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236: SOTU: Unpacking Biden’s Vision and The IRA

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About this episode

This week, we bring you a US democracy special, discussing Joe Biden’s energetic State of the Union Address in which climate action played a significant role, and also the new guidelines from the Securities and Exchange Commission, a move which has seen the Commission attract a slew of legal challenges from both sides of the climate divide. The hosts ask: can Biden’s campaign for presidency in 2024 unite the partisan divide around climate change and if not, how can we protect the progress that the IRA has already made in the US in the face of a Trump victory? 

To help us unpick all of this, we have the force of nature and great friend of the podcast, Gina McCarthy, former White House National Climate Advisor and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. Today, Gina is a Senior Advisor at Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Managing Co-Chair of the America Is All In Coalition, and a Senior Fellow at The Fletcher School’s Climate Policy Lab at Tufts University. She is also an Operating Advisor at Pegasus Capital Advisors and a Senior Advisor at TPG Rise Climate Fund. She serves as co-chair of the India-U.S. Track II Dialogue on Energy and Climate Change, and on the Board of Directors for the Energy Foundation and the Resources Legacy Foundation.

Music this week comes from James Hastings with his beautiful song ‘Mother’. James is a singer-songwriter whose unique brand of eco-conscious alt-folk conjures up wild, earthy textures enfolded in ethereal, electronic landscapes.


Gina McCarthy, former White House National Climate Advisor and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator

James Hastings
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Full Transcript

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

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

Paul: [00:00:16] And I'm Paul Dickinson.

Tom: [00:00:17] Today we're going to talk about what's been happening in the US with the State of The Union, the new guidelines from the Securities and Exchange Commission. We speak to Gina McCarthy, former Chief White House Advisor and legendary administrator of the EPA, and we have music from James Hastings. Thanks for being here. So every time we talk to Gina McCarthy, it seems that there's a million other things going on and that probably speaks to the wild and brilliant energy that Gina always brings. Right now I am in a.

Christiana: [00:00:55] The question is, is she going to be in her car when we talk to her.

Tom: [00:00:57] Will she be her car.

Paul: [00:00:58] We only record from her in her car, if she's not in her car we can't really make the recording.

Tom: [00:01:02] Listeners will remember that we spoke to her from a car park. She pulled over to talk to us when she was going to Washington to take the job of being Joe Biden's White House Chief Advisor on climate. She's now stepped down, and so we're going to talk to her now about where the politics are and what's going to happen. But first, we're going to get into, some big events that have been happening, in the US over the course of the last week. The first is the State of The Union Address. Now, no listeners to this podcast will be unaware that there is going to be an election in the US this year that is deeply consequential for the future of our planet. And right now it is looking pretty nail biting, this week Joe Biden gave his State of The Union Address, it was a punchy speech for somebody who Donald Trump unfairly calls Sleepy Joe. This was absolutely coming out fighting and climate played a significant role in it. Biden recognized the climate. He referred to it as the climate crisis, he sought, and described the deep contrast that he will have with Trump as a leader on this issue. He talked about tax. He talked about the fact that he sees a future where we will save the planet from the climate crisis and our country from gun violence, and sees a future for all Americans. Now, this is the kind of language that gets very high marks on Outrage + Optimism. I would just like to start by asking you both, what do you think of the speech, Paul, why don't we start with you? Load More
Paul: [00:02:21] Sure, Tom. Well, I watched the speech. I was very struck as everybody was by the level of energy, also, the protocol was somewhat dismissed. I think people were saying, you know, this is kind of like a street fight. And, Biden used the state of the Union instead of a, of a grand speech to, neutrality, it was a campaign speech clearly. But there was a lot of energy in it. And that's, what defines a campaign speech, I suppose. He has had very low polling numbers going into this speech. And for Democrats, a sense of relief, I think the wise counsel said, but, you know, that can be erased. It needs to be sustained. But fundamentally, you know, a good start to what is going to be an election of the most terrifyingly huge odds, but a friend of mine who's United Statesian, she was in a hotel in London this morning and said some sensible, bookish people were sort of saying, well, you know, maybe it's time for Trump, you know, he may not be so bad second time around. There's an enormous desire for change, somehow, that Biden clearly doesn't represent change. He's the continuity candidate. So despite the fact that US economy is, at one level, doing very well, whether this speech can turn it around, I think, it's going to be a completely nail biting year.

Tom: [00:03:44] And Christiana, I would.

Christiana: [00:03:46] For those who still have nails left.

Paul: [00:03:48] Mine have got blood pouring out of these ten fingers.

Tom: [00:03:52] Christiana, there's something really interesting happening here I'd love to just direct you to, which is, you know, Gina, who we'll talk to you later, was fundamental to the creation of the Inflation Reduction Act that has actually provided huge economic opportunities from the energy transition in the US. Those opportunities are largely being realized by red states, not exclusively, but often by republican states.

Paul: [00:04:13] Red, meaning the Trump side?

Tom: [00:04:14] Republican states, exactly, the Trump side, but yet they seem to be about to vote against their economic self-interest. Do you think that there has been enough done with the creation of the Inflation Reduction Act to begin to thaw that very difficult polarization on climate in the US? And if not, why hasn't it had that effect?

Christiana: [00:04:35] So a couple of things before I get into that. First, I realized as I opened up my screen here, my camera that I'm wearing red today, that is not because I am a Trump supporter.

Tom: [00:04:50] Why are you wearing red?

Christiana: [00:04:52] Well, because it just, it's the only warm thing that I have while I'm here in London for a few days.

