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135: No Substitute For Nature with Zac Goldsmith

There’s no pathway to capping our global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius without protecting and restoring nature.

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About this episode

There’s no pathway to capping our global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius without protecting and restoring nature.

That’s the lay of the land according to The Rt Hon Lord Goldsmith, Minister for the Pacific and the International Environment - our final guest for 2021. At the close of a year that’s seen enormous momentum to incorporate forests and land use well and truly into the climate agenda, Lord Goldsmith shares insights into the context and his vision for the next twelve months.

So, where do we stand now? Among the remarkable outcomes of COP26 was a commitment to halting and reversing forest loss and land degradation by 2030. Signed by 141 countries, the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use covers an incredible 90 percent of global forest. We also saw meaningful progress at this year’s Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming. And the direction of travel? Our ultimate challenge and goal, Lord Goldsmith says, is to reconcile our economy with our natural world – and now has to be the turning point.

Join us for a reflection on some major moments on the podcast this past year and a look into this turning-point moment. Can we reduce emissions by 7% each consecutive year from here on out?

And we have a holiday-themed song as our last song of the season! A special acoustic performance of “It’s Christmas” by Callum Beattie. Stick around for it!

Thank you for a great season!

Mentioned links from the episode:


Full Transcript

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

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

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

Tom: [00:00:18] This week. In our last episode of the year, we look back on the year that was 2021, what we achieved, what still to do, and we cast our minds forward to the next crucial year. Next year, that's got to be just as momentous as the one that's just gone. Plus, we bring you an interview with the Right Honorable Lord Zac Goldsmith about what happened on nature at COP26. And we have music from Callum Beattie. Thanks for being here. So I can hardly believe another year has gone. It's been such fun to continue to do this podcast and observe the world as it passes by and becomes ever more critical. Paul, you want to come in?

Paul: [00:00:58] Happy holidays to you. Happy holidays to you. Happy holidays, dear listeners. Happy holidays to you. Yay!

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Tom: [00:01:10] May I kind of feel like we're going to get through to them was the end of the year without another outbreak of that. But thank you very much, Paul. That was lovely. It hasn't been many much carol singing this year for those around the world, in other countries. The UK, where both Paul and I am, is currently experiencing a pretty intense moment of COVID surge with the Omicron variant, but hope very much it doesn't come to your countries as well because we seem to be, history seems to be repeating itself right now.

Paul: [00:01:35] Hold on. I mean, Omicron is not actually yet ranking that many people ill. It could be a kind of, you know, it could be kind of inoculating us. I mean, you know, I hope I'm right, right?

Tom: [00:01:43] Yeah, there's a lot of mixed data on it. But rather than getting into potential conspiracy theories about coronavirus, which I don't think is why people join this particular podcast, let's look back at 2021. It's interesting to reflect back a full year ago. One of the things that I remembered as I started thinking about preparations for this podcast is it's less than a year since the US rejoined the Paris Agreement. A year ago, Trump was still in the White House, so it is incredible how quickly time passes and how much changes in short periods of time. So let's just start by looking back. Christiana, anything to share on the year that's just gone.

Christiana: [00:02:21] Well, as you say, it really honestly has been such a relief not to have him in the Oval Office. I cannot even express the relief of Twitter, for example.

Tom: [00:02:34] Yeah, you’re famous jumping around a quarter of a million people saw the day that you realized that.

Christiana: [00:02:39] Yes, he was. Thank you very much appreciate that public total lack of decorum on my part. You're welcome. Yeah, really appreciate it. But in addition to that, I wanted to add two things that really marked the year. Certainly the publication of the most severely worded scientific assessment report that we've ever seen. Mirrored interestingly by the COP26 decisions that also had the most severely worded decisions. So I thought that was an interesting wording. And then I don't know how many people were aware of the campaign that was launched several years ago to get the IEA to really focus on one point five and on moving beyond fossil fuels. And this was the year. Yeah, this was the year in which they finally agreed to put 1.5 degrees as their central scenario and came up with very clear wording on, there is no more room for oil and gas. There is no more room. When they mean no more room, they mean atmospheric, right? We just don't have it in the carbon budget to drill anymore for coal or to explore it anymore for oil and gas. And so I'm honestly, really hoping again that this is a pivotal year. That we will now see more and more responses, both in the part of companies as well as in the part of governments to move beyond fossil fuels.

Paul: [00:04:40] And I call it that, Christiana, I think this Trump thing, let's just spend another moment on it. And because, you know, arguably one of the biggest problems in climate change since Paris was the election of Trump. And then I got very concerned, you know, with the storming of the Capitol in January. And I think a lot of people on the right of politics are flirting with suspending elections. You know, Trump's been querying the elections and people can't stand up. And I mean, you know this, this is something that a lot of people are writing about in the newspapers. But I want to just try and remember. I don't know if you all saw, but straight after the inauguration of President Biden, it was a very unusual little bit of film where former Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama sort of stood together at a Covid distance and spoke to the nation to say. We need to respect elections, right? It was a very unusual thing to happen after the inauguration, right? Well, the reason I mentioned this is because people are continuing to talk about like, what is the risk to our democracies? And, you know, I think people have to recognize how serious it is when the rule of law gets suspended, when there are elections are suspended, you know, and there's a kind of, you know, kind of one party rule, you know, all these, you know, all these climate plans go out the window. Probably the stock market value in a sense becomes worthless because everyone kind of loses their money to the dictator. So people are not taking that seriously. But Christiana, I had also prepared a little bit before this. 

Tom: [00:06:10] Can I just make quick point on that democracy piece? And then we should come back to you, Paul and I also want to comment on what Christiane said, but I thought it was very interesting last week that there were two democracy summits, one in Washington and one in Beijing, where both leaders set out their vision of democracy for the future. And what was interesting was that Xi Jinping in Beijing was using the term democracy to describe one party rule that is responsive to polling of the needs of the electorate or citizenry, and then responding to that in policy terms and making a direct challenge to the idea of democratically elected governments by claiming that what they were doing was representing the needs of the people better because democratically elected governments end up flip flopping from one side to the other. So there's nothing I want to say other than just noting that and just pointing out that this is shaping up to be an increasingly intense battleground between different ideologies as we go forward into the future, because I thought that was a really interesting watershed moment. But Paul, back to your point.

