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213: September Stocktake

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About this episode

Welcome to another episode of Outrage + Optimism, where we examine issues at the forefront of the climate crisis, interview change-makers, and transform our anger into productive dialogue about building a sustainable future.

This week, we welcome back perennial friend of the podcast Nigel Topping as he joins Christiana, Tom and Paul on a fast-paced whistle stop analysis of the recent and up-coming events (Africa Climate Week, UN General Assembly and New York Climate Week) populating the climate change calendars. If that was not enough, the team also discusses the soon to be published IEA report, set to declare the ‘beginning of the end’ of the fossil fuel industry, (watch out for the ‘Minsky Moment’) as well as the much anticipated recent UNFCCC Global Stocktake report, with an invitation to view these reports in a more integrated way. 

Music this week comes from Nu Deco Ensemble and their beautiful piece of music titled 'Sacred Earth'. The orchestra’s mission is to create compelling and transformative genre-bending musical experiences that inspire, enrich and connect new and diverse audiences and artists.


Nigel Topping, Member of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) / Non-executive director of the UK Infrastructure Bank (UKIB)
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Fatih Birol’s op-ed: Peak fossil fuel demand will happen this decade

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Full Transcript

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

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

Paul: [00:00:17] I'm Paul Dickinson, and.

Nigel: [00:00:18] And I'm Nigel Topping. 

Christiana: [00:00:22] Yay Nigel. 

Tom: [00:00:22] Nigel, welcome back. Okay, this week we have special guest friend of the podcast Nigel Topping, who is back for the whole episode to talk with us about the Global Stocktake, the Africa Climate Summit, the G20, the IEA finding that we will peak fossil fuels this decade and to look forward to UN General Assembly week next week. Plus we have music from Nu Deco Ensemble. Thanks for being here. Nigel, it has been far too long. Welcome back to the podcast. You ended your post last year. 

Christiana: [00:00:55] Nigel, we miss you, we miss you. We're so glad you're here.

Paul: [00:00:57] You'll always be our champion, even if you're not the champion anymore. You'll always be our champion.

Christiana: [00:01:02] Yes, well put, well put.

Nigel: [00:01:05] It's very nice to hear you say that, though it is September and I have been waiting for the call up for nine months, so.

Tom: [00:01:09] Oh, come on.

Paul: [00:01:11] Should we call Nigel this week, no let's wait a couple of months, call him later.

Tom: [00:01:15] We've been waiting for the moment of peak insight where we could have no one but you, Nigel. And this is the moment. So, so, first of all, we're going to get into this. So much going on. We'll have to kind of crack through it fairly rapidly. But first of all, how are you doing? It's been a little while since you stepped down now, what are you up to? How does the world look now that you are outside of this crazy system that we're all familiar with and sort of participating in it, looking back at it, figuring out what's next?

Nigel: [00:01:39] Yeah I mean, surprisingly, I'm very busy. I thought I might be a bit more relaxed now, but. 

Tom: [00:01:43] I'm not surprised.

Nigel: [00:01:44] Of course, the amount of work to be done has not has not gone down.

Christiana: [00:01:46] Who said stepping down, it's more like stepping up and in.

Nigel: [00:01:52] I'm a bit less organized now because I haven't had a whole machine to organise me. So in a way that gives me a bit more space to think. And I'm really working on two things. One, and we'll get into this when we talk about the Stocktake and the IEA, is like actually trying to wake people up to the reality that in many sectors we are transitioning much faster than people thought was possible, this exponential transformation that's happening. And then the other thing I'm really working on is how do we mobilize finance in emerging markets. So the Africa Climate Summit is very relevant there because that's where I'm more, I'm less positive, more concerned. And then at home, I've now become a member of the Climate Change Committee as well as being on the board of the UK Infrastructure Bank. So I'm trying to trying to keep the UK driving forward. Load More
Tom: [00:02:31] Okay, against some significant headwinds at the moment, of course. That's interesting.

Paul: [00:02:35] Can I ask a question, what's the Climate Change Committee for people outside of our little islands in Northern Europe who won't know what it is Nigel? What's the climate?

Tom: [00:02:41] That is false modesty from Dickinson. He just said before we joined that it was globally relevant. Sorry Nigel, carry on.

Nigel: [00:02:46] Yeah.

Paul: [00:02:46] It's linked to the Climate Change Act, right. So this is part of a parliamentary process, right?

Nigel: [00:02:51] Yeah, it's a really interesting, actually I think it's a really brilliant piece of UK policy making innovation. You know, in many countries, climate policy is a is tossed from party to party. It's like a plaything of of polarized politics. It makes it very difficult to have long term, consistent climate policy. When the when the UK passed their Climate Change Act, they created a body called the Climate Change Committee, which sits outside of Parliament and advises governments, particularly on the five year carbon budgets. And so far Parliament, or the government of the day has always accepted the recommendations of the Climate Change Committee on the carbon budget. So now 78% by 2035 reduction, the Carbon Budget 7, which we've now starting working on, will be delivered to the UK Government early 2025. So in time to inform the NDCs for COP 30 and that will go forward to 2040. But also interestingly and importantly, the Climate Change Committee gets to critique governments and provide feedback on progress. So we've recently published a very frank summary of the progress or lack of it in the UK, and there's some great stuff the UK is doing, but there's a lot of areas where we're concerned and we actually think things have even gone backwards.

Christiana: [00:04:01] Yeah.