Paul: [00:04:57] Warm is important.

Christiana: [00:05:00] But also to Biden's speech isn't it interesting, as you pointed out, Tom, that it was a full of energy speech, which I think, two things, it proves that there's still fire in his belly, because that is one of the things that he has been criticized for. Is there any fire left there? And he was very intentional about that. But also he was very clear in marking the difference between himself and Trump. He is not playing to the middle ground here. He was marking out this, who's with me on this. And then maybe later on, he will have to come to a more middle ground on some issues. But it was clearly right after Trump has now nailed his nomination. It was very clearly, deliberately done as a stark contrast to ask the US citizen, the US voters, okay, choose which kind of future do you want? What kind of view do you agree with here? What is it that we're moving towards? So I thought it was interesting that he made that very, very stark choice. And one question that I have is will he stay with that stark choice, or will he move toward centre when he needs to garner more votes? So to be seen. To the IRA, you know, Tom, very interesting why the IRA has not ignited the public's imagination as it was meant to do.

Christiana: [00:06:51] It was meant, of course, to move the US economy toward a much cleaner economy and contrasting with every other, every other regulation in every other country. It was very, very innovative in inserting social, cultural, issues into the IRA, race issues, minority issues. Really very brilliantly done. As Gina, I believe it was she who explained that to us last time. And so the question is, why has it not had more of an impact, not on emission reductions, because I'm sure she will give us the numbers on that. But why has it not ignited the public imagination? Why has it not really brought US citizens behind the climate agenda? Because there is ample evidence that the climate agenda is actually benefiting those who have taken advantage of the IRA. But why are we still stuck in this dogmatic nightmare that has very little to do with concrete benefits on the ground? 

Paul: [00:08:11] I've got an answer but Tom, you go first.

Tom: [00:08:14] Well, I mean, I think to me it's a constructed dichotomy. It's a useful device that is being politically utilized to try to campaign on this sort of quote unquote, anti-woke agenda. Anything around climate is associated with being woke, and therefore it's wrong. And actually, I feel like that is, left to its own devices, I feel like the economic benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act over time will soften that. But political cycles are very rapid. It's very difficult for that to happen in a quick order. And when it's constantly being stoked up, it's actually quite challenging. So I would challenge what you just said and say, I don't think it's evident that that's not happening. I think it might be happening in a slightly longer time scale. It's not happening fast enough, and it's certainly being slowed down by divisive political electioneering to try to stop it from healing.

Paul: [00:09:07] Let me just come in there and say, and what's behind that political electioneering? I would say it's fossil fuel interests. I continue to be unaware if it's fossil fuel interests in terms of major fossil fuel companies like Exxon and Chevron and everything, or whether it's money from countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia perhaps making their way into the US political system. But what I think I am sure of is that the impact of renewable energy and electric vehicles on the consumption of oil and gas is now so significant, slowing down or indeed halting the decarbonization of our society is an existential issue for the oil and gas industry, both those enormously powerful nations and those enormously powerful issues. This is the point where they have to fight or kind of accept permanent decline, and they are fighting with everything they've got. So when somebody talks about anti-woke, just remember, next time you fill your car up with gas, you're paying with the money that you put in the gas company's coffers for some weirdly efficient anti-woke agenda to subvert the democratic process and potentially catastrophically limit our ability to respond to climate change. This is a business election, that's what I'm saying.

Tom: [00:10:27] So don't discount that at all. Now, before we have Gina which will be in about ten minutes, I also just want to turn to something else. Not that there's not lots more to say here. And that is, what's happened with the Securities and Exchange Commission. And, Paul, we have to go to you here. So regular listeners will of course know that Paul is the Executive Chair and Founder of CDP. 

Paul: [00:10:45] Founder Chair.

Tom: [00:10:46] Thank you, Carbon Disclosure Project, which was set up 23 years ago to push companies to disclose their climate impacts and their carbon emissions. And now it looks like the regulator of the world's largest economy is moving in the direction of doing the same. In fact, has proposed rules to do the same. But there has been immediate pushback. So, Paul, why don't you comment on this?

Paul: [00:11:08] I mean, look, super briefly, I would say that, reflecting on this, it's wonderful. It's a wonderful thing that the Securities and Exchange Commission has, brought in this rule. I'm going to, I was trying to find a way to describe it. And unfortunately, I came up with this rather, United States of pathetica. I mean, it's not that impressive, right, I mean, I was involved with a whole bunch of other people, including yourselves, in starting an NGO 23 years ago, and we've had 70% of the S&P 500 reporting to us for at least 10 to 15 years, 80% reporting to us for at least five years. And then finally, the timid little government is possibly putting in a partial rule, to make everybody do or most large companies do what they've already been doing for some of them for two decades. So it feels like a sort of underwhelming thing. But back to the debate we were just having. It's caused this explosive political divide. And in fact, Allison Herren Lee, a former SEC commissioner, was saying she's never before encountered, a regulation being sued by both sides. So indeed, there are, you know, states and companies associated with high emissions who are saying this is terrible, this is politicized, politicization of the I've got some of the quotes here, manipulating private sector for the sake of progressive policy. Or was it somebody said that it's, the Biden administration's far left climate agenda, right, is being abused and it's not the SEC's mandate. This is, what is it, the US Chamber of Commerce.

Christiana: [00:12:41] Give us some of the quotes on the other side. Do you have them?