Christiana: [00:07:07] But both under the roof of democracy.

Tom: [00:07:09] You're both claiming the terminology. Yeah, exactly. 

Christiana: [00:07:11] The title of democracy. Yeah, yeah.

Paul: [00:07:14] I mean, all I was, on climate change and I was going to say was, I agree this IEA thing was instrumental with the extreme weather. But back at you, Tom, on this particular point. Look, when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and then when China joined the WTO in 2001, there's not really been a political alternative to this sort of free market economy, and therefore there isn't really a competition between ideologies anymore. And so, you know, all sorts of people can come forward and sort of say, this is democracy. But I think, you know, many of us associate democracy primarily with a free press. I mean, we had quite a good discussion last week, a very good discussion, actually, I think with Jennifer Morgan about whether Outrage + Optimism should specifically platform chief executives of oil companies. But, you know, I don't think anyone, you know, really thinks that we should, you know, allow the government to decide exactly who speaks and who doesn't. I think the problem with that is you don't have checks and balances then, and we mustn't get confused about some really important tenants of protecting citizens that are associated with what Karl Popper called the open society and its enemies.

Tom: [00:08:19] I think this is clearly going to be one of the determinant factors of the coming years and an area of enormous risk for all of us, right? As that ideology becomes more flexible and arguably as democratically elected governments as we tend to think about them, arguably are not delivering the first duty of government and keeping the people safe, right? So as a result of that, there's bound to be some threat to that ideology. I just want to bring it back down another level of specificity and go back to what you talked about, Christiana. And actually, you describe there two really interesting moments in the year, which was the IPCC report and the IEA report, both of which moved us forward intellectually and provide the basis for action. But I also I'm just going to quote back to you, something you said in one of our very first episodes of the year and you said, I'm very excited about this year, moving beyond the Trump administration, looking forward to COP26. And one of the key pieces that I think is very exciting is that the Cinderella of this whole climate action, which is everything to do with land use, food systems and deforestation, is now ripe for expansion at last. And I just like to say kudos where it’s due, that was prophetic. That has really, I think in terms of action been the story of the year. Would you agree?

Christiana: [00:09:28] Well, I would agree that it's the story of the year. Yes, I was actually quite surprised to note that we had looked at that at the beginning of the year, but. It's been a long time coming, honestly, right before we celebrate that, it's finally there. I think we should also be just a tad concerned that it took that long. But on the positive side, on the positive side, Yes, I do think that whole area and what we call the Cinderella. It's very interesting to me that for such a long time, we collectively, the U.N. institutionally, has actually done such a deeply studied, carefully designed approach to separate those things. I mean, we have to really look at this. We have a whole U.N. convention for climate change. We have a whole U.N. convention for biodiversity. We have a whole U.N. convention for desertification. And there are some that would want to create a whole UN convention for oceans. Really? I mean, when you think about it, right? Nature. It's crazy, yeah. Yes, we understand that this, you know, each of those are very complex and that in order to get our heads around it, perhaps it was necessary to sort of parse out those pieces. But when you think about it, either from the perspective of Mother Nature, she is just laughing her head off at us that we think that these things are separate and not intimately intertwined, but also think about it from the perspective of small countries who are therefore forced to have attention to these three different international processes and hence also domestic processes. And they're looking at each other going well, isn't all of this actually part of the same? So yes, finally, we're there, but we're a long, long way from recognizing the true integration of all of this.

Tom: [00:11:43] I completely agree and our guest today will delve more into that because Zac Goldsmith was fundamentally, you know, a central part of what happened and the reason why forests and nature became so integrated into. So we'll come back to that. But Paul.

Paul: [00:11:57] You know, I mean, go to Zac soon, but I want to also kind of we've talked a lot in the podcast about all the things that are happening. We unpack the kind of COP. But I would like to just mention that I think there has been a big mood change in what I would call the global business system. I think people kind of accept now we're going to do it like we may not do it in time, but I think the mood has completely changed. I remember the years ago I was involved in the promotion of this Eurotunnel, this big tunnel. They were worried that it wouldn't really get built, and the phrase was the French was good with ‘sans doute’, no doubt. But then it got changed to ‘sans aucun doute’, without any doubt. And I think that the world is in a without any doubt situation now. So I'm going to give you one example from a world I know quite well, which is carbon calculation. There has been hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars going into companies that are developing digital solutions to help corporations decarbonise. I mean, yes, it's food systems, we've talked about nature, but they're in multiple sectors now. We're starting to see this kind of great awakening, I would call it. And I think to me, that was the story of 2021.

Tom: [00:13:08] Yeah, I hear that. It's interesting you say that without any doubt, I actually think this has also been the year in which doubt has re-emerged in a serious way, right? It's the year that trust has collapsed between our people, serious about what they're saying. And there's been doubting about serious intent on the part of both countries and companies, which has been an interesting evolution. And that's not quite what you mean when you make that.

Paul: [00:13:30] No I do. I agree with you, actually. I think before there was a doubt on intent. I don't think there's any doubt on intent now. There's a doubt on the seriousness of the intent, but I kind of see that as progress.

Christiana: [00:13:39] I'm not sure if it's a doubt on the intent. Sorry, I think it's a doubt on the execution. On the application. I think here's a lot of space for that. And understandably so, because we've never done this before, and most of us are still trying to figure out how on earth are we going to do this? And there are those who are looking at that doubt or that conundrum of execution and going, well, you know, forget about the complexities. Just get the darn thing done. Yeah, because we're running out of time. So that's understandable.