Tom: [00:04:02] How's the UK doing in comparison to Costa Rica, would you say, in your sort of position sitting on the board?

Paul: [00:04:06] That's a very divisive question, Tom. I feel very uncomfortable with that question being asked.

Christiana: [00:04:10] This is very dangerous territory that we're moving into.

Paul: [00:04:14] It's like my parents are arguing or something. It's just not good.

Nigel: [00:04:17] Actually Tom, the honest answer is I don't know. I think it's a really good question because I think, you know, if we talk about the Stocktake, the whole idea of the Stocktake is that it is time to inform the next generation of NDCs. And for me, for me, I mean, there's a lot of talk about the Stocktake is about how how off track we are, which we all know. But it's I think you have to dig a little deeper to find out where are we going faster, which countries are going faster. And for example, if California and Germany can commit to net zero 2045, and if the UK Climate Change Committee can have a net zero 2042 scenario, why can't everyone get to net zero in the early 2040s.

Tom: [00:04:52] It's a great point. So let's go there. So first of all, let's, so we've got a few things to crack through today. But and let's start off with the Global Stocktake because that came out this week, Christiana, I wonder if, first of all, because this was put in place while you were executive secretary. You want to just tell us very quickly why a Global Stocktake, why is it important and love to hear analysis also on what was in it, because it came out just a few days ago.

Christiana: [00:05:12] So the Global Stocktake is mandated by the Paris Agreement and it's mandated that the first Stocktake will take place in 2023, which is where we are. And then every five years after that. And what it's meant to do is it's meant to be a milepost along the path of decarbonisation of the global economy over the next few decades. And every five years we all have to report in to figure out are we on track. And not surprisingly, the first Global Stocktake that has just been published, but that will be then discussed and reacted to at COP 28 tells us that we are not on track and it is the result of two years of consultations and many, many inputs from governments, business, NGOs. Et cetera. Et cetera. And yes, it tells us that we are not on track. But or maybe I should say, and, it also tells us that, lo and behold, we, despite the fact that we must fall by 43% of emissions by 2030 and a further 60% by 2035, which is exactly what science has been telling us now for eons. But the Global Stocktake is also telling us the window is closing, but it is not quite shut yet. And so we can basically I don't know how to say it, sliver underneath, just barely get there. And that is the big question. How do we push our way through a closing window in order to be able to protect 1.5 as a average temperature increase, because we may have already gone beyond the 1.5 for individual years over the next seven years, we may hit 1.5. But the point is, how do we protect that ceiling as an average ceiling.

Tom: [00:07:18] Right. And it was very interesting because I mean, there were also stuff in there about the fact that now the reductions we need to make are economically beneficial to the world in general. So there were some really good signs. Paul, what did you make of it? And then, Nigel, I'd love to hear how you interpret what was in there.

Paul: [00:07:31] Look very, very briefly, this brilliant system was set up to tell us how we are, and I think we could all see it coming. We got a horrible warning. You know, it's a if you think of it in medical terms, you know, this was this was a kind of diagnosis of where we are and things are really bad. And so actually, you know, the system is working in a way. We've been given a very serious warning and we have to take it very, very seriously. So, you know, it's kind of.

Christiana: [00:08:02] We've been sent to the ER, let's put it that way.

Paul: [00:08:04] We've been sent to the ER. And just around the corner is intensive care and there's nothing beyond that. So, you know, I'd much rather be going in the other direction, but we've been given our medical warning.

Tom: [00:08:15] So Nigel, I mean, as you said earlier in your intro, much of your work is focused on how do we like pick up these other signs that are going on that are sometimes ignored around the rapid transformation, these exponential S-curves that you've done so much over the last few years to kind of embed in people's minds. What did you take from, I mean, the report was framed as kind of we're not doing enough, we need to do more, etcetera. And there were these little nuggets in there. How should we think about the Global Stocktake report now that it's out?

Nigel: [00:08:38] Yeah, I think the most important word, and Christiana emphasized it earlier is 'and, so we're not doing we're not we are off track and it is true that we are starting to see very strong evidence in some of the most important sectors that we're not going to sneak under the bar, as you suggest Christiana, we're going to surge under the bar and explode into a net zero future. And so, you know, and we see this.

Christiana: [00:09:01] I'd much rather see that one.

Nigel: [00:09:04] Well, but we see this. And the important thing is this is not wishful thinking. This is the facts of the very strong time series that we have, the data we have from the last ten years from renewables and electric vehicles are growing exponentially and nearly all of the forecasters don't model for exponential change. It's a technical conversation about the way people forecast. But nearly all forecasters are always wrong on the low side. Now, I think if you're always wrong on the low side, you should either change your methodology or resign. And the problem is that those forecasts influence policymakers who are like, oh, the forecasters say we're going to be at 40% EVs by 2030. Let's not be more aggressive than that otherwise we might be wasting money. So if you actually model the S-curve, you know, this exponential growth, which of course then flattens out when you get near to 100% saturation, we are going much faster. And we're even starting to see the IEA say that in RE and EV, we're going faster than we need to be to be on track for net zero by 2050, which is why I say I think we're going to get to net zero before 2050. You've got enough data on renewables and EVs to start to be more confident there. In other areas where green hydrogen, green steel, many other areas, it's too early to say so, but I think I'd like to see more more not just how far off track we are, but what's the evidence of growing momentum, because that's the that's the direction of travel that policymakers and investors need to play to.

