158: The Journey Matters: Ending Fossil Fuel Supply with Tzeporah Berman
The journey to a fossil fuel free world is possible, and the journey there matters.
About this episode
Scientists are reporting that there is now more carbon dioxide in the air than ever before, and with OPEC recently agreeing to accelerate oil production following pressure from the Biden administration to stabilize global markets, what gives? And with cracks showing in the EU as energy prices start to bite, is there a way through this crisis that keeps us on track with the goals of the Paris Agreement?
Our guest this week has her own solution. We speak to Tzeporah Berman about her journey to form the big and bold Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, and what the impact is of the Stockholm 50+ President’s communique calling for a phase out of coal, oil and gas.
And stick around ‘til the end for some amazing feel good music this week - ‘No Te Rindas’ by Charmant Mushaga!
Christiana + Tom’s book ‘The Future We Choose’ is available now!
Mentioned links from the episode:
Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty
Thank you to our musical guest this week, Charmant Mushaga!
Tom: [00:00:12] Hello and welcome to Outrage and Optimism. I'm Tom Rivett-Carnac.
Christiana: [00:00:15] I'm Christiana Figueres.
Paul: [00:00:16] And my name is Paul Dickinson.
Tom: [00:00:19] This week we talk about the recent announcement from OPEC to increase output, the fact that it hasn't affected prices and what that means for the end of the fossil fuel era. We speak to Tzeporah Berman, the director of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, and we have music from Charmant Mushaga. Thanks for being here. So there is a lot to go through this week as ever. A very fascinating piece of news that came out this week, which is that after months of pressure on OPEC from the Biden administration and others, there was an announcement in Riyadh that production of oil would be increased by 650,000 barrels a day. Now, you would imagine that that level of increase would lead to an effect on the market. But interestingly, after that big announcement that Saudi Arabia and allied producers would start pumping more quickly, the price of oil actually went up to $120 a barrel on Monday. There's lots of reasons for this, not least that a proportion of the additional capacity was already priced into the market. So as a result, it had less of an impact. However, what it demonstrates is that the Globe now has a really limited suite of options available to try to bring the price of oil down.Load More
Tom: [00:01:37] We're pretty much pumping at capacity. We can't just say, let's just turn the taps on and pump more. If we're going to deal with the cost of living crisis, if we're going to get on top of the terrible way in which energy costs are actually creating hardship for people around the world. The only way to do that is with a more rapid shift to renewable energy because these prices of fossil fuels have spiralled out of control. This should be a real wake-up call. Opec and Saudi Arabia come forward and try to reduce the price and they can't do it. Therefore, we should not think that the answer to that is just to pump more. It's not. It's now not possible to do that. Instead, we need to shift to reducing oil consumption, all fossil fuels, and that will drive the price down. It will save the climate, and it will also support people in the cost of living.
Christiana: [00:02:23] Yeah. You know, we've been talking about this lesson for I don't know how many weeks now on this podcast, but it really deserves yet another underlining. What we had in the past that there's a direct relationship between how much gets pumped or drilled or put on the market, and the price of that, was actually the result of a reality that is no longer true, that fossil fuels are the only source of energy in the world. So if you have a single source or let's just put oil and gas together. If you have a single source of energy, then of course supply and demand and price are intimately linked. But that's no longer true because we now know that we have so many other sources and that most countries are actually building out their basket of sources of energy. You know, to put some numbers on that, following Putin's invasion of Ukraine, 19 European governments have accelerated their decarbonization plans and actually done it because of what I would like to call the, well, let me be correct here, let's call it the political pressure. I was going to call it something else. What that actually means is that EU countries will reach 63% of renewables in electricity generation by 2030, which increases what they had previously committed, which is a 55% participation going from 55 to 63. That is such a clear demonstration that we are now building out the diversity of energy sources and hence we no longer have that very simplistic relationship between supply, demand and price of the fossil fuels.
Paul: [00:04:28] This is all makes perfect sense, and I'm a little surprised that we've not seen anyone really, and I'm thinking particularly about leading corporations here, talking about using less fossil fuels right now in this emergency, not saying we've got like a 2050 target but saying we're going to do something now in 2022. I think there's a there's a bit of an open goal there for leaders to come forward and say they're going to take actions. Specifically, there was one data point that I picked up on and this relates to the idea that the higher oil price is actually increasing the business case for alternatives to oil and gas. The higher the oil prices, the better funding you've got. It was fascinating. It was about auctions of US offshore oil and gas drilling rights have declined in recent years. With the cancellation of three auctions this year, the number to be held in 2022 of these auctions will be zero. Why is that? It's because there's a lack of industry interest and people are worried about ongoing lawsuits. If you look at the capital investment opportunity, it's enormous. Right now we know we've got to like accelerate capital to produce energy super quickly. If it's carbon-free energy, then you're completely safe. If it's fossil fuel energy, you're putting yourself at the most enormous risk. The point being now for investors who want to apply capital quickly and make a lot of money, there's really practically risk-free renewables that you can go for very, very quickly and there's high risk in fossil fuels. That should make it pretty easy to get things moving in the right direction now.
Tom: [00:06:12] Yeah.
Christiana: [00:06:13] Do you all remember that we had Kingsmill Bond on here on in conversation with us? Just a few weeks ago.