Paul: [00:14:18] Yeah, but I was listening to a hedge fund program on my favorite radio station, Resonance FM, called the Naked Short Club. Hedge fund managers talking on an arts radio station, you might ask why, but where else would they be? And playing also the music of Gong, strange people from the 1960s. But the point of my story is hedge fund managers now are increasingly talking about the fact that this is just going to happen. There's going to be huge changes. Someone called Jun Ma, who was the former chief economist at the People's Bank of China, was saying China might spend five percent of its GDP every year for the next 30 years on this. That's crazy money. But the forces of the world will gather and reorganize behind that kind of commitment. And of course, it can be an enormous engine of economic growth, not the growth that leads to pollution, trash and misery, but the growth that leads to construction of safe infrastructure. You've got to notice the difference between the two.

Tom: [00:15:11] So we're going to go to the conversation with Zac in a minute. One thing I just want to mention because I mean, I think looking back at this period of time, there'll be so many moments of realization like this. But I do think that the heat dome that happened over North America this year, where temperatures in Canada reached 125 degrees, you know, areas that are normally 30 degrees cooler than that were all of a sudden transported into totally unprecedented situations. I remember seeing a picture. A billion marine creatures died on the coasts of the Pacific Northwest, and we're seeing a picture of this rocky shoreline covered in mussels, and all the mussels have been cooked in their shells about 120 degrees on the rocks. To me, that was such a terrifying moment, and I think it just really, you can't say that it did more than other terrifying moments that we have, but I think it pierced people's consciousness of what's really happening here in a new way. And I think that actually we might look back, who knows, on this year at the moment that we kind of really realize something serious is going on with the climate and it was affecting us. So that was a really big moment for me this year.

Christiana: [00:16:22] And landed the 1.5 as the ceiling temperature. I think no other year has really landed that despite the fact that we've had that report from the IPCC since 2018, it took us three years to land that and to get really across the board agreement that that is going to have to be the ceiling in temperature. And I mean, what you could have said three years is way too long. On the other hand, it's pretty remarkable that that has switched.

Paul: [00:16:56] Yeah. Yes, it is

Christiana: [00:16:57] From two degrees to one point five.

Tom: [00:16:59] Yeah, absolutely. And that's now very much enshrined as a threshold in the outcome from Glasgow, which is a huge step forward. So unless either of you have anything to add, we'll go to the interview. So today we are very privileged to bring you the last in our series on COP26 and what came out of it. And we've been saving this one for you because it's a great one. And it's about, as we said earlier, one of the great stories of this year, which is what happened on nature, how we move further forward and how important that is for all of our shared endeavours. And there's nobody better than Zac Goldsmith to talk about it. Zac Goldsmith sits in the House of Lords. He is a Minister in the Conservative government.

Paul: [00:17:40] What’s the House of Lords Tom?

Tom: [00:17:41] Why don't you explain it, Paul?

Paul: [00:17:43] Oh, right. Actually, you don't know. Well, fair enough. So people who are not from the UK, you know, we've got like a queen and all this kind of sort of slightly old, all the worldly stuff. Well, alongside our elected representatives, we have like a place of unelected representatives. And if you think that's just kind of like lords that were appointed by kind of kings and queens in the past, you're probably right, actually. Although they've recently been elevating people to the lords who were former politicians. And of course, Zac Goldsmith was indeed a member of Parliament and a politician. So it's a kind of it's a second chamber with a slightly idiosyncratic British history, which I wouldn't say is necessarily, is probably more your kind of Beijing democracy than your kind of mother of democracy Westminster.

Tom: [00:18:26] I'm sure everyone is clear now. I mean, it's basically think of it like the Senate, but not elected, its appointed. But it's not so much hereditary

Paul: [00:18:33] And kind of ironing that out because they kind of worked out that like people who were like born into passing laws, it's not exactly what you might call twenty first century strange.

Tom: [00:18:43]. And also, the House of Lords has to pass legislation, but if they refuse to pass it, the House of Commons can override the Lords. So there's very strange peculiarities.

Paul: [00:18:52] And women in the House of Lords are they Lords? 

Tom: [00:18:56] They are ladies.

Paul: [00:18:57] Well, why is it not called the House of Lords and Ladies then?

Christiana: [00:18:58] Good point.

Tom: [00:18:59] It's a very good question.

Paul: [00:19:01] There you go. All right.

Tom: [00:19:02] Let us not allow this discussion to distract from the fact that Zac Goldsmith is a hugely important person, a minister in the government. He is the minister for the Pacific and International Environment and really has ended up being the person who has led on everything to do with nature and forests at COP26. And I have to say from sort of being inside the echo chamber to some degree, he just drove this agenda forward. He was like, I'm going to make this COP about nature as well as other things, and I'm going to drive it forward. He was personally engaged. He has been involved in this agenda his entire life. The ecologist magazine that he was involved in from a young age that was started by his uncle, that he sort of took further forward. He's been involved in the radical end of environmentalism as he's gotten older. He's kind of tapped into the establishment and ended up becoming a minister. And I have to say I just think he's a huge force of energy, for transformation, particularly on the nature agenda. So here is Zac. Please enjoy it and we'll be back afterwards with a bit more conversation.

Christiana: [00:20:07] Minister Zac Goldsmith, thank you so much for joining us on Outrage + Optimism. I think most people would agree that one of the most exciting results of COP26 was the Glasgow Declaration on Forest and Land Use Agreement that came out and has now been signed by 141 countries, covering 90 percent of forest cover around the world. Quite remarkable. I would say a year ago, we certainly did not think that that was going to be possible. So kudos for your efforts in getting us there. I know it was the work of many, many people, but your hand was on the tiller the whole time. So thank you very much for that. And at the same time, Minister, I think, you must have heard as we came out of COP26, that if there was one asset that was missing from COP26, according to some, is trust. And so how would you from the perspective of the Declaration on Forests and Land Use, how would you see that we can build to, honestly, to recuperate trust that we've lost across all of the climate issues, including nature based solutions?