Christiana: [00:10:27] You mentioned the IEA, and we're recording this on September 12th. And just today, the IEA published an astonishing admission and they are saying the world is actually beginning, at the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era. Now, what is fascinating about that is that every time that the IEA, the International Energy Agency, headquartered in Paris, top authority of energy in the world, every time they have made a projection, as you mention Nigel, they've had to, six months or maximum 12 months later, they've had to correct that because they're constantly projecting in a linear, gradual, marginal way instead of recognizing that these technologies are on an exponential curve. And so just to bring us quickly up to date, last year, they came out and they said, well, we're going to peak oil, gas and coal sort of maybe around 2030. Today they're saying we're going to peak the demand by the way, demand for oil, gas and coal before 2030. That is really, you know, yet another evidence of the fact that all of these models, as Nigel has just said, are still incremental and linear and not really understanding. But I just want to put a little pause here. They're talking about demand. And I think at some point we should also talk about supply because that is not peaking yet.

Paul: [00:12:10] And just one small point Christiana, you're absolutely right. The, Nigel you talked about the relationship between forecasters and policymakers, but we're not actually like forecasting the weather here. We're not trying to work out what's going to happen. The policymaker has the power to make certain outcomes happen. So you're making your own weather. And that's why the policymaker is so critical to all of this. We're not like just neutrally watching it all happen. We can decide what happens. We always forget that.

Nigel: [00:12:35] You know, Moore's law is very relevant here, right. Gordon Moore, you know, 60 years ago, said that we'll exponentially improve the performance of chips. Right. And there's nothing there's no physical reality behind that. It's not a fact of physics or chemistry. It's just an assertion of belief in our collective innovation ability. So it really doesn't matter what we say we believe is possible because then people start to work towards it. So you're absolutely right Paul. If policymakers just say, oh we're at you know, people say we're going to get to 40% and then aim for that, guess what, we'll probably get to 40%. If we say we're going to get to 80% and we aim for it, guess what, we'll get to 80%. It's messy and it's hard, but it's you know, it's like the moonshot, it's not supposed to be easy. It's supposed to be hard. So it really matters that we believe in ourselves more than a lot of the doom and gloom that I worry is a prevalent message out of the Global Stocktake.

Paul: [00:13:28] Yeah.

Tom: [00:13:29] Yeah. And Nigel, I mean, looking now, the fact that the IEA have come out with this seemingly very encouraging piece of information around how we're going to peak demand of fossil fuels, do you think that also falls into this category that actually we will do it sooner than their predicted? I mean, does that principle that you talked about earlier, does it hold true for this as well?

Nigel: [00:13:48] Yeah, I mean the, I mean, the IEA is brilliant and Fatih's, you know, real one of the sort of heroes of this transition. But they're also very institutionally constrained their, their main scenario they put out of current policies, it doesn't actually meet the technical definition of a scenario, i.e. a plausible future because there's no plausible future in which policymaking stops yesterday. But they do now have very importantly, their net zero scenario. But also I think the most exciting work the IEA are doing now is they're looking at the pipeline of implementation of clean technology. So if you take PVs, they look at how much photovoltaic manufacturing capacity have we got now in the world compared to what we need by 2030. And it's like 35%. So that's a message of failure. Oh my god, we're in 2023 and we're only at 35% of what we need by 2030, we're doomed. We're useless. But then they, then they say, okay, but let's look at what's been committed to be built by 2030. And you add that to what we're already at, it's 150%. So we've already built or got committed 150% of the capacity of PV panel manufacturing that we need in 2030, which is which is a message of hope and optimism and oh my god, we're going to smash it. So it really matters the framing of the analysis. So I think the IEA are getting more confident, but they're still not actually modelling those S-curves. And so some of the work that Rocky Mountain Institute particularly have done that I've been closely involved with is actually now starting to model those S-curves and shows us much more ambitious and earlier peaking and and faster acceleration. And most importantly, that starts to destroy a lot of the demand for fossil fuels, particularly oil in the case of course, of electric vehicles.

Tom: [00:15:28] Interestingly, I mean that. Sorry, go ahead.

Christiana: [00:15:30] Go ahead. Go ahead, Tom. Oh, okay. No, I just wanted to take it one step further because Nigel mentioned demand destruction. And the next step to that then, of course, is what is the response of supply, i.e., what are oil and gas companies doing. Because they are continuing to operate as though there were no peaking of demand. In fact, they're operating as though they were an increase of demand, which is not proven by any means on any of the data that we're seeing. And so it's an interesting dynamic between the demand because of the superiority of those technologies and their lower cost and the fact that oil and gas companies continue to be completely blind to that. And they're going to be, you know, sort of surprised when they are found with their pants down because there they are sitting on a huge amount of assets, all of which will become stranded assets and all of which are actually very, very dangerous for the stability of the global economy because there is such a difference between the reality of demand and the reality of supply.

Paul: [00:16:53] And let me just add one point to that Christiana, just linking up with this extraordinary study by Climate Central saying that 98% of the world population experienced, you know, abnormal temperatures this year. How quickly can culture, how quickly can culture create demand destruction. People just, you know, thinking, I'm not going to buy an enormous three tonne Range Rover. People are thinking I'm not going to, you know, do whatever these high emissions activities are. I think that we could see really fast moves with culture, which doesn't feature in any of this.

Tom: [00:17:27] 100%, I think that's really that's really critical. But Nigel, how do you respond to that point about about supply as well? Do you do we because there have been so much interesting analysis around this that this is coming and yet investors and fossil fuel companies still think they're the smartest people in the room. And so they'll jump off the wagon at the last minute.