Paul: [00:12:44] Well, I mean, yeah, no, no, I mean, I don't have the exact quotes were. The Sierra Club and all sorts of other people are saying this isn't nearly enough, you know, scope one and two which are already in your accounts, right, because you've got invoices for purchasing electricity and fossil fuels. You don't have to report those unless it's kind of material, you know. So you've got to kind of weaselling out there. And then the really big part of emissions, so say scope three, your supply chain, your product use and disposal is not in there at all. So just on the one hand.

Tom: [00:13:12] Which it is in Europe with the European rule right?

Paul: [00:13:14] Absolutely, absolutely.

Christiana: [00:13:15] And that's where the majority of emissions are.

Paul: [00:13:18] And let's be honest, if I can quote an absolute expert on this, Christiana Figueres spoke at the CDP launch event in 2010. This is 14 years ago, friends. And you said Christiana quite brilliantly, that we were like the x ray before this you couldn't see the inside of the patient's health. Now, where I'm going with this is to say this isn't, all of these people, the US Chamber of Commerce saying that, it won't preserve a competitive capital market system. This isn't treatment, this isn't medicine, this isn't surgery. This is just an x ray. That's all that's being talked about here. And even that is causing apoplexy in the US political, economic and business system. So I think we have to see I mean, the state of California has actually gone further. Last year they mandated scope three for large entities. So, yeah, I think what we're really seeing is that the fossil fuel, greenhouse gas sensitivity is at its highest peak because I think the money going into political and economic voices is at its most furious. But yeah, complaints from both sides. But actually, the last thing I would say, it's a good thing because it's kind of base camp and it's a very high mountain. But if you don't get to base camp, you know, future administrations, obviously not the Trump administration, but future administrations will be able to build on this.

Tom: [00:14:33] Christiana, any thoughts on this?

Christiana: [00:14:35] Well, it just strikes me once again that we're living in two realities. One is this politicization that is, frankly, smoke and mirrors, and we know how, where different voices, position themselves. But the other reality is, the fundamentals, the economic profitable fundamentals of decarbonising the economy. And these two realities seem to sort of operate out there side by side, as though there were nothing that connects them. And those people that understand the political economy of decarbonisation are forced because of this other conversation, and fear that they will be attacked, are forced to disguise what they're doing. Point in case, Larry, we all know the incredible impact that Larry Fink's letters have on the financial sector. And so.

Paul: [00:15:41] Sorry, can I just say, Larry Fink is the Chief Executive of Blackrock, which has $9 trillion under management and is hugely influential over every public company. Christiana.

Christiana: [00:15:49] Thank you. And you know, after quite a bit of pushing and shoving, Blackrock was beginning to make statements and actually move some of their assets that they have under management into clean technologies and new economy opportunities. And they were, you know, doing not a stellar job, but let's call it a decent job. Then they got cold feet because of this other conversation, because of the attacks on woke, because it has been so politicized, having nothing to do with the reality, the profit reality, the economic soundness reality. They get cold feet. And what do they do? They say, well, actually we're not going to do ESG investing anymore, environmental, social and governance, which is the title that was being used before. We're going to do transition investing. Hello. It's exactly the same thing, but they are so fearful. They are so fearful of being accused of legal transgressions or getting involved in politics, that they have to disguise what they're doing, not change what they're doing, because they understand that there is a fundamental rationale to what they're doing, so they don't change what they're doing, but they just put a different title on it. They put a different colour code on it to disguise it. So doesn't that make it rather ridiculous?

Paul: [00:17:21] It's so funny. I've got this image of them, like not really knowing what to do. So all these kind of, you know, aged Republican state attorneys general and Congress people and everything have been told to say ESG is bad, ESG is bad, right. So kind of spoof them to say, okay, don't call it ESG, call it transition planning. And all these elderly people have got to find some new thing and hire a whole bunch of new false NGOs to create false grassroots movements against transition plans. It is absolutely absurd. You're quite right.

Tom: [00:17:48] It is absurd. But it's also heartbreaking, right. Because that's where our time and our attention are going. I mean, you know, it's comical and it's funny and we should laugh at it because it's ridiculous. But at the same time, my god.

Christiana: [00:18:00] It is tragic.

Tom: [00:18:01] What a way to spend our time as the planet is heating up and people are struggling.

Paul: [00:18:06] It's nervous laughter on my part Tom. There wasn't any kind of light-heartedness there.

Christiana: [00:18:09] Yes totally. 

Tom: [00:18:11] Yeah no, I know. Now, Gina will be with us in five minutes. I'm going to have to leave you. I'm making this call from the basement of the Channel Four building in London, where I'm about to go on the news to talk about the fact that the UK has just approved more gas plants in the UK, which is another cynical move by a government, not that obviously what we're talking about in the US is, but the potential future government has been making cynical moves. Anything we want to say about, to wrap up this State of The Union or, SEC regulation stuff before Gina joins us and we delve in more detail into it?

Paul: [00:18:41] I want to ask you what you're going to say on the news. I mean, this is some sort of wolf whistle to the right wing kind of anti-woke people.