Zac Goldsmith: [00:21:33] I think well, first of all, thank you very much for those kind words. But look, I totally agree with that. And like anyone who's been involved in these issues for any amount of time and I've been involved for as far back as I remember, trust is an issue. And for those people who are skeptical of the pledges and the commitments that were made, they are I think they are skeptical for very good reason. Pledges have come and gone. Targets have been set and been missed. And so what we tried to do is to create an ecosystem of commitments, each one of which would reinforce the other. So we can't guarantee, of course, that the commitments that were made are going to be honoured. But because of the manner in which those commitments fit together, I think it's much more likely that they'll be honoured much harder for countries or businesses to not honor them. So for example, you mentioned the Glasgow declaration, which was 141 countries representing 90 percent of the world's forests. That is in and of itself a good thing clearly, and I didn't think we'd get that many countries over the line. Indeed, the day before COP began, we didn't have that many countries over the line. There were quite a few that were holding back and simply not engaging at all. But the reason some of those reluctant countries came on board was twofold. One, it was the finance that we came up with, mostly public sector, but also some really big new philanthropic players, not least the Bezos Earth Fund. And combined, we secured a commitment of nearly $20 billion to protect forests. So that also was very, very helpful in terms of getting some of those countries over the line. But even more important than that were the signals that we got from the private sector. So when the 12 biggest buyers of commodities, and bearing in mind commodity production is the main reason by far that forests are being cut down and land is being degraded. When we got those 12 buyers to commit to align their buying practices, not just with 1.5 degrees, but with our deforestation goals as well, then those reluctant countries realized they didn't really have anywhere to go. When we had the same commitment from the multilateral development banks, including the World Bank, that they'd align with Paris and nature, and then the financial institutions beyond that, sitting on assets worth nearly $9 billion. It just each part of the puzzle, if you like, reinforced the other. And I think that as long as we use this year, well, and this year is as probably more important than last year for the UK as presidents of COP, then I think we can tie those players down so that those commitments are honoured. But we've got a lot of work to do well.

Christiana: [00:24:08] And we were we were just talking to Minister Alok Sharma a while ago and we're so delighted that there is a commitment on his part, on your part on the UK government's part to follow through because usually what presidents do is they deliver the cop and then goodbye, they're gone. And the fact that the UK is actually staying the course and ensuring that there is follow up is actually very, very welcome and will contribute to that very important trust building. But I did want to invite you to just go one level deeper into your recognition of the very important role of the private sector or large corporations, because it seems to me from an observer's point of view that at this COP26, we had two buckets of attention that sprang up and that might collide with each other unless we're really smart about how we bring them together. One bucket is this amazing attention that is harvested in the declaration of Forests and Land Use amazing attention for a cop that is a climate change cop. The first time that I remember in decades that there was so much attention and so much commitment to responsible stewardship of forests and land. So a very exciting, I would say, a very exciting commitment or a series of commitments there, as you have explained. However, on the other side, in another bucket, I have never heard as many voices of concern about the use of that funding from private sector going in to for his protection or reforestation or land restoration and that being used as offsets now. Me, a big CDM person, I'm pretty used to that. I'm pretty used to corporations investing into mitigation activities, whether they're industrial, energy or land based and using it against their compliance commitments. But it seems to me that we have hit a I'm not sure if it's a wall, but we've definitely hit a big question mark that is out there about the validity, the credibility of using these very important investments as offsets. And I'm really concerned about that, minister, because if they can't use them as offsets, I wonder where the funding is going to come from. So those corporations that you spoke to and that want to commit to net zero and to stopping deforestation, do you see them linking these two things as offsets or do you see them as two separate and complementary commitments on the part of the corporations?

Zac Goldsmith: [00:27:16] So I think they must be inextricably linked and seem to be inextricably linked. The more we learn, the more we realize that there is no believable pathway to net zero or 1.5 degrees, that does not involve massive efforts around protecting and restoring nature. You know, technology is a wonderful thing and the technological transition is happening. We can make it and we must make it happen quicker. But the technology will never be a substitute for natural systems. You only have to compare mangroves with concrete defenses. Mangroves when they're planted, they cost very little to plant. They lost forever. They sequester carbon. They provide breeding ground for deep sea fish. They protect coastal communities from storm surges. They provide fuel for people. They just the benefits go on and on and on, whereas concrete defenses just do one of those things. And that's to protect the communities from storm surge and quite often not very well. So it feels to me that nature had to be at the center of our climate discussions. That was my personal ambition for COP, and I think it succeeded. But well, it certainly moved. We certainly moved it from the very margins to the center of the discussion. So I hope we get away from that separation between nature on the one hand and climate on the other. But I do understand the concerns, and I think it's incumbent upon us to ensure that the fears that people have are not materialized. And so when we talk about carbon markets, it's critically important that we put as much emphasis on the high integrity projects that companies are investing in or that others are investing in, as with the companies themselves. So for companies to be credibly and authentically taking part in this process, putting money into protecting or restoring nature, they need first to demonstrate a commitment to science based reductions in their own portfolios in their own activities. So this can't be a kind in any way supplement or replace those. That's really serious, gritty business of reducing emissions. It needs to be additional to that, because there are companies that are not going to get to net zero tomorrow. They just can't do it. And there are many, many sectors where that's true. But as long as there are very clear pathways that they've signed up to and committed to that get them to net zero parts of that process, it seems to me legitimately could be investing in protecting and restoring the natural world. And as you say, I can't think of any other way of raising the kind of money we're going to need to turn things around. Public money is fantastic, but it's a drop in the ocean. Philanthropic money is magnificent. We saw a real game changing intervention. People like Jeff Bezos at COP, but even that's a drop in the ocean. So we're we're going to have to mobilize for a

Christiana: [00:29:59] Drop in the forest as well.

Zac Goldsmith: [00:30:01] Drop in the forest, a leaf in the forest

Christiana: [00:30:03] A leaf in the forest. There we go.

