation. They don't really that's what it consists of. Given that, obviously it would be immensely preferable if they could be persuaded to use the power that I wish they didn't have for more productive uses, namely ones that are actually in the interests of society society. Whether they will do so can be mobilised to do so is obviously one of the really big questions. And I think the efforts of, for instance, people like Mark and of course, Christiana is going to show whether we can actually make the corporate class, if you like, effective allies in this struggle. But it cannot be done only at that level. We can't succeed, in my view, without persuading a very large number of ordinary people that this is indeed in their interests. Because if we don't, they're going to elect people like Donald Trump and whatever corporations say, they will do so and they will do so by saying, as you've noted at these corporations are woke, they don't have your interests at heart. It's just the C-suite speaking here and they're just showing off to a narrow audience of elites and we should ignore them. And that's a very successful political approach. Load More

Christiana : [00:30:23] Martin, here's here's another we're asking you all these questions about how do you square circles? And thank you thank you for your enlightened ambivalence. I would say here's here's the last circle that we would love to hear how you square it. And that has to do with the issue of time, this political maturation that you're speaking of. Is actually a long term challenge. And yet if you when we would agree with you that E is much more important than the others, but we would also say E has a very, very short term clock, alarm clock in it. And from the climate perspective, we're getting dangerously close to 2030 where a scientists have warned us that if we do not reach the climate targets by then, then we're in really sad, sad shape for the rest of the century. So how do you square that circle? Because you do have these social and economic and political maturation cycles that are not short. And yet we have to get the decisions that need to have immediate impact, not just short term, short term impact, but immediate impact. How do we do that?

Martin: [00:31:40] I wish I knew the answer, to be honest. The. I've thought for quite a while, though I haven't written it because I don't like the conclusion that the only way out of that is to have a benevolent global dictator. We don't want a global dictator. And if we did have one, all the evidence has is it.

Christiana : [00:32:03] Wouldn't be very benevolent.

Martin: [00:32:05] That he.

Tom: [00:32:05] I don't mind. I'm available.

Christiana : [00:32:07] He or she would not be benevolent.

Martin: [00:32:09] I tend to. I've tended to use the word he because there are so few female dictators.

Christiana : [00:32:15] Yeah, indeed. Indeed.

Paul: [00:32:17] Which is a wonderful thing in many ways, though. Perhaps it just shows they haven't been given enough opportunity. It's not an opportunity I would like to increase.

Tom: [00:32:25] But it's for anyone.

Martin: [00:32:28] But the I had hoped. I mean, it seemed to me most plausible, or at least implausible that the G20, which is a relatively small group of countries, which actually include nearly all, nearly all well included, essentially all the significant emitters. It's a small group which has from time to time contained leaders, all of whom basically agreed this is a big problem, though there remain, of course, these vast differences of opinion, quite rightly, on the interests and values involved for developed and developing countries. Because the historical responsibility of developed countries is so obvious and the developing countries so obviously need to grow faster. And that has always created huge problems. But in principle, one thinks that's the group that should decide and we should send them away on an island and with the instruction that you're not allowed to leave until you sorted this out. I mean, that might take six months, but in the end, they probably do it. But the the problem is, of course, as you know very, very well, and I think that's the really if you think politics are essential, I do. That's where it has to go. And the problem, of course, is that relations among the great powers, particularly between the West and China, are breaking down such a rapid rate, frighteningly rapid rate, which I've written a lot about, that it's becoming ever more difficult to see how that degree of cooperation will be produced. The politics within some very important developed countries. The US above all, are very difficult on this. Even those countries like those in Western Europe, which gave a great deal of lip service to this course, are in practice relatively unwilling to make and plan for the enormous changes in their citizens lives which are required. So I'm afraid, and I hate saying this, I don't know the solution. If I did, I would...

Christiana : [00:34:46] You would write an instruction manual for us!

Martin: [00:34:49] I mean, the big problem is this, you know, I've been really, really interested in this for about 15 or 16 years probably. And you longer, I'm sure. The problem is everybody knew that time was running out for a long time. Nothing happened because it was difficult and getting consensus was difficult and there seemed to be so much time. And from a politician's point of view, five years is eternity. So they didn't do anything, you know, the history very, very well. I've called the first major climate conference was 30 years ago.

Christiana : [00:35:26] Yes.

Martin: [00:35:28] And so that's pretty depressing. And then, of course, you get to the problem that having waited so long to do anything serious with a lot of rhetoric on the way, I remember what I wrote about the Paris Agreement. It sort of seems too late, but you can't expect me to do all that in five years. How could I possibly do so? So we've switched from thinking that, well, we don't need to bother now because it's so far in the future to my God, it's clearly too late. Yes.