Nigel: [00:17:44] Incumbents tend to always assume their the smartest people in the room until they're until they're proven otherwise. I mean, you know, every every investor thought they could spot the housing bubble. Every investor thinks they can, not every but 98%, you know, it's like it's like that old that old feminist quip that 99% of men think they're above average drivers right.

Christiana: [00:18:00] I've never heard that but I think it's very true.

Nigel: [00:18:03] But I think, so I think Christiana, I think that the oil industry knows very well that the time will come. But they also know this power of the story of the future, which is one of the reasons why they project growth. Because if they project growth, it's more likely that policymakers will be like, oh these really clever people whose job it is to understand the energy markets are saying that oil demand is going to grow. We better make policy decisions accordingly. So I think it's quite I think it's quite cynical. And of course, it's oil industries is across the whole spectrum on this. Some of them are predicting massive growth, some some not. I think one of the interesting things here is that we've really got to get investors. So one of the things that I'm hoping we can achieve in the next six months is take all the work we're doing on much better modelling of exponential growth and then see if we can get the rating agencies to do a little thought experiment and say, okay, if that's true, and by the way, these curves fit the data much better than the IEA and Bloomberg's curves do, then what would what might the implications be on oil company credit ratings. Because then we get, you know, once people start to feel like credit ratings are going to be taken down, I'm not sure too, then you're really getting into the heart of the economic decision making. And that's where we need to get to, is that realization.

Christiana: [00:19:12] How soon will we get to the Minsky Moment? Right. That's the question. 

Nigel: [00:19:16] And I think it'll be, I think it could be next year.

Tom: [00:19:18] Define a Minsky Moment.

Nigel: [00:19:19] Maybe next year Christiana, yeah define it.

Christiana: [00:19:21] Next year?

Nigel: [00:19:22] Yeah.

Paul: [00:19:24] Tom asked for a definition of the Minsky Moment Christiana, is that when everyone suddenly realizes that the tide has gone out and some people are not wearing anything.

Christiana: [00:19:31] Exactly. And then there's a rush, right, to sell all of, the whole of the asset class. And then, you know, people are found standing on air because they have no value under them.

Paul: [00:19:48] And I was listening to your sentence there, Nigel, you talked about these because we have choice, right. You say these people understand the energy system. It's like not quite they understand an energy system. They don't understand the energy system in its completeness. And we have a choice about which energy system we choose. And that's what's always so missing from this debate.

Tom: [00:20:07] Yeah. Now, I know we've got a lot to cover today, but just before we continue, I want to tell you about a podcast I've recently come across. It's called Media Storm and it's hosted by journalist Mathilda Mallinson and Helena Wadia. And together they investigate unreported issues. We get to hear directly from the voices missing from the mainstream news media, the lived experiences of refugees and sex workers and people who've been in prison and more, all telling their stories in their own words. They have some incredible guests, like the trade union leader Mick Whelan and Rings of Power actress Nazanin Boniadi. These are such important voices, and hearing them has really helped me learn more about the stories that I previously thought I already understood. Is the UK really flooded with migrants? Does the war on drugs even really work? And they have a brilliant episode on climate in particular that I think you'll love looking at the bloody cost of western oil in the global South. So check it out wherever you get your podcasts. It's called Media Storm. Now, one other thing interesting happened this week, India of course, is hosting the G20, and I think expectations were pretty low in terms of what would come out of this for climate.

Tom: [00:21:10] And it was a mixed picture. So there was a commitment to triple renewable energy and to increase funds for climate change related disasters. They stayed with the status quo on phasing out coal. But it is interesting. I mean, the words from the Indian government were pretty superlative around what they thought they'd achieved. Amitabh Kant called it probably the most vibrant, dynamic and ambitious document on climate action. I'm not quite sure we'd go that far, but it is true that the G20, which let's not forget, includes, of course, India, China, Russia has tended to be more conservative in its ability to deal with climate, particularly for collective commitments because it includes developed and developing countries. So I saw this as a pretty big deal that they were able to reach this tripling of renewable energy. And the fact that it comes so hot on the heels of this data that demonstrates this S-curve that's making these transformations more possible, focusing on how we destroy demand rather than try and reach a political agreement to get rid of supply. Do you agree that this was a big deal that we got to this point with the G20 and that it was done in India?

Christiana: [00:22:09] I do, I do, I definitely agree that it was a big deal and I would dare say a surprisingly big deal because it was very hotly debated for a long time before. Let's remember, the G20 is 20 countries that represent 80% of emissions, 80% of global GDP. And as you say, it is both developed and developing countries. Very, very interesting and to their credit, the fact that they have now accepted not African countries individually, but the African Union, which is 50 member states, to be a member of the G20, that is a huge geopolitical change of what the G20 represents. So you know that definitely they get many golden stars for that one. They also get a golden star for, as you say, to recognize what has been already predicted, but now politically accepted that we will be at a tripling of renewable energy by 2030. Also recognizing that we have to fall by at least 43% of emissions by 2030. So, you know, many, many, many kudos and many stars for that. And what was lacking, there is no mention of either phasing down or phasing out fossil fuels, understandably, because of who the members are. There's no mention of the subsidies on fossil fuel. And the language on financing just smacks like language that we have seen for a long time, but really not any further definition of the language on financing for developing countries. So I would say a mixed picture, but on the whole, more than most, certainly more than I expected. Yes. 