Zac Goldsmith: [00:30:08] But so, so it's got to happen and we've got to make it work. And we've just got to make sure that it really is high integrity and it's up to us governments and businesses and so on to make sure that the corners aren't cut and there's no reason why there should be.

Tom: [00:30:19] Yeah. Minister, you made a point earlier, which is that, you know, we thought this year we just had was the critical year to move the needle. And it turns out it was. But it's also the year that we're just about to have is as important or more important. And with this momentum now of the work that you and others have done of integrating forest into the climate agenda, we've got this fascinating year that incorporates the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, as well as the provision in the cop decision out of Glasgow that countries should come back and make more commitments to close the gap to 1.5. Now, in both of those, obviously forests and land use play a crucial role. So I just love to hear you talk for a few minutes about the road ahead and what you'd like to see in the next 12 months.

Zac Goldsmith: [00:30:59] Yeah, I think, first of all, that's crucial. And just before I move to lose it, that ratchet system that you alluded to, this come back in a year's time with better NDCs, I think that was underreported but hugely important it, and it really strengthens our arm. It gives us a mandate as a country, as the presidents for this year to go out to countries and say Great, thank you. Now we need more. And one of the things

Christiana: [00:31:22] That minister, sorry, I have to tell you that we have been giving it a lot of attention because the fact that the mechanism has been ratcheted up is excellent, right? It's really excellent and is one of the central points of success of COP26. I can't imagine what we would have had without that.

Zac Goldsmith: [00:31:45] Well, look, I agree, and it gives me, for example, you know, my my role in all this is mostly around the nature, land use forests and so on a sort of self-appointed role, in a sense, because this is my passion. But luckily, I got the green light from government. One of the things that I want to do with that ratchet mechanism is to try to get those nature commitments that were made in the World Leaders Summit around forests and deforestation by the end of the decade. Get that into countries, NDCs give it a level of formality that it currently doesn't think so.

Christiana: [00:32:14] Exactly.

Zac Goldsmith: [00:32:15] So, that will be a big part of it. But the question goes beyond the ratchet mechanism or even Egypt next year. There are lots of things happening this year. You've got the CBD hosted in Kunming. You've got UNEA, where there are, we've got big ambitions. There's a big focus on the oceans, the U.S. and Palau and France. There are lots of big events and big moments this year. Each one of which we need to use, as well as we can to build on that momentum and in each of the nature commitments that we got at COP, the finance from public sector finance and the private sector, the financial institution commitments, the commodity buys, etc. I am working with really superb people in the UK government, people from all departments of government, but the best of the civil service and figuring out what is the best thing we can do. What's the most effective thing we can do to ensure that each of those commitments has accountability injected right through it, that a pathway is set for us and for those who signed up to these commitments between now and the end of next year or November next year. And this will be the totality of our job for the next 12 months, making real the commitments that we got, ramping those commitments up, giving them a formality through NDCs that they currently lack. But really tackling that very first question that was put to me about trust. We want to demonstrate that this is not greenwash, that these aren't just box ticking exercises. This is real. And by the end of the year, I hope that we'll have not done enough, secured enough and been able to present enough that people will recognise that we are actually at a turning point because it must be.

Tom: [00:33:49] I love that and I love the integration with NDCs. That's essential, and that's great. You're going to focus on that. I know Paul wants to come in a minute, but just I'd love to just hear a couple of words from you on Kunming as well, the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting there. Obviously, a big moment in terms of the nature agenda. What would you like to see out of that CBD meeting for the post-2020 framework?

Zac Goldsmith: [00:34:08] Well, I'm first thrilled that you're answering the question because it lacks the profile that climate cops have, and it shouldn't, but it's no less important. It is equally important, and in some respects you could even say more important. So we and obviously we're not hosts, so we can't direct it in the way that we directed the run up to the climate COP. But we, through our presidency of the Climate COP, have, I think, the ability to build on the momentum that we have secured in the run up to the climate COP. So there are alliances of ambition countries like Costa Rica, Gabon, Colombia, the obvious countries that really are front runners, chomping at the bit, real ambition. Countries within Europe. France, for example, has a big interest always in biodiversity. Germany, Norway, South Korea, fantastic interventions that they made around nature in the context of COP. So our program is to build upon those coalitions and try and divide up the task of raising ambition from the less excitable, the slightly more reluctant countries with a view that when we get to Kunming, there is already a prefabricated appetite for the highest ambition that we can deliver. Now, I don't know what that's going to look like yet. It's very hard to tell. You know, we're not in the driving seat, we're sort of creating our own vehicle that we can drive. And one of the things that we know we need to do if we want to get the highest ambition from the high biodiversity countries, which are often not the wealthiest countries, is to deliver finance. And just as we delivered big commitments around finance at the climate COP for forests, we need biodiversity finance as well. And there's no reason that we can see that. I can see that we wouldn't be able to deliver the same sort of level of finance just to show real willingness on the part of donor countries, but also the private sector. And I hope that too will enable some of those countries to go a bit further than perhaps it would otherwise be willing to go. But there's a huge amount of diplomacy to be done and and you know, I've spent the last few weeks reconnecting with our allies. I was very lucky to see John Kerry a couple of days ago to talk specifically about how we can divide up this task, how we can use him to persuade those countries and private sector players that he's best placed to talk to what we're going to bring to the table. And even though the U.S. is not a formal signatory to the CBD, they will be very clearly an active participant, and that matters to us hugely important.

Tom: [00:36:31] Yeah, fantastic.

Paul: [00:36:33] So Minister, this diplomacy is actually exactly what I wanted to ask you about, because there's something very interesting going on. I mean, if we look in the history books, people would talk about statesmen, that’s rather unfortunate genderized, let's call them states-people. But you know, you're a UK government minister, but you're clearly operating on a global stage. And you said some fascinating things you've talked about, for example, the need for private sector finance to be involved. You've talked about the critical partnership with the 12 biggest buyers of products driving deforestation. You've talked about science based targets and high integrity. How do you see this playing out? Because we're at a sort of new nexus, aren't we, between national governments, global corporations, global investors? How would you like to see that, you know, build a positive feedback loop and become a stronger partnership over time?