Tom: [00:18:49] I mean, it absolutely is right. So what's happened is the UK government has announced that they're going to allow more building of gas plants. And of course, they've phrased it in this language of we're going to do it because people are struggling and we need to facilitate the transition. We're going to do it to protect people. And I'm going to say a few things. First of all, this is not about cheap energy. Wholesale gas prices are three times what they were before the pandemic. If you really cared about lowering people's bills, you'd focus on energy efficiency measures. But the conservatives actually abandoned the Energy Efficiency Task Force a few months ago. This is also failing basic tests of leadership. It's claiming that more renewables will be impossible. But in fact, you know, Sweden at 68%, Costa Rica at 98%. Yes, you need to make investments in the grids and storage, but that can be done. And rather than building the future in the UK, we're now locking in the past. Thirdly, this reveals a pattern in the UK, we've now seen a ban on new petrol and diesel cars has been delayed. A ban on oil fired boilers has been delayed. They've been approving oil and gas projects in the North Sea. It's clear what's going on here. Fourth, people in this country want renewables, 80% want urgent and ambitious action, and 54% of Brits want tax cuts for renewables. And the final thing I would say, and this echoes back into one of my favourite topics of Brexit, the UK is being drawn into an internal Conservative Party fight. This is not about the future of energy or climate. It's about the fact that MPs are defecting from the conservatives to the right of centre Reform Party, and the Prime Minister is trying to hold his political party together. And by doing that, he is prepared to sell the entire country up the river in terms of climate leadership and energy security. So something like that.

Christiana: [00:20:29] Tom Rivett-Carnac, you are in such trouble.

Tom: [00:20:32] Why?

Christiana: [00:20:33] Because now you've said everything you're going to say, and now you can't say it because you already said it here. You can't repeat.

Tom: [00:20:40] All right, I'll say something completely different when I go on.

Christiana: [00:20:42] All right. 

Paul: [00:20:43] I'll tell you one thing you could say, Tom, it's a beautiful speech. I did some figures for the US right. USA expenditure on energy, this is the costs, people in the US are paying is 1.3 trillion. The revenues that they are paying to the sun at the moment are $0. The revenues they're paying to the wind at the moment are $0. The annual savings from energy efficiency are worth about 40 billion. And the money available from the IRA and the Infrastructure Act that they can collect by decarbonising is 370 billion. So you know the economics you know you're not seeing any kind of sort of windfall profits for the wind. You're not seeing any kind of super profit, $100 billion dividend from Saudi Aramco. That's not happening with the sun. The sun doesn't pay out a dollar. You get to keep it all.

Tom: [00:21:29] I like that you've said that for a long time Christiana as well I remember the sun doesn't send you a bill at the end of the month. 

Paul: [00:21:34] Ever.

Christiana: [00:21:35] Exactly.

Tom: [00:21:36] All right. So let's let Gina McCarthy in, and I will say goodbye to you and look forward to seeing the listeners next week. But I cannot wait for this conversation.

Paul: [00:21:44] Missing you already Tom.

Christiana: [00:21:45] Bye Tom, bye. 

Tom: [00:21:45] Bye.

Christiana: [00:21:51] Hi, Gina. How are you?

Gina McCarthy: [00:21:53] Good. How's everybody?

Christiana: [00:21:55] Well, we're well, and we were wondering whether we would catch you again in your car, which is where we caught you last time.

Gina McCarthy: [00:22:03] No, I'm sitting right here in a chair and it's very comfy.

Christiana: [00:22:08] Wonderful, wonderful. That's great. Well, Gina, thank you so much. Thank you really for joining us, in a very, fiery week or few days, after the Republican nomination with President Biden's State of The Union Address, which was, quite forceful and quite clear about what his intentions are. And, Gina, we wanted to ask you, especially in view of the fact that we have this historic election coming up, that is a very dangerous election for many issues. One of the tools that, forgive me if I say could have been used, but please disagree with me. One of the tools that could have been used by the Democratic Party, to support President Biden and his continued policies is the felt perceived impact of the IRA, which clearly, for those people who have benefited, they have many different arguments of how they have benefited, both economically, culturally, socially, etc.. But here is the mystery. Can the Democratic Party really use the impact of the IRA as one of their campaign tools? Because my impression, but please forgive me that I do not live in the United States. My impression is that the impact of the IRA has been felt by those who have been directly benefited by it, but it hasn't really had a broad political impact. There's no political dividend that President Biden could now call upon for his campaign. Is that an unfair statement?

Gina McCarthy: [00:24:16] Well, Christiana, I think that the Inflation Reduction Act, which we both know well, is a game changer. I see it as a game changer, not just in the US, because it's given us climate leadership back again here in the United States. But as you know, in other countries, people are looking at this closely as the chance of a lifetime to rethink the way we both address the challenge of climate change. But also talk about it and so to me, what we're seeing is not even not even as long as two years in practice the Inflation Reduction Act has changed everything, with remarkable opportunity. So you're right, in one sense, you're absolutely right that the United States has to talk about everything they're seeing happening. But I don't think that people are missing this. I don't think that people.

Christiana: [00:25:24] I am so glad to hear that, Gina. 

Gina McCarthy: [00:25:26] I mean, I can feel it and see it and taste it wherever I go. And make no mistake, you know, I'm doing work with Bloomberg Philanthropies because they're, they have an America is all in program that I am helping to co-manage with Mike Bloomberg. And we're going out everywhere talking about this. We are on a tour that's going to make people know, just not just what's available to them for the opportunities in this ground-breaking and game changing law, but it's also going to allow them to access it effectively. Look, Christiana, you and I have been in government circles for a very long time. So let's think about this. It's only been a little over a year and a half, and all this work has already been done. And the point I want to make is that it will just keep getting better and better and better. Most of these credits and rebates, they last ten years. So we know that we're turned a corner. And I do think people are seeing it and feeling it that there's a change. Is it enough? No. This is the part where you're absolutely right. We have to talk it up. We need to expedite the change. We're having some slowdowns in grids, for obvious reasons and strengthening it and expanding it so that renewables have a place to go for everyone. But there is challenges, those will smooth out. And the question I think you're posing is whether we're going to get enough done and soon enough to make a difference in November. I get that.