Tom: [00:24:09] More than we thought, yeah. Do you two agree with that?

Nigel: [00:24:11] I mean, I think, first of all, it's really important that Modi, a major global South leader, was the president of this G20 and has moved, these are all at best, these are ratchet processes. I mean, you want to you want to not backslide. But if you can if you can ratchet, then you can build on it. And I totally agree with Christiana, the African Union has a permanent member, a permanent seat at G20 is a massive shift in recognition of the importance of that continent and the challenges and very much, you know, embodied in climate change. And I think this this very clear exponential deployment goal. You know, whenever we set these, as we talked about earlier, the clarity that's emerging around tripling renewables is wonderful. And of course, India speaks from huge confidence there. I remember Christiana, after COP 21, the IEA did their first analysis of all the NDCs and I remember that India had quite a bold 2022 target then, and the IEA reduced it to 40% because there's no way that India will deliver on that. They didn't even in their central policy scenario, they didn't just say what's India saying it's going to do. They said, what's India saying it's going to do, and because we don't believe it's possible, we'll reduce it. Well, India has hit that target and it's now aiming for 500GW by 2030. So it's not just an abstract idea. It's built on their self-confidence in this sort of exponential change. So yeah, it's not perfect, as Christiana says, but those two things, the African Union and an exponential global goal for renewable deployment are really both a really big deal, I think.

Paul: [00:25:38] Nothing to add Tom, Nigel and especially Christiana are the experts here. But I do think there is something about progressing the climate agenda as a not essentially political between nations in some regards, but rather a matter of kind of consensus and mass application of collaboration. And that's positive.

Tom: [00:25:56] Awesome. So, so we're going to turn in a minute to what's going to happen next week in New York at the UN General Assembly. But just before we do, another really critical event happened is the African.

Christiana: [00:26:05] I'm sorry, but just before we turn to the African Climate Summit, also very interesting to just take note of the fact that the next two G20 meetings will continue to be in developing countries. So next year, 2024 in Brazil, and then 2025 in South Africa, and then it goes in 2026 to the United States. So very, very interesting that the G20 will have all of these sequential meetings in large, very, very determining developing countries. One now, now in India, then Brazil and then South Africa. So three different continents and probably well, not probably for sure, the largest countries in each of the developing countries in each of those continents. But it's a very interesting line up, isn't it, that the G20 will be led for three years consecutively by developing countries.

Nigel: [00:27:07] And then Brazil takes on the presidency of COP.

Tom: [00:27:10] Takes the COP. 

Christiana: [00:27:11] That too.

Nigel: [00:27:11] Of COP 30, which is the COP where the where the next NDCs have to be delivered in response to the Global Stocktake. So I think Brazil having a really central role in in geopolitics.

Tom: [00:27:22] In the next few years for sure.

Christiana: [00:27:24] Thank heavens not under Bolsonaro, I must say.

Tom: [00:27:27] Can you imagine?

Paul: [00:27:29] And just a quick word to the extraordinary, is it Jim O'Neill who was Goldman Sachs and just came up with this phrase BRICs, and he was talking about Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa. And this was like 15 years ago or something. And he was coming up with an investment note. And then you actually see Lula, Xi Jinping himself, Modi, president of South Africa, Lavrov from Russia, all standing together under this thing that says BRICs summit. It's kind of weird, you know, But there you go. The power of a Goldman Sachs research note.

Nigel: [00:27:59] Yeah, and Paul also what we haven't mentioned is, is that the BRICs countries have now extended an invitation to six further countries. So there's another interesting shift in the sort of poles of geopolitics. And I don't remember all six, but I think Egypt, the Emirates and Saudi are three of them. So three Arab countries in the Gulf. So I think there's a very interesting sign of the rise, rising power of the Gulf.

Paul: [00:28:24] OECD, NATO, BRICs. It's all getting very multi, multi multi-polar.

Tom: [00:28:31] 100 % yeah. And speaking of which, a very critical summit in Africa. I think last week it was, Nigel you were there. Do you want to just give us a few words on the vibe, what came out of it, your impressions of being there. This is the first large scale African climate summit that we've seen and really great to see this coming together. 

Nigel: [00:28:48] Yeah I mean we've had these regional climate weeks for a long time, but they've tended to be quite low key. They don't have a lot of resources behind them. But this, this was the African Climate Week, but it was also the African Climate Summit. So it was, it was, it was a ten-x of the sort of local focus and it was very much triggered by the leadership of President Ruto from Kenya. And I have to say, having been there and I've seen this sort of coming over the last three years, but it's very exciting to see the real emergence on the world stage of a very different narrative, which is which is a narrative from emerging markets.

Christiana: [00:29:21] Absolutely.

Nigel: [00:29:23] Who are victims of climate injustice. And they know that and we know that, but they're not leading with that victim narrative. They're not they're not forgetting it and saying we forgive you. Right. They're still demanding the 100 billion and the loss and damage fund. But they're saying we are the most motivated. We Africans are a young country, median age 19. European median age is 39. We're full of entrepreneurs, you know, and we want African solutions for African problems. And we want other we invite other people to come and work with us towards those. So it's a very different vibe. Ruto talks about climate positive development. It's not decarbonization or net zero is the focus. You know, most sub-Saharan African countries are pretty much at net zero already. So it feels very, you know, from speaking with my African colleagues and working with Mahmoud, the Egyptian champion last year, whenever he hears someone like me from the UK talk about net zero, it feels very much like a northern high emitting country lens. So I think that and the 20 African leaders heads of state attended and it was very positive. It was really all about finance and solutions and there were some very real commitments and some I just felt it, for me, it felt like it could be history will tell an inflection point in in the way that the multilateral system really thinks about climate as not just negotiating, but also working on delivery of solutions collectively, public and private, north and south, but really upbeat. I'm really inspired by it.