Zac Goldsmith: [00:37:28] Well, look, this is clearly a global challenge. And of course, there's a lot we need to do in the UK to have authority, and that means getting our own house in order. And we are, I think, taking big bites out of the problem. We've got a long way to go. But fundamentally, it is about those global partnerships, not a government to government scale. You know, there are phenomenally important partners out there. I mentioned Colombia earlier and President Duque is a passionate nature lover. He understands that Colombia's wealth lies in its natural capital. That, you know, he talks about Colombia as a nature superpower. And that's exactly what it is. And in talking to other countries in that hugely important region, quite often we have done so through President Duque. And he has done an enormous amount of heavy lifting in diplomacy on behalf of the COP presidency, and we rely on him for that. And the same is true in other parts Gabon. You know, President Bongo is, I think, a world leader when it comes to recognizing the importance of nature and protecting what we have and restoring what we've lost and working with other countries in that region to try and ramp up ambition.So there is an enormous amount of that happening. But in terms of the private sector, what I'm hoping we can do, is to harness that big signal that was delivered at COP by some really key players, including household name corporations, big financial institutions and of course, the multilateral development banks, slightly different category, but it's all private sector and to try to create a sense of inevitable and unavoidable momentum so that other companies that may not be the frontrunners, they may not be wildly excited by this agenda, recognized nevertheless, that that is the direction of travel unarguably, unavoidably. Because fundamentally, you know, if you could summarize the challenge, the human challenge, it's one goal. It's reconciling our economy with our natural world. Until those two are reconciled, we're finished. Until that hugely powerful engine, the market, recognizes the value of nature, recognizes the cost of its destruction, then it's going to continue to drive us towards the cliff edge. And so we can only solve that to answer that challenge or solve that problem by having a critical mass of the private sector on board. So that's a really important part of this year. It's trying to build on that momentum, use whatever friendships we have in the private sector and we do have friends. You know, there have been some supersonic contributors to this process in the run up to COP. People and organizations who are willing to be very much part of this campaign. And it is a campaign, and I hope that by the end of this coming year, we will at least be approaching that critical mass. So I think things can change incredibly quickly once you get to that point. And we've seen that, by the way, I think in terms of the carbon, the low carbon transition is happening much faster than anyone predicted in solar, 90 percent drop in cost since the credit since the banking crisis. You know, every prediction that we've used in the UK government or indeed through the European Commission, every prediction in relation to renewable energy take up in the UK is out by miles, with the market's gone way further and faster than anyone had predicted. And I think these kinds of changes, profound that they are, they can happen very quickly. So I'm hoping that we will create that inevitability over the next few months.

Paul: [00:40:48] As Christiana said at the start, there is a nervousness about that nature being kind of commingled with the market energy, and it's a fascinating area that I think we're going to. And a lot more time working out and getting right.

Zac Goldsmith: [00:41:01] Yeah, yeah, I mean, look, I think that's exactly right. But if we talk a lot about the money, you know, huge sums of money that are going to be needed to turn the tide. But a lot of it's not new money. So I mean, you take agricultural subsidies, for example, every year, the top 50 food producing countries spend around $700 billion, subsidizing often highly destructive land use. So, you know, if the scientists always say, well, it's going to cost around 700 billion a year. Coincidentally, that's the figure they often cite. Well, let's use that existing seven hundred billion. Instead of having it invested in destruction, let's shift it so that it's invested in renewable. It's not new money, it's money that already exists, but it is not being invested in the common good. And it could be. So that's a big part of the campaign as well. And that's just one example. A lot of it's about just moving, mobilizing existing flows of finance in a different direction. And I think when you put it like that, it's less overwhelming, less awe inspiring. This isn't, you know, if I say to you and we're going to have to go out and find 700 billion, you might wince, but we don't. We just need to make better use of what we've got.

Christiana: [00:42:03] Well, it may be less overwhelming, but it is still inspiring, because it's such a clear vision on the mobilization of everyone toward that vision is exactly what we need to do now as we return from our end of the year holidays. And we actually have to come to a close to respect your timing. Thank you again for joining us. And so as we do, I just wondered in this, I think, very hopeful and optimistic vision that you have of what can be done, in fact, over the next 12 months. What are you frankly and honestly still concerned about and what are you most excited or optimistic about?

Zac Goldsmith: [00:42:51] I'm excited principally that we got a lot more secured in the run up to COP than I ever thought was possible. And even in the last year, if I compare the conversations I was having at the beginning with the kinds of speeches we were hearing from world leaders on the day itself, there was a tectonic movement and that gives me real hope. So that's where my optimism comes from. I'm, however, full of trepidation about the challenge over the next year because we really have so much heavy lifting to do. And I say we, not just a UK government, of course, you and all our associates and everyone that we've been talking to and working with over the recent months, we've got an enormous amount of work to do and we just got to build up. We've got to keep that momentum. And, you know, I think the UK government has resisted that temptation to see a tick. Job done. Good conference move on. Yes, and I think we have been. Yeah, well, that was a concern of mine, I have to admit. But we saw that brilliance that I just was alluding to earlier. We've protected that infrastructure, that cross departmental infrastructure the brightest and the best. And there will be no letter over the years. So that is really reassuring to me and it makes me feel that we can really move this, this mountain that we need to move significantly over the next 12 months.

Christiana: [00:44:10] Well, it's reassuring to all of us actually to hear that. So thank you very much for staying there on the rudder. Lord Zac Goldsmith, thank you so much for sharing some time with us here on Outrage + Optimism on very, very hectic days. We really appreciate it and we will probably be knocking on your door again, maybe halfway through the year, just to get a sense of where we are on all of these very impressive challenges.