Tom: [00:35:56] Without the intervening steps.

Martin: [00:35:57] And I just I mean, I've written this stuff endlessly. It feels it's sort of frighteningly tedious doing so. And I don't know how we can break it. The most optimistic view. And I hate to say this because I think it's a ghastly optimistic view is that some catastrophe will happen that is so big that it cannot be ignored and it is not so big that we can't that vast numbers of people can't survive it. We need a huge shock, I fear, and I don't think what happened this summer is alas big enough. But I really find it unbelievably depressing to talk like this.

Christiana : [00:36:46] That is your optimistic, optimistic scenario.

Tom: [00:36:48] Yeah. And if it's if it's bigger than this summer, then it's big, right? Because this summer is really.

Martin: [00:36:52] I think it's pretty obvious the business as usual as it were, which is what these forecasts often are, has a profound hold on us. We can't really, as a species, some can imagine the different world we'll move into either the disaster or the solution. And there is stupendous inertia in all human systems, and that's what we're seeing.

Tom: [00:37:20] Yeah. Martin, thank you so much. I mean, as ever, this is so insightful. We all read your column and so appreciate your analysis and and the steps you've really taken to elevate the climate crisis over so many years. Just I wonder if we can ask you one final question, which we ask all our guests. Can you please share with us as you look at where we are, the urgency, what needs to happen now, what makes you feel outraged and what gets you optimistic.

Christiana : [00:37:46] Now that you've used the word optimistic?

Tom: [00:37:49] And I hope the optimism isn't a massive disaster.

Martin: [00:37:54] Well, I've given you my optimistic picture.

Christiana : [00:37:58] Okay, okay.

Martin: [00:37:59] The I've tended to argue in response to question I'll come to the outrage in a moment on optimism is the one psychological benefit of pessimism, but that's personal psychology. It means that mostly the world is full of pleasant, pleasant surprises. And I don't like unpleasant surprises in this case. Obviously, optimism would have to consist of hoping that we see leaders in all the major countries at the same time who see this as a number one priority and hope to get there through the political process is without first a colossal crisis of the kind I mentioned. The outrage, I suppose, is to me that even now, when I would have thought one cannot. Nobody can seriously doubt what's going on, that there are still so many political forces in countries like my own in the present government, in in America, in other countries who feel either it's not important or it's got nothing to do with them or that it isn't happening. And and obviously, while I don't think we would do be much more effective if all this denial wasn't around, what I do feel is that it's just a level of intellectual and personal dishonesty, which is quite difficult to bear. But unfortunately I have long. I'm too old not to believe that's a permanent feature of human behaviour.

Christiana : [00:39:43] Wow, that's sobering.

Tom: [00:39:45] Yeah. Martin, thank you very much. This has been a fabulous, insightful conversation. We really appreciate it and look forward to reading this week's column, which we will do and to read the new book that's coming. Yeah.

Martin: [00:39:56] Great pleasure. Thank you.

Tom: [00:39:57] Thank you. Bye bye. Bye.

Clay: [00:39:59] Thank you. Thank you. All right.

Tom: [00:40:04] So that was great to get a chance to talk to Martin extemporaneously in the middle of Climate Week. And I mean, what what an insightful person he is. And he's really sort of been able to bridge this incredibly ambitious perspective on climate with such a mainstream point of view that's brought so many policymakers and economists with us to do what he said.

Paul: [00:40:21] He described his his work talking about how difficult climate change is as frighteningly tedious. I'll never forget that. I've never heard anyone say something. It was frighteningly tedious before. What did you what did you leave the conversation to? Frighteningly. Well, it actually wasn't a frighteningly tedious conversation.

Christiana : [00:40:38] No, fascinating but unnerving. Oh, yeah. Right. Yeah. Very, very sobering. I mean, the fact that he feels that the only thing that is going to turn this around is even worse climate impacts than we've had this summer. Because when we say this summer, maybe we're thinking only about the fact that there were three continents that broke heat records at the same time, the United States, China and Europe breaking heat records exactly the same way never happened before. But on top of that, we now today have one third of Pakistan underwater.

Paul: [00:41:19] Unbelievable.

Christiana : [00:41:20] Unbelievable. So I almost felt really like interrupting him when he said, you know, there's going to be or, you know, maybe it takes a major event. And I went like, hold on, a third of a country underwater is not a major event, but it isn't. I didn't ask it because we now know that it isn't enough right now. The fact is, Pakistan is chairing G-77 this year, so get ready for amazing interventions from the G77 at the COP.

Paul: [00:41:50] Yeah, you know, people might say, well, you know, Pakistan is far away from, you know, global centers of power like London or New York. But I remember Superstorm Sandy knocked out electric power in half of Manhattan for like three days.