Christiana: [00:27:10] Exactly, to make a difference. Yes, exactly.

Gina McCarthy: [00:27:11] But we will if every state and every mayor out there is accessing this and talking about it. And because people do feel a sense, I think, of hope and opportunity that they haven't felt before. So we just have to keep pushing. But part of the challenge is Christiana and it's new for me frankly, one of the big challenges that we're seeing is that young people, the polling shows us that young people are just not engaging and informing themselves or getting informed on all the changes that you and I are seeing on all of the benefits of this. And I think they feel that less hopeful than they did in the last election. And we need to sort of advance our efforts to actually reach young people and give them a sense of hope. You know, we all too often Christiana, we both talk about the problems of climate change, the disasters, you know, the challenges that we have on, across the world and, how quickly we need to move. And sometimes I think that language is difficult for young people to see the path forward. And while it may be difficult to see the path forward, we're not raising these issues to take away hope and opportunity. We're raising these issues to say that the world's changing. We have to grab this change and we can, but they're not engaging the way they used to. There's a lot more work that needs to get done to make sure that they're out there and voting that they actually look at the change and see it for what it is, which is just game changing and a big hope to actually win that future for ourselves and for my kids and grandkids.

Christiana: [00:29:09] See, one of the, the other mystery to me. And you're right. My first question is, will it make enough of an impact soon enough to make a difference in the election? So thank you for that. The other thing that is a mystery to me, Gina, is typically Republicans or those who are still trying to buttress up, that industry, the fossil fuel industry that no longer has much credence, but they're still trying to buttress them, and they have a very simplistic discourse, basically, that can be boiled down to don't let planetary issues impinge on your well-being. You insist on your individual benefit. And the only thing that counts is are you having a better life. Now, and so that I must say, you know, for someone who is having a very hard time and many people are is very, very enticing. Now, the beauty of the IRA is that it cuts through that binary division and says, hold on. First, let's approach this from the individual perspective, from the family perspective, from the community perspective. What are the benefits that can be reaped at that level, and then also as an add on. Yes, and if you do this, you are also benefiting the planet as an add on. And that's a very important effect of the IRA because it cuts through that binary that it's either people or planet. It's actually both, thank heavens. And the beauty, as I say, of the IRA, is that it puts people first and, then it adds the planetary benefit. So the, and so that is so beautiful and so much thought went into that Gina. And my question to you is, is that being perceived?

Gina McCarthy: [00:31:05] Yeah. I mean this gives me a real opportunity, Christiana, to be very clear in the numbers. So it's I think it's really important in response to your question, to actually agree with you that this is a big challenge. But what President Biden did when he came into office was shift the problem of climate change from being a planetary problem, from being a, you have to sacrifice time. This was about opportunity, hope. It was about giving families less expensive energy. It was about cleaning our air. It was about growing clean energy jobs. And what we already see now is that in the United States, we have, as much as 524 clean energy projects happening all across the country. Many of them are manufacturing in industries that we lost in red states. We are talking about like opportunities to grow. Already, 272,000 new clean energy jobs that pay real money. And we're building a whole system around training for those folks so that they can have a better, a better opportunity to succeed long term. And we're talking about a huge amount of private sector investment, $352 billion already. And most of that investment is being made in red states. So it's very difficult now to have folks pull all these, this framing back and start talking about the fact that, that it's going to cost us a lot of money. It's saving us a lot of money. It's going to be a challenge for communities. It's bringing communities together again. It's allowing us to be hopeful again to build things that matter, and it's giving us an ability to cut through the nonsense that the fossil fuel companies are providing to people like they're the saviours, instead of the very reason why we're challenged right now.

Gina McCarthy: [00:33:18] The planet didn't get into trouble because everything was going well. It got into trouble because of the pollution that was being emitted from our reliance and dependence on fossil fuels. We are not seeing 7.5 million people every year dying because of high levels of air pollution, because the fossil fuel companies decided to clean up their act. It is just the opposite. And so I fully understand that they like where they are. They want to keep their positions. They're doing price gouging all across the world, making people have a huge, a bill larger than they ever should have. But we have to put that all aside. We have to talk about clean energy, which is actually taking away the necessity to keep the same levels of fossil fuels. We have to stop reducing our dependence on that. And frankly, we have to talk to them in much more clear terms, much of which I'm using now, that fossil fuels really is not the future. That's not what people want. It's not what people need. People want control of their own destiny. They want their own heat, their own air conditioning. They want their own electric vehicles. They don't want to be dependent on the fossil fuel sector any longer.

Paul: [00:34:44] Gina, what you say is so, so true and right. And, you know, the Inflation Reduction Act was a game changer in the USA and in the whole world a simply brilliant piece of legislation. So, you know, such deep congratulations on that. But guess what. As it starts to really work, and we were talking about this a little bit earlier, the growth of renewable energy, the growth of electric vehicles is starting to have a material impact on the future of the fossil fuel industry. And so whether it's fossil fuel companies, resources in the USA or whether it's resources from Russia and Saudi Arabia or something coming into the US, there clearly is a great deal of money. And this is a kind of climate change election. And I mentioned this just my last point is I turn into a question back to you is, when Tucker Carlson was not interviewing Vladimir Putin, but his previous major interview, you may remember, was with Donald Trump, whereas Donald Trump decided to dodge the candidates for the selection for the Republican Party. And he instead gave an exclusive interview to Tucker Carlson. And he spent a great deal of time in that interview trying to undermine the logic of wind energy, trying to undermine the logic of electric vehicles, complaining that they are going to take your your gas stoves away. It was extraordinary the level of detail he went into. Is this a kind of industry battle this election? Is it about two different, about a particular sector, fighting and if so, a very powerful wounded animal, then what is to be done?