Zac Goldsmith: [00:44:41] Any time, thank you so much for your time and thank you, more importantly, for what you do and have done. One of the great heroes. Not the only one on this call, either, so thank you all very much indeed for the brilliant work that you're all doing. And let's speak again soon.

Christiana: [00:44:54] We're thankful we're all on the same team here, all on the same team we are. Thank you. Goodbye and happy holidays 

Paul: [00:45:02] Bye for now.

Tom: [00:45:02] So, so great to get to sit and chat with Zac. Just a couple of weeks after COP and hear his reflections on what came out of it, what did you both leave that with?

Paul: [00:45:17] Look, I'm hugely impressed by his work. You know, you can feel his energy when he talks and his commitment and his focus. I mean, he's actually, I researching some of the things he's been saying. He agrees with my new obsession, he says, you know, we've got to have laws that reflect the total dependence we have on the natural world. We need money, law and taxes. Government can create the framework. Government can set the rules, but I think with politicians like him around, we can get this done. But let's just remember everybody getting this done means, it means seven percent reductions a year from now to 2030 and with COVID and all of that, we got a six percent reduction for one year, so we are talking about absolutely radical action, and I think that I just love the dynamism that Zac had that made me believe that people like him can get us there.

Christiana: [00:46:13] You know, I've been thinking how lucky, blessed, privileged, whatever words you want to use, we were that the UK COP presidency had someone like Zac Goldsmith that has the political clout and standing both within the UK government as well as outside to have really railroaded this agenda through the way it needed it, because honestly, if I compare to other, let's say, ministers of state who are responsible for these issues in other countries, they tend to be Cinderellas in the cabinet. They tend to be, you know, one of the weakest ministers of state in all cabinets, and most people don't pay much attention. And if we wouldn’t have that kind of leadership in the UK COP presidency, we probably wouldn't have been able to harvest the results that we did. So I am just hugely grateful for his lifelong work, but also for having focused it so clearly on the global challenge that we had at COP26. I just, you know, thank you, universe. Thank you, universe that he was there at that moment in time and that he chose because he didn't have to, that he chose to use and focus his political clout, his understanding, his knowledge to mobilize so much international support.

Tom: [00:48:04] Yeah, I think that's such a great point that actually, because, you know, Zak has a certain, like everybody does, write a certain store of political capital that he can choose how he deploys and his comes from all sorts of places, but not least from, you know, his privileged background and the life that he's lived, the fact that he knows the prime minister. And you can have all kinds of views about that and people do. But what's interesting is he's chosen to use that position, that privilege and that political access to make the world a better place and to deploy it in the single minded focus in the protection of wild places that he loves and the restored restoration of degraded land. And I have to say, sort of being to some degree on the front lines of this with the Bezos Earth Fund role that I've got and a couple of other things, I was amazed at how Zac would roll up his sleeves and get involved. I mean, his team was small. Him and Tom Clements, the person you know, his adviser who works on this, and they were just all over this agenda. They were calling people. They were making stuff happen. They were 100 percent focused on it in a way that you don't always see from people in leadership. So I would completely echo what you said.

Christiana: [00:49:06] And they didn't have. They didn't have to. This was this was absolutely came from such a deep place inside of him. Yeah. You know, thank heavens. Yeah, I don't know who we thank the universe the heavens. I don't know somebody, but thank you.

Tom: [00:49:22] Not Boris. We don't need to thank Boris. But yeah, anyway.

Paul: [00:49:25] Well, I mean, you know, he's a politician and you know, politicians are important. Government laws are important. I'm just thinking back through the year, who else if we had on who is a politician? What about the wonderful Gina McCarthy? Do you remember we had her just as she was

Tom: [00:49:40] Coming from a car park

Paul: [00:49:41] Yeah, you know, she was driving to Washington, D.C. to take on her role at the EPA and stops her car and allows us to do an interview on Outrage + Optimism. What a privilege. And then also, by the way, this year, what about the privilege of hearing from Johan Rockström and us turning in, like pivoting away from just promoting the nation of Costa Rica to promoting the incredible Netflix documentary Breaking the Boundaries? Well, I think we were kind of promoting them both. It was. It was a dual promotion without a dollar passing. Either way, I have to say. But then also, what about the incredible Dame Ellen MacArthur, who we interviewed this year, one extraordinary human she is in her amazing achievements. 

Tom: [00:50:21] And then I would also point to Enric Sala actually, particularly focused on today, because that was also a beautiful piece on nature. You know what he's done to restore oceans. I would recommend people to listen to that one. Enric Sala, founder of Pristine Seas.

Paul: [00:50:33] Of what?

Tom: [00:50:34] Pristine Seas, do you not listen to the episode?

Paul: [00:50:36] But I did. But just the people who didn't listen to the episode for people who didn't before you laugh too much Christiana Figueres and for people who didn't listen the episode, Tom, explain what Christine's is.

Tom: [00:50:50] Haha. Pristine seas is a global attempt to preserve marine environments.

Paul: [00:50:54] There you go. And very important it is to the two others I was going to mention. One is the interview. We've interviewed three, I think oil company chief executives from BP, Occidental and also Ben Van Buren Burden from Shell, and they've been very controversial and we've received a lot of heat around those. So that's interesting to notice the tension and the charge there is there. But then just at the other end where I think we can be pleased or proud, I've been delighted to be learning myself and helping others some of our deep dives into things like the future of shipping and the future of urban transport. And I'm extremely excited that next year we're going to. Can you say a deep dive into food? It sounds like a really weird thing to say, but we're going to do. A much deeper exploration of food and the food system next year, so that's something I'm looking forward to.

Christiana: [00:51:46] Yeah. I also wanted to point out Sarah Thomas, our wonderful Executive Producer here on the podcast, reminded us that I was speechless during the interview with Professor Dr. Johan Rockström when he very clearly laid out the dangerous territory that we're in of having already breached several thresholds. And I do remember I remember that moment. I remember where, you know, the pain from way down in the bottom of my stomach went like, Oh shit, oh shit. Do you remember that episode that was very vivid this year?