Christiana: [00:30:49] I was I was also very, very impressed exactly by that, because President Ruto was very upfront right at the beginning that this is not about, in his words, this is not about cataloguing grievances and list problems, but rather, and I quote, to scrutinize ideas, assess perspectives and unlock solutions. A very, very different narrative, a very different motivation that I think can take the continent but in fact, all of developing countries much further than than the previous than the previous mindset. So I was also very, very impressed. And I think they left with not everything that they wanted but very impressively, I would say every single country that came and one has to say Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria did not come for reasons that they did not want to be lectured by other countries. But all of the African countries that came actually walked away with some kind of a financing deal from Western institutions totalling, I think, 26 billion. Correct me if I'm wrong, Nigel, but that's that's definitely a step in the right direction. And I think the more that they can understand that, yes, this is a responsibility, but it's also an opportunity for the especially for the global South to leapfrog. I think they are doing themselves a huge favour.

Nigel: [00:32:27] Yeah, well, I really agree and that you're right to point out that some real commitments from Western institutions, Christiana. But of course, also remember, the UAE put 4.5 billion on the table to invest in Africa. And actually, there's a lot more behind that because it's leveraging. But actually, for the first time in my experience of international climate convenings, the conversation around what we call domestic resource mobilization came to the fore. So this is this is what do African governments and African banks and African pension funds do to invest in Africa. And this is something which Nick Stern and Vera Songwe and Amar Bhattacharya pointed to in the paper which Mahmoud and I and the two presidencies commissioned for COP 27, which says that emerging markets will need $2.4 trillion a year by 2030, but 1.4 trillion, so 60% of that has to come domestically. And, you know, particularly, Christiana, that that's been a very difficult conversation in negotiations.

Christiana: [00:33:24] Very difficult.

Nigel: [00:33:25] Because Britain is saying to Kenya, you need to mobilize money is immediately riposted with you're just trying to get off the hook. But but what I think Vera and Nick have done is they've created this much, they've normalized this overall picture of what needs to be mobilized. And we had a really interesting conversation from African central banks, African pension funds, African banks about what they have to do. You know, I was at the launch of the African Pan-African Fund Managers Association. This is pension fund regulators. There's $1.4 trillion of African savings in pension funds, which only mobilizes 30 billion a year in investments in Africa. It's it's rubbish. Most of it's invested in government bonds, some of them American government bonds. So so it's really that's another, I think, real maturing of the of the conversation that we're now looking at the whole solution, not just one part of it because we won't solve the whole without all the different bits of solutions we need. So that's another really exciting thing for me that I've not heard before.

Paul: [00:34:24] And just just a bit of specificity that came out of the conference, the Nairobi declaration urging world leaders to rally behind the proposal for a global carbon taxation regime, including carbon tax on fossil fuels, trade, maritime transport and aviation. I mean, I've always thought that's a good idea. I know that Simon Sharpe and Five Times Faster might say, actually, carbon taxes aren't the right way. But the point is serious conversations about policy, either taxation or subsidy or something. But maybe just like recognition, we're going to have to get rid of this. And certainly taxation has helped us get rid of cigarettes.

Tom: [00:34:56] It is interesting, isn't it, how, you know, if you look at climate summits and events that happen in the global North, they tend to be characterized these days by this kind of underlying feeling of mistrust, of a sense of betrayal, of entities not delivering on commitments. There can be that vibe that is kind of carried through them. And I didn't wasn't at the African Climate Summit, but everyone I've spoken to said it had the opposite energy to it, which was like, let's come together, let's find solutions. We've got differences, but let's find a way to make the challenge that we're trying to deal with bigger. There's a lot that we can learn from that because inevitably, as the challenge gets more and more frightening, people tend to retrench and then ask for more. And that's a good thing. But it can lead to an overall spiralling of the narrative towards something where we're not coming together, we're pulling each other apart. So it's really, I really wish I'd been there. It sounds really inspiring. Anything else on this before we go to UNGA, which we should be respectful of Nigel's time, we only have a few minutes.

Nigel: [00:35:57] Yeah, two things, Tom. I think that this sort of flipping of the narrative to, I think one of the words Ruto used that you quoted Christiana was exploring. If you focus on what's not being delivered, you, you, you create a polarization. It's a finger pointing and it's natural and sometimes necessary. Right. Because some things haven't been delivered. You know, Alok Sharma took the 100 billion a token of trust, and it hasn't been delivered. So it's not that you should let people off for not delivering on their promises. But when you talk about, for example, talking about a global tax on carbon, I think a global a global uniform tax on carbon is very, very unlikely. But if I if I take that idea as an invitation to explore rather than rather than be right or wrong, I say but the OECD's now agreed a minimum corporation tax and estimates are that that will be $200 billion a year more tax take around the world. Is it a way that some of that could be moved towards a loss and damage fund. You know, there are serious conversations in the IMO about a carbon tax on international shipping and could that be somehow channeled towards small island states loss and damage fund. So I think that idea of exploring not being right or wrong, but recognizing that actually if we open up our minds and hearts and look for solutions and give up the idea that there's only one way or that we're right and you're wrong. There's a really important it's sort of it's the.