Gina McCarthy: [00:36:22] I don't think it is that, you know, I honestly believe, as you say, that this is a game changer and people feel it. You know, you can't go backwards on the IRA without telling all the red states that are now investing in this, that they're going to take their money and stop it now. It has gone far beyond an ability to go backwards. But, you know, I may be getting a little bit more vehement on fossil fuels than I have been before because I am seeing.

Christiana: [00:36:55] Join the club Gina, we're all doing that.

Gina McCarthy: [00:36:59] Because you gotta do what's right and then you gotta fight what isn't right. And I think, so we're doing great in terms of the positive. We're doing great at clean energy. Now what we need to assure people families of and countries of is that while while we're dependent in many ways on fossil fuels, as whole countries, we have to have a more frank conversation, not just about doing what I'm doing, which is vilifying fossil fuels. We have to think about how we demand reductions, how we start looking at tapering back in a way where families will have the clean energy that's going to allow them to save money and get cleaner energy as a result right. We have to allow that. But we also have to have just very frank conversations about how quickly we can make that transition. I just don't think just making it sort of, just going along as we are now and saying clean energy can compete against it and its clean energy is it in the US already. That's where all of the new capacity for energy is coming from. It's not coming from new natural gas. It's not coming from fossil fuels period. So that shift is beginning. But we have to have an honest dialogue about how we expedite that and be fair about it right. And with wide eyes, with wide open eyes. I'm worried about that at a country level as I'm sure we all are. You know, we did great in Dubai. We talked about transitioning against fossil fuels, blah, blah, blah, blah blah, and reducing our dependence. But if that's all that ends the discussion, then we're just not going to be able to be quickly enough and quick enough in making this transition happen in the US or globally. We have to start talking about the challenges that fossil fuel poses, start ramping that down while we ramp that up, but never leave a single person out of that, you know, ability to keep the lights on for them and their heat on and get their food systems and water systems up where they need to be. And it's going to take a lot of money. I think the US is more than willing to put up its fair share if Congress would let it. The administration is. But we have to get public and private dollars into this so that we can compete against the sort of status that fossil fuels now have that we are having a terrible time breaking through. I'm sorry for the long answer, but it was complicated question. I just don't want people to think we're ready to turn the lights off and we'll wait around for the clean energy to come in. That ain't how it happens.

Christiana: [00:39:57] No, no, that's for sure. And Gina, you've talked about the red states, but also I find it very interesting that swing states have benefited so much from the IRA, nearly 62,000 jobs, thanks to the IRA. And they have received so much funding and, you know, a table that was given to us. Arizona, 8 billion, Georgia, almost 19 billion, Michigan, 21 billion, Nevada, 9 billion, North Carolina, almost 10, Pennsylvania, 107, 197 million, Wisconsin, 445 million. Very interesting that these swing states have directly benefited from the IRA. And when you go down to the person, which is really what counts here, how many people have been receiving tax credits in order to be able to make the green energy projects affordable? How many of them have actually gotten subsidies for their health care, lowering the cost of prescription drugs because of the IRA? I mean, it is really such a beautiful package, not just in red states, in swing states. And yet I have to come back to my question, Gina, is this if you are convinced of this, it is a compelling argument. If you're not convinced, if you are open to the other side of the argument, what keeps me as a red or a swing state voter, what keeps me marching down the narrow path toward a responsible vote in November?

Gina McCarthy: [00:41:52] Yeah, I think, you know, one of the reasons why I think, you know, President Biden came in with a different scenario is that in terms of how you talk about climate and how you act on it, you know, I think that positive framing was very consciously done. I mean, I was part of those discussions about how we move this forward. And it really is it's going to come down to information sharing. It's going to come down to community level, I think, you know, that's one of the reasons why, you know, I'm working with America's All In because it's a collaboration of people. You know, more than 5000 members are out there beating the bushes talking about this stuff because people learn from their own families, they learn from their neighbours.

Christiana: [00:42:45] People they trust, they learn from people they trust.

Gina McCarthy: [00:42:47] Yes, that's it, that's it. And I think we give too many intellectual arguments. I think we give, you know, as opposed to just.

Christiana: [00:42:56] Totally, so with you on that.

Gina McCarthy: [00:42:57] We need to treat human beings what they are. Every human being just wants to live better. They want their kids to have a shot at a bright future. This is how we have to talk about this. Not in scary terms, but in human terms, you know, because after all, the planet doesn't give a damn if there's a human being in it. I've always told people, I think we're the most annoying species in the world, you know. But we, you know, we got, we are what we are and so, but the you know, the good news is that if we can keep this out of politics, recognizing that, I don't think.

Christiana: [00:43:35] Well good luck on that one Gina.

Gina McCarthy: [00:43:37] I don't think anyone's going to roll it back. But you can keep it out of politics at the local level. You can many times keep it below the radar screen at the state level. I don't need anyone to raise their hand and say, you know, I really like heat pumps. I just want to see things continue to move forward. And frankly, the Republicans in these states that are benefiting from this are not going around saying, oh, no, thank you. That's against what I think is my political benefit. Their political benefit is to actually serve their constituencies. And if they can.

Christiana: [00:44:13] But are they capable Gina, of taking the benefit and voting for Trump?