Christiana : [00:42:04] And apparently that wasn't enough.

Paul: [00:42:06] Exactly. So it kind of makes you wonder, like, what's going to be enough? Yeah,

Tom: [00:42:10] I. I don't share his view that that's how it changes. And I think that that's an even more frightening realization. But as the impacts have gotten worse, I sort of and I remember Tom Friedman said something similar to us a while ago, actually, we had a similar conversation because the instinct when the impacts get worse for most people is to protect yourself.

Christiana : [00:42:33] To recoil.

Tom: [00:42:34] It's to recoil and it's to work out how can I be okay? What's my personal adaptation? How can I grow vegetables and live on high ground? It's not. There's flooding in Pakistan. Oh, my God. I better switch out my SUV for an electric vehicle to connect those two things. Unfortunately, the knee jerk reaction to the stimulus, which is the extreme weather and the terrible impacts, isn't an action that solves the problem. It's an action that tries to protect yourself. So I'm worried that that interaction doesn't work and won't be the way we wake up from this.

Christiana : [00:43:03] Well, I, I would say and I think we've talked about this quite a bit on the podcast. I think the the real lever for change here is short hand, enlightened self-interest. I think big weather events do make people more aware, but they recoil. And so, I mean, I don't know. I'm just this stupid, eternal optimist. I just think that when people understand that we have so much of a better world ahead of us, for heaven's sake, why are we so sacrificing ourselves and and and keeping ourselves in a dark hole here when we could actually have a much better world for ourselves and certainly for other, other generations? It's just it's very interesting to me this sentiment almost like we don't deserve to have a better life. We can't get there. Yeah, we, you know, we, we, we tend to self victimize ourselves and think we are condemned to this. That's what we're worried me so much about last night to think that, wow, people think we don't have an option. In my book, we don't have an option but to solve this.

Paul: [00:44:16] Yeah, I mean, I think there are reasons to be genuinely optimistic. I was really impressed yesterday by hearing David Miliband speak and he pointed out that something that I think we all probably know somewhere in our subconscious minds, but we forget we've got more resources to deal with these problems than we've ever had before. We can be very positive. You know, we're bad at organising ourselves, but it's not like we're in a situation, you know, that's unresolvable. But I think Martin talked about how we can't really imagine how these things can be different. We do have to have more public understanding. And what you were reading my notes that the upshot of The Factor, because I mean, I always have watched Fox News and I watched a lot of Fox News here. Fox News talks simply about two things. One is that we have Biden is is allowing masses of illegal immigration which is ruining. A country and wind farms are stupid. That's basically the dual narrative of Fox News now. The point about large scale immigration is, you know, lots of people are climate refugees from Honduras and other countries. They're coming to the southern border and we are going to have to over a decade or whatever it is, we are going to have to help the public understand that actually you have to deal with these problems systemically. You can't sort of blame Joe Biden and put machine guns or walls at the border. We do have to think about protecting ourselves and refugees in the Americas, in Europe and the Middle East and Asia. You know, refugees are a global issue, but we have to contextualize them in a way that we don't deliver ourselves to the populists, but we actually have a narrative of kind of mutual advantage that we attend to these problems together.

Christiana : [00:45:51] Was that line 34 of your notes?

Paul: [00:45:54] By the way. Do do you know right in about the notes thing? Is it good? Is it bad? I don't think it's the end of the world to prepare.

Tom: [00:46:01] Right. I think that pretty much brings us to the end of the episode for this week. One last point I wanted to make was just what Martin said about the mass persuasion of people, which I think brings us back to one of the things that gave you the most optimism this week. I feel like there is now going to be a significant pivot from philanthropy and NGOs towards mass communications to try to get everybody to understand the situation we're in, which that, to me, potentially could play the role that Martin just described around the role of big crises. We need to connect those dots. People aren't doing them as in themselves. Martin just described that as now what's needed. And one of the things I'm taking away from Climate Week and I hope we'll live to see played out over the coming months, is that this is the moment that the climate community and philanthropy really gets that, and we start doing that in a serious way that we've not done to now.

Paul: [00:46:50] And by the way, I think that fits entirely with when I'm talking about this kind of pivot to policy, because you can't just sort of turn to government and hope something magical is going to happen. You actually have to, in the democracies, have the public engaged and want it exactly right.

Tom: [00:47:05] So, Clay, do we have any music this week? We're a bit less prepared this week, yeah. Being on the road and everything, I'm proud of it. Yeah.

Clay: [00:47:10] Yes we do.

Tom: [00:47:11] Tommy WÁ.