Tom: [00:37:20] It's the heart of the work now I think. 

Nigel: [00:37:21] Yeah, it's a rolling up of the sleeves rather than a pointing a finger. It's a very different sort of physical.

Christiana: [00:37:25] In the spirit of an inquiry rather than a blaming.

Nigel: [00:37:29] Yeah.

Paul: [00:37:31] Yeah but President Ruto, I think, kind of had a little bit of kind of mathematical perfection in this phrase. Climate action is not a global north issue or a global South issue. It's our collective challenge. It affects all of us. We need to come together to find common global solutions. Amen to that, Awomen, Athey.

Tom: [00:37:48] Now, so just very quickly, and we've covered a lot of ground, but I'm already in New York, Nigel, you'll be here next week, I think, for the UN General Assembly. Climate Week, here we go again. It is going to be a big one. The UN Secretary General is hosting a climate summit in the middle of the week where he is putting leaders on stage if they have met the pretty high bar that was set out by the high level expert group. So they're calling on countries and other entities like investors and corporations to come forward and be featured in that. There will be an enormous number of climate events happening throughout the week. The Earthshot Prize will be here, there's, TIME are doing a whole range of things. Nigel I'm sure your calendar is completely stacked. In the last few minutes that we have and we'll cover more on this next week. What do we think is going to come out of this UN General Assembly week? Do we, because what it needs to do right is to take the Global Stocktake and flip the narrative into something that actually focuses us on solutions and takes the spirit of the African Climate Summit and tries to bring this around the world. Is it going to do that? And if not, what is it going to do? Nigel, do you want to jump in first? Oh, sorry.

Nigel: [00:38:53] Christiana.

Christiana: [00:38:54] Tom, can I can I just reframe your question? 

Tom: [00:38:59] Please

Christiana: [00:38:59] Is it about flipping the narrative or is it about being a more integrated narrative? I don't think it's, yes okay. Carry on.

Tom: [00:39:08] Yeah, very good, I like that.

Nigel: [00:39:10] I mean, Tom, I really like the way if we could mash up the rigor of the GST with the spirit of the African Climate Summit, then we'd be in a very good place. I don't know, I mean, the Secretary General and the whole expert group was quite finger pointy, feeling like really telling everyone what they're doing wrong. And I hope that we'll have much more of a sense of. Yeah. You know, we must never. We must never forget that we're not on track. We must never get complacent, right? You know, we must, we must keep checking in with the science and the suffering as our motivation, but not get stuck there because it's really disempowering. So my hope is that we will see growing evidence of a more confident narrative of where we're going from the IEA, certainly I'll be doing work on the evidence of exponential being, being being beyond on track, on renewables, electric vehicles and specific things that are happening around mobilizing finance. You know, there are there are several big new funds that have been launched recently to mobilize finance in emerging markets. So it's in other words, people are finding solutions to the problems. Not enough not at enough scale yet. But, you know, once you've done something once, then you can do it twice, then you can do it four times. But if you've never done it, then then you've never done it. So so I hope we have a mix of remembering that we're really not on track, but then seeing that we are making progress and we need to build on that momentum.

Tom: [00:40:37] Nice.

Christiana: [00:40:39] Can I ask who's going to be there? Nigel, you'll be there. Tom, you'll be there. Paul?

Paul: [00:40:45] Unfortunately, I'm at home cleaning the hearth, I'm not able to go.

Christiana: [00:40:50] Okay, but both Tom and Nigel will be there?

Tom: [00:40:55] We'll be there.

Christiana: [00:40:56] So I think that we should definitely. Sorry, I didn't mean to cut this off, but we can only speculate right now about what is going to happen next week in New York. We haven't mentioned the two marches, it used to be one march that was that was always programmed for New York. Now we have two marches, one in September 15th and another one in September 17th. It would be great if next week we can actually get you on the podcast and, and chat to you directly from there, what you're picking up.

Tom: [00:41:34] Nice. Nigel, you up for that?

Nigel: [00:41:36] Definitely, definitely up for that. Yeah.

Tom: [00:41:37] Great. And I have to say, the biggest thing that's going to happen here next week, which is not that much to do with climate change, although of course everything does, is President Zelensky will be here in person addressing the UN General Assembly in the middle of next week, after which he goes into a debate with the Security Council, which will include, of course, Sergey Lavrov. So that will not be televised or publicised, but the content, the prospect of Zelensky and Lavrov facing each other across the Security Council table is one of those amazing UN moments that we hope will lead to solutions, but it's hard to know where it will go.

Christiana: [00:42:09] And Zelensky, by the way, is not happy about the G20 communique. 

Paul: [00:42:14] No, I can imagine that. 

Christiana: [00:42:15] He feels that it was not strong enough. And the fact that in in what I think was a very heroic act of conciliation, of different political views, the fact that India and Modi personally were able to get everyone to this communique. But it did mean that the the statement on the Russian invasion of Ukraine was significantly watered down from last G20. And that's not something that Zelensky was at all happy about.

Tom: [00:42:49] Yeah. No, absolutely. Do you remember your Lavrov moment Christiana, in 2016?

Christiana: [00:42:54] I was wondering if you were going to bring that up. Go ahead.