Gina McCarthy: [00:44:18] Yes, I would bet that's true. I would bet that's true. But then let's look at what happens with the money, because I don't think they can afford to turn back these resources as long as we can continue to make progress on getting people, taking them up, seeing that it's a change they like, recognizing that they're already benefiting it. You know, if you look at some of the numbers here, guys, on the lower cost of electricity that people are seeing, it's staggering, I mean it is so.

Christiana: [00:44:53] So you think that is the insurance policy that we have for it not being rolled back, even if we have a disastrous election? Okay.

Gina McCarthy: [00:45:01] Yes that's what I think, yes.

Paul: [00:45:03] I think you've answered my question, but it was really just you're such an expert in communications. Don't, your advice to our listeners of many who are in the USA is don't emphasize the climate disasters. Think about the positive story, the saving of money, the jobs and should the messages be mixed with social justice and health or try and keep them simple? How do you think that, what's communication best practice I guess?

Gina McCarthy: [00:45:29] You know, can I say it depends because not every state is the same. You know, not all constituencies are the same. I think, I absolutely believe that equity needs to be a core of the discussion. Equity and justice, you know, because we've just spent far too long allowing communities to be redlined and sit there and not benefit from all of these new initiatives. And nobody that I know is tolerating that. So we are seeing significant dollars going in low income communities and in rural communities that are not necessarily, you know, all black, so it's not necessarily a racial thing, but it is necessary for us to actually recognize the injustice before. And we've got to benefit first those communities that have been left behind. And I think it's extraordinarily important to build that base of support. Plus, if you agree with me that, you know, sort of young people won the last election, if you think young people are going to tolerate somebody forgetting to talk about equity and justice, they're not going to forget that. It's a prominent feature, as it should be. I think that the you know, in the end, you just sort of scratch your head and wonder how we're missing on the communications as much as we really are, not in terms of, you know, I just worry that the information is not getting out to the folks who need to hear it the most.

Gina McCarthy: [00:47:08] It's not the message often that's the problem. It's just how you get it to folks and get them to pay attention. I've been shocked by the number of young people that really don't know about the IRA. Now, I know that may seem like a wonky thing, but it's extremely important that they get engaged in a hopeful way. And I think part of that, Christiana and Tom and everybody is that we really have to, admit in a more vibrant way, I think that fossil fuels need to be part of the solution in terms of reducing our dependence on what we don't need any longer. And what actually brought us to this point of planetary crisis. That's what got us here. It is not the horse we need to keep riding on. And I just think we haven't quite made that case, because that's the case that young people can articulate, that's a case that they can learn and listen to. And that's the case that will hopefully open their eyes that there's a whole realm of opportunity that would take hopelessness off the table, off the table.

Christiana: [00:48:30] Amen to that, amen to that. 

Gina McCarthy: [00:48:32] That's what we got to do.

Christiana: [00:48:33] Gina, someone is pulling on our jackets here telling us that you need to go, like, right now. So we want to be respectful of your time, thank you so much. But we do need to close with one, our last typical question, and that is with respect to the future of the IRA, not just this year, but beyond with respect to the future of the IRA. What makes you outraged and what are you optimistic about?

Gina McCarthy: [00:49:02] I am optimistic, I am optimistic because of the progress I've seen so far and how long these benefits will continue, and what that's going to mean for the health and well-being of communities everywhere, as well as our planet. In terms of outrage, you know I'm outraged. I think more by the fossil fuel companies, and their continued sort of effort to disinform. 

Christiana: [00:49:32] Yes, intentionally so.

Gina McCarthy: [00:49:34] And really to maintain their hold over people's pocketbooks. I don't like it.

Christiana: [00:49:42] Indeed, indeed. Gina McCarthy, thank you so much. Really really appreciate it.

Paul: [00:49:47] Thank you.

Christiana: [00:49:48] We're with you.

Gina McCarthy: [00:49:49] Love you Christiana, take care, bye.

Christiana: [00:49:50] Love you too, bye.

Paul: [00:49:59] What a force of nature Gina McCarthy is.

Christiana: [00:50:02] She's such a force. I mean, you know, god bless her. And she just, you know, she never gives up. She's always running at 150 miles, but what did you think about that conversation?

Paul: [00:50:16] I mean, I love her optimism. I think it's really important that she's running this massive coalition, that originally was called the We Are Still In. And so it grew up in response to Trump's crazy house.

Christiana: [00:50:33] Exit from, exit from the Paris Agreement.

Paul: [00:50:35] Exit from the Paris Agreement, you know, kind of like, well, we're not just leaving the Paris Agreement. We're gonna leave Earth. You know, it's just like the totally crazy thing that Trump did, but it's grown, you know, into this massive network of networks. So I hope that she and Mike Bloomberg and the whole team there can activate that network to make sure these messages get out. I think her point is that, you know, it's a bit wonky, the Inflation Reduction Act. But look at it. It's a tremendously well crafted piece of policy that's fundamentally changing, you know, industry and economics across the USA and lowering energy prices. Now if that message gets out then it should work, but I do, my fear is, we're in the kind of message wars here. And, you know, I believe, Gina McCarthy and her colleagues will always be known for this extraordinary piece of industrial engineering design. I just worry about the message wars. What did you think?

Christiana: [00:51:31] Yeah, well, I agree with you that, as long as we stay in the message wars, we are in a very precarious situation. And that is my concern because, as she said herself, it actually hasn't been operating very long, and my fear is, will it have the impact that is deep enough with enough people benefiting from it, that it will, from an economic point of view, that it will have a political impact. That's the whole conversation that we had with her. And, you know, it's almost like, oh, darn, the election is this year. Honestly, if the IRA could run for, let's say, two more years and get really grounded and, you know, start to really see very, very clearly the transition in the economy and not just the transition economy, but as she was saying, the personal benefits of families and communities can reap, then I think we would be in a very different space. But as long as it is a message war still, then I think we're in a very, very difficult position.