Paul: [00:52:35] Yeah, it's kind of like, you know, the Earth is ill. And he was like the doctor and it was like the visit where you got the kind of information.

Tom: [00:52:42] Yeah, it felt like there'd been a diagnosis of being really ill. It really landed with me, for sure.

Paul: [00:52:47] Yeah, no. But on the plus side, so much energy and excitement from so many different people. And you know, in a way, I think it's all falling apart just at the same time as it's all coming together. And that's what's that's why it's kind of all all to play for. But I think when you look back from the start of the year and what we were saying to now, there is an arc, you can call it progress. It might be that we missed the target. It might be the tree that is just the right size at whatever size it is as it grows. And, you know, time for us to take stock for those of us, certainly in the northern hemisphere and other places that celebrate at this time of year, the fact that it's dark and cold, but it will change.

Tom: [00:53:29] Yeah. Well, we have certainly enjoyed doing this podcast for another year. Thank you so much for joining us and for listening. It's a huge pleasure and privilege to do this work, and we so appreciate doing it with you. And we are now, of course, entering into another crucial year. In the most decisive decade, there seems to be a whole string of them that were going through at the moment, but next year is certainly going to be,

Christiana: [00:53:54] Decades do have 10 years. Yeah.

Tom: [00:53:57] Well, I keep hoping we'll reach here and say, OK, it's done now. We can just forget about the rest of the year, but yeah, the rest of the decade.

Paul: [00:54:02] 2029 and we've got to have like ninety seven percent reduction in one year. No, no, no. Let's make sure that does not get to that point.

Tom: [00:54:09] Okay. Well, so thank you very much. Have a wonderful break over the holidays. Those who celebrate Christmas enjoy Christmas if you celebrate the solstice, enjoy that. Hanukkah, whatever it may be, I hope you have a great break and look forward to seeing you refreshed in 2022. We're bringing you music as ever. As I said, we celebrate all of the

Paul: [00:54:28] When are we back from break?

Tom: [00:54:30] We are back in February. Absolutely right, Paul on, you know, finger on the pulse as ever. We are taking a break in January and we will be back with you. There may be a couple of bonus episodes in January, but we will be back with regular podcasts from the beginning of February. February the 3rd. So I look forward to being with you. Then I will be enjoying some time with Christiana over in Costa Rica over the new year with my family. I will be out there for a bit, so maybe we will be recording from there. But for now we're leaving you with a piece of music and this week it's very seasonal. It's by Callum Beattie with his single It's Christmas, so please enjoy this. Thanks as ever for listening this year and we look forward to seeing you next year. Goodbye, friends.

Christiana: [00:55:15] Bye bye.

Callum Beattie: [00:55:19] Hi, this is Callum Beattie. I'm really happy to be supporting the Global Optimism podcast. Here's an exclusive version of my new single, It's Christmas.

It’s Christmas by Callum Beattie [55:32] [Song Plays]

Clay: [00:59:15] So there you go, another episode of Outrage + Optimism, I'm Clay, producer of the podcast. That was Callum Beattie with It’s Christmas. Is raising money for Steps To Hope, an organization committed to helping homeless people in Edinburgh. They run hot food services five nights a week, as well as provide accommodation and support for those who are on a recovery journey. So as we're closing shop for the year, going home to be with friends and family, could I ask you to please consider donating to Steps To Hope? I've got a link for you in the show notes to donate directly to them. I was reflecting on Callum's words in the song Christmas is wherever you call home, and it's so important that we financially support organizations like Steps To Hope. Because for some of our brothers and sisters who are homeless and struggling with addiction, home this year will be waiting for them at Steps Hope. So thank you to Callum Beattie for the tune and bringing our awareness to this amazing organization, the work they're doing, and thank you to our listeners for donating. It makes a positive difference in people's lives. So thank you. Ok, thank you to the Right Honourable Lord Zac Goldsmith for joining us on our last episode of the year. If we're handing out awards, Lord Goldsmith wins the best Zoom background of the year. He's got this amazing print of a forest that you just, you know, when you're on a zoom with him, you just kind of believe he's in a forest when he's talking to you, and you can see it on our social media post with footage from the episode. Kind of puts my background to shame, so I got to step it up this next year. So thank you to Lord Goldsmith. All right. Our entire podcast production team at Global Optimism has humbly worked in the background all season without a single mention from me in the credits. And, yeah, didn't complain once. This podcast that you tune in for every week is not possible without their tireless involvement. And you know, like, remember all those COP26 episodes? Yeah, it's a team over here making sh*t happen, I can swear, right? Christiana did, but I'm going to censor myself because my mom listens to this. Hi, mom. Sorry, mom. So our team members deserve a thank you. So thank you to Marina Mansilla Hermann, Lara Richardson, Sara Law, Katie Bradford, Zoe Tcholak-Antitch, Freya Newman, Sophie Baggott, Fabio Scaffidi-Argentina and introducing our new Executive Producer, Sarah Thomas. Thanks team, and we all get by with a little help from our friends. Who could forget our good friend, Dan, the Big DC Curtis, who stepped in the season and helped us keep the show on the road. And while we're at it, our hosts who led us through it all are Christiana Figueres, Tom Rivett-Carnac and Paul Dickinson. A Happy Holidays to you all. And of course, we would be just shouting into the void if it wasn't for our dedicated listeners. And that's you. Thank you for engaging with us each step of the way as we strive to co-create a better world together and do a podcast at the same time. I mean, I say this all the time. I get to work on a podcast. A podcast! So endless gratitude to you all for listening and happy holidays. Happy New Year. If you enjoyed this season, please leave us a rating on Apple Podcasts and be sure to hit subscribe because we'll be right back here in your feed in the New Year. Join us won't you? Get some rest, enjoy the break and we'll see you in the new year, right?


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