Tom: [00:42:59] So Christiana was running for UN Secretary General and we discovered that the Russians were putting a rumour about that she had a US passport, which would of course disqualify her from being UN Secretary General as a citizen of a permanent member of the Security Council. 

Christiana: [00:43:13] And it was a total rumour because I've never had it, but carry on.

Tom: [00:43:15] Total rumour, of course doesn't. Yeah. And so Christiana went in to see Lavrov and took with her a brown envelope and said, Mr. Foreign Minister, I'm very keen to be Secretary General. I'd like to offer you something and slid the brown envelope across the table towards him, at which point he of course, jumped about a mile, thinking that he was being offered a stack of $100 bills. And he opened it and it was a certified copy of your green card. It was absolutely fantastic.

Paul: [00:43:39] The United Nations is a very wonderful institution. Can I say one thing about Climate Week that I think is just incredibly exciting. I mean, its origin was, dear Steve Howard from the Climate Group, noticing that the UN General Assembly kept happening in the same week as the CDP global launch and this combination of national governments and corporations and investors I think is incredibly exciting. And what the phrase I've been looking for, I just found it, it was John Maynard Keynes, a very famous economist, talking about animal spirits and and that what he was referring to was the tendency for emotions rather than intrinsic values to to feature that people are really motivated by beliefs and and the private sector is capable of doing the most extraordinary things simply upon its it's it's kind of confidence in an inevitable future. And I think that's the spirit of Climate Week at its absolute best is that people are sort of saying, you know, we're going to do this and it's going to we're going to do it faster than anyone expected, and we're going to do it bigger than anyone expected. And it's going to happen. And it starts now.

Tom: [00:44:41] It sounds to me like that's the spirit of the African Climate Week, but I hope it's true of the one in New York as well.

Christiana: [00:44:45] Yes, I hope so, I hope so.

Tom: [00:44:48] Okay. So I think that draws us to a close. Nigel, it's always a pleasure to have you on the podcast. Lovely to see you. See you next week. And sounds like we'll have you back as well for a few comments, which would be great. 

Christiana: [00:44:59] Wonderful.

Nigel: [00:44:59] Nine months and then two weeks in a row. Fantastic.

Tom: [00:45:03] We will leave you as ever with some music. Thanks so much for joining us this week. Today we're bringing you a beautiful piece of music called Sacred Earth by Nu Deco Ensemble. Thank you so much for joining us. We will see you next week.

Nigel: [00:45:14] Bye everyone, thanks.

Paul: [00:45:15] Bye. 

Christiana: [00:45:16] Bye.

Nu Deco Ensemble: [00:45:18] Hello, my name is Jacomo Bairos, Artistic Director for Nu Deco Ensemble, Miami's 21st Century Chamber Orchestra. Hope is the thing with feathers. It's the name of the movement you will hear, inspired by Emily Dickinson's poem, which comes from a larger multimedia work entitled Sacred Earth. This work represents a beautiful musical ode to the sanctity of the natural world and our very fragile and tender relationship we have with Mother Earth. It is centered around the flight of a bird and our capacity to hope as our most human of traits. While the broader apathy toward climate change is incredibly scary. There is beautiful work and real progress being made not only the growth of renewables, but our overall capacity we have as a species to come together and solve big problems and achieve big audacious goals for everyone's benefit. We hope you enjoy this beautiful work, celebrating our precious natural world. Written by Composer Chris Rogerson, featuring Mezzo-soprano J'Nai Bridges and Nu Deco Ensemble.

Clay: [00:49:09] So there you go, another episode of Outrage + Optimism. My name is Clay. I'm producer of this podcast and I'm actually recording these credits from northern Colorado today. It is super nice here. Beautiful 79 degree day, slight breeze. I'm standing in this field looking at all these horses running around and listening to Nu Deco Ensemble. It's just amazing. Anyway, that's what's going on here. But I'm absolutely grateful to our artists this week Nu Deco Ensemble. I've been listening to them more and more because I went to their YouTube and one of the fun things that they've done is they reimagine pop and contemporary music in these beautiful orchestral arrangements. And I want to share two performances that really stuck out to me. They did a Daft Punk concert and a Dr. Dre concert. Seriously, both recorded, mixed and filmed at incredible quality. They're free on YouTube. You can go check them out links in the show notes. Just a really thoughtful, engaged group of musicians bringing music to the people and helping us imagine what's possible. Thank you to Nu Deco Ensemble. Tom mentioned the brilliant podcast Media Storm in the show and I've put a link in the notes, show notes below so that you can check out and listen to their podcast and give them a follow. Also want to thank Nigel Topping for joining us this week after a long spell of not having him on.

Clay: [00:50:42] I've put his contact in the show notes as well and look forward to having him back on the podcast next week. All right. This week, as part of the global fight to end fossil fuels, there is a march in New York City, but also actions happening all around the world and probably in your neighborhood. So you can go to fightfossilfuels.net to find an action happening this week or next in your city, there's this map you can click on and it's really easy to see all the information that you need going to one of these actions might be the most important thing that you do this year. It's always great to be together again that's fightfossilfuels.net And hey, if you're in northern Colorado, I might see you at a climate event. Okay. That is it for us this week. Thank you again for joining us as always. I'm very excited. I'm about to go check out this sustainable brewery called New Belgium. Uh, yeah. It's pretty badass when a brewery has science based targets, so I'm going to go check them out. See you on the streets. Go to a climate action, check out fightfossilfuels.net, and we'll hear more from our hosts on the podcast next week during Climate Week. See you then.


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