Paul: [00:52:46] But on the message wars I was really encouraged, well, not encouraged I suppose. I mean, people have talked about this before, but she was very clear early on saying, let's not dwell on the disasters all the time. And I think that's very important because it's, you know, it's a discussion we've had in lots of different ways and lots of, but this idea that you turn into a kind of rabbit in the headlights and a lot of, you know, talk about how, you know, we need to acknowledge how bad things are. Of course, we need to acknowledge how bad things are. I'm always going back to these kind of World War II Churchill thing. But I mean, the point being, you can't talk about how bad it's going to be if you lose. You've got to talk about how great it's going to be when you win. That's the point, I think, because people will find energy to go somewhere they want to go. It's, you've got to acknowledge how dangerous it is to stay where you are and not move. But it's not a motivating force. And I think what I would really credit her for with the Inflation Reduction Act is, is she's sort of putting substance in the message wars. So not only has she got a message, but there's like a whole bunch of gigantic government action supporting the private sector to deliver on that message and the promise of it. And that's the heart of it. And in the end, you know, you've got to just let them do your worst and you do your best. And I think that's what she's doing.

Christiana: [00:54:08] And is it going to be enough is the question that we don't know yet.

Paul: [00:54:12] On that cliff-hanger.

Christiana: [00:54:16] Right, thank you.

Paul: [00:54:17] Okay, what happens when Tom's not around and is there a book like is there a, like a manual, like what do we do when Tom's not around?

Christiana: [00:54:22] I don't know, I think we just thank him in absentia, don't we?

Paul: [00:54:26] Yes, and but I think we should say something about the music, in fact, I have a little digital feed here that said, introduce the music. Well, I'm very happy to do that. So we have music now from James Hastings, another listener submitted artist.

Christiana: [00:54:43] There you go, super. 

Paul: [00:54:45] We did it, we might survive without Tom, aw missing him already. Okay, look, wonderful conversation. Very exciting. Fingers crossed. Fingernails bitten off. Look forward to seeing you next week when we're going to have a fantastic discussion about your amazing mini series right?

Christiana: [00:55:00] Yay!

Paul: [00:55:01] All right.

Christiana: [00:55:02] Thank you, bye. 

Paul: [00:55:03] Bye for now, bye bye.

James Hastings: [00:55:05] Mother is for me both a lament for all the beauty that's been lost in our natural world. But it's also this wild, angry battle cry against our ongoing war on nature. The song is interwoven with samples that I collected whilst out walking in my local forest, which is a very special place for me, and the idea for the chorus was to have this singable, mantra esque chant that could remind us collectively of what it feels like to lose those precious places. I guess this also makes it a warning song.

Clay: [00:59:45] So there you go. Another episode of Outrage + Optimism. I'm Clay, producer of this podcast. Welcome back. Thanks for listening. Another listener submitted artist on the podcast this week, James Hastings. His EP titled Gaia is now available to stream. Wherever you listen to music. Go check the notes for a link to listen to that. And while you're at it, do go check out on YouTube his series titled Forest Sessions. It's an acoustic live session performed, recorded and filmed with nature, invited in a remaining fragment of the ancient Great North Wood. Very, very cool. James, it's a pleasure to have you on the show. James is based in southeast London, so I know we have quite a few listeners from there. So if you are around and about in the southeast London area, you might see him and his rescue dog, Lupin, walking around and singing thank you, James Hastings. A gentle reminder to all listeners, please keep sending in your artists that you'd like to hear on the podcast. We have a team that will handle all of the logistics. You don't have to know the artist. You can just have heard of them, seen them, love them. We love hearing what and who you're listening to. Let's get them on the podcast. My inbox is open clay@globaloptimism.com. All right. Thank you so much to the brilliant Gina McCarthy for coming back on the show. You know, wherever she's at in a car, in a parking lot, in a chair, it's actually kind of starting to sound like a Doctor Seuss book over here. Over there, anywhere, we are so privileged to have you back on the show. Always a pleasure, Gina. You are welcome back any time, listeners, you can go check the show notes for links to connect with and follow Gina. Okay, here is your last chance. Please submit your questions over the weekend for next week's Q&A with Christiana and Isa. We're going to cover their nature series. But really, any question that you have or thing you're thinking about that's related to climate change, how to live a good life during a climate crisis. You know, the podcast, please send your questions and thoughts in that you'd like to have featured on the show, most questions have been written, which is great, but we also have a voicemail inbox open so you can have your voice on the show, speakpipe.com/outrageandoptimism. I've put a link below to that. It would be such a privilege to have some listener voices on the show, and as of right now when I'm recording this, we only have one listener voice recording so far, so I'm ready to hear yours. Send it in. Thank you for that. Last but certainly not least, I haven't mentioned it in a while. But we have our podcast has a bi weekly newsletter, and our social media accounts are active. So please follow us on any social media site that you use. Stay up to date and informed on everything going on in our little corner of the universe. And if you're looking for connection and community, these are the perfect places to engage and stay close. Join us again, links to that below. Instagram LinkedIn. We may actually never be able to make a TikTok, but stay tuned on that. All right, send your voice memos in. Enjoy your weekend. We'll see you right back here next week. Bye.


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