Tom: [00:47:13] Tommy WÁ. Okay, so, Clay, why don't you intro the music?

Clay: [00:47:16] All right? Tommy WÁ is a Nigerian artist and his song that we're playing today is about how beautiful the dawn is, but who can describe it better than Tommy himself? So we'll kick over to him.

Tom: [00:47:27] Thanks for listening, everybody.

Paul: [00:47:29] Bye. 

Christiana : [00:47:30] Bye.

Tommy WÁ: [00:47:33] Hello. I am Tommy WÁ and I am a Nigerian musician based in Accra, Ghana. And the song that I sing to you today, which is part of my next project called Allah. This one is titled For Aquele and I wrote the song from the perspective of me looking for healing from the sun, from the from nature in general. And I remember running to this watchtower close to my house to watch the sunrise and that's where I first understood that this was going to be the only freshest moment of the day, the purest moment of the day in Accra, between six and between 530 and six. Right. And where the car fumes are not polluted the air, the industries have not polluted the air, the neighbours are taking out the trash and all these things. So this is why I wrote the song from Fantasizing. If this moment could just last throughout the whole day, you know, if it's possible. Yeah. So that's the song. Thank you very much. Bye.

Clay: [00:52:00] So there you go, another episode of Outrage + Optimism. I'm Clay Carnill, producer of this podcast. Welcome to the wrap up of episode two. We've got the rust off. We're ready to go. And what a week it's been these next few minutes together. I hope you pick up a few things from the podcast and take them with you as you go. We're going to go through some stuff. But first, let's start off with this week's musical artist, Tommy WÁ. Tommmy WÁ just shared with us his track For Aquele and if you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did, you can go check out this three song Live in New York City concert that was produced by So Far Sounds featuring Tommy WÁ. Link to that in the show notes and his own personal YouTube is just this treasure trove of lyric and music videos and some more live performances that you can spend this weekend. So again, link in the show notes. You can check out all of his social media and music. Thank you to Tommy WÁ. So I said it last week and I promise that I'm going to say it again because we are so thrilled to have you all back for season six. And, you know, it was actually really nice on Instagram. Everyone's messages saying that they missed us and that they were so excited to have us back. There was like a major outpouring of love on our page this past week, and so it just meant the world to us.

Clay: [00:53:26] So thank you to everybody for all your comments and all your messages. Oh, it's just the best. Now, I'm not at Climate Week, New York City, but but I did see that the K-Pop group, Blackpink and, you know, United States National Treasure protect at all costs. Amanda Gorman was on TV and hey, I even got a text message from fellow Global Optimism colleague Freya, a shout out to Freya. She sent me a picture of Matt Damon from an event that she was at. So, you know, I'm feeling like I'm following along, but, you know, I'm not there. But anyway, where am I going with this? So like me, you're probably following along at home. What is going on at Climate Week, New York City. But there's so much it's kind of hard to keep track. And because you are an Outrage + Optimism listener, you want the inside scoop. And one way to see all of the exciting projects, the Outrage + Optimism, you know, Global Optimism. Christiana Figueres, Tom Rivett-Carnac, Paul Dickinson, you know, all of them are all involved in is to follow us online. We're posting about it at Outrage + Optimism on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. Because Christiana and I'm recording this Wednesday just moderated a conversation at the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit 2022 with the CSO of Google, the CEO of Restore. You know, typical Wednesday when you're the chair of the Earthshot Prize, Oscar the Grouch showed up at one point. Reverend Yearwood from the Hip Hop Caucus was there.

Clay: [00:54:54] Cate Blanchett, Prince William were on screen. You can see it all at Outrage + Optimism on our social accounts. Don't miss it. And all of our Paul Stans will love that he did an interview for We Don't Have Time Live from Climate Week NYC. It's just an absolute masterclass on how to make sustainable finance interesting and it is a soothing balm for anyone wishing that Paul's Magical Corner was a regular segment on the podcast. Longtime listeners will know what I mean by that. Oh yeah, of course. And our curated newsletter newsletters are like really hot right now. They're in and ours is like the podcast, but it's written out, it's made for you. Link is in the show notes to sign up for that. We don't spam. It's carefully curated. It arrives predictably on time and we even have little tips from the team section at the end that you can dig into more bonus stuff just for you. So let me wrap by saying thank you to our guest this week, Martin Wolff. Martin, thank you for taking our call and actually gifting us more time than we asked for. Thank you so much for that and thank you from our listeners as well. Links to Martin's column in the F.T. in the show notes and I've actually got his Twitter there too, so you can keep up with him there as well. Okay, friends, onto your next podcast or whatever the day holds for you. Go outside. Go be free. We'll be back in your feed next week with another episode. Yeah.


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