Paul: [00:06:18] Oh, yes, we do.
Christiana: [00:06:20] He was talking about the difference between supply-side logic and demand-side logic. He was saying from a supply-side logic, those fossil fuel industries because they are racking in the money now, might have an interest in continuing to drill more and supply more. But they forget that there's also demand-side logic that there is rising intolerance of these completely crazy prices. I think what you're saying now, Paul, is actually not just demand-side logic against increasing of fossil fuels but actually even from the supply side, that is also beginning to give way. Partly because of the risks, as you say, of legal consequences but also I would add to that the fact that it is becoming more and more difficult to transport these fossil fuels. As we have just read, Lloyds has signed on to a ban to not insure Russian cargoes anymore. What that means is that Russia, the world's the third-largest producer of crude, is going to have a very, very hard time transporting their crude if they can't get insurance for it. Whether you look at it from demand-side, that is a clear case or from the supply side that is beginning to crumble away, are we not where Kingsmill took us in that conversation, basically at the end of the era of fossil fuels.
Tom: [00:08:02] I think that's good analysis. Christiana. I also think, that you mean if you have both being eroded, right? The ability to provide production. That's a fascinating statistic you just provided, Paul, about the fact that there'll be no offshore auctions this year and then everything else you just described about insurance, etc.. Christiana. However, right now the reality is that demand and consumption are still continuing to rise and much of that is driven, of course, by places that are growing fast, such as China. OPEC predicts that the world will consume 100 million barrels a day of oil this year, up from 97 million barrels a day last year. So that demand is still going up. JP Morgan, in their wonderful sort of completely other-worldly language, described this as a sustained exajoule deficit. Basically meaning that demand is going to outstrip supply at least until the end of this decade. Because demand is still rising globally for these fossil fuels that are, let's not forget, highest in history, recorded parts per million right now, but that's going to lead to a sustained high price. So we've entered this really weird world. I'm not undermining Kingsmill's argument where both demand and supply are beginning to be very erratic. That's leading to these wild jumps in price that are very difficult for people to manage.
Christiana: [00:09:15] Yeah, I mean, it's such a complicated picture. Now, honestly, you can go and find your data point to substantiate anything that you want to believe, because the fact is that there are data points for everything. Right? And that's the definition of a transition, a very complex transition. But just to prove my point, here's the other data point on China. That it is now building the equivalent of one coal plant of actually wind and solar every week. So it is definitely, definitely investing into the future and it is on track to install 108 gigawatts of solar alone this year, almost double what they installed last year. So in terms of where they are looking and where they want their growth to come from, it's confusing, let's say, that way. It's confusing because there is not just one road ahead. There is actually many roads ahead. We know that one road is a shorter road and we'll end up in a dead end road, but it still continues.
Tom: [00:10:32] Paul, you wanted to come in?
Paul: [00:10:33] Yeah. I mean, this exlajoule deficit idea is kind of silly. I mean, say I was sitting at home and I was watching Netflix. I love watching Netflix and I'm super enjoying it but I start to smell a bit of smoke in my lounge. I carry on watching Netflix and then there's a lot more smoke in my lounge and I carry on watching Netflix and then maybe I can see flames. Maybe my furniture is on fire and the air is getting thick with smoke and I'm still watching Netflix. If I have to leave my lounge because I'm going to die in a fire, you could call that a Netflix deficit. The point is, extreme weather is taking us to the point where we have to make a decision. This isn't about shuffling economic numbers. This is about life and death. What is it, 4 million years? We've not had air like this for 4 million years, according to NOA. This is ridiculous. I think I said last week we've been four degrees hotter and eight degrees colder several times in the last 300,000 years. For 4 million years, we've never breathed air like this. Our house is on fire. There is no energy deficit in our development that's going to lead to more fossil fuels. There is only a moment of clarity that is going to come to this chronically deranged society.
Tom: [00:11:49] I'm not sure I completely follow the Netflix deficit if I'm entirely honest, but I definitely agree with the point you make about the long-term trajectory and the need to focus on the key issues. Honestly, the reality is that that's how investors and others see this world, right? They see this - there's an exajoule deficit. So therefore, there's an investment opportunity because there's the likelihood of sustained high prices. I mean, we saw some of that sneak out with Stuart Kirk. I'm sure there's more of it going on than we realize. That's indicative of the type of language and thinking that is being propounded.
Paul: [00:12:17] But I'm going to have one more go with my Netflix deficit. You're sitting there, Tom, you're watching Netflix. You're loving the film. It's your favorite ever film. You're glued to the screen but you can smell the smoke and it's filling up your lounge. Do you take my point? You're going to have to walk away from the TV at some point and recognize that your life is in danger. That's what extreme weather is doing to us now. As societies, we are reaching a moment of decision.
Tom: [00:12:42] Christiana? Netflix deficit?
Christiana: [00:12:44] Poor Netflix.
Tom: [00:12:46] Yeah. Please, no, no legal comeback on that.
Paul: [00:12:49] I think that the whole Netflix thing didn't really work that well. I'm going to be honest with you. I'm going to work on my metaphors better.
Tom: [00:12:55] You can just reach out directly to Paul's lawyers. Netflix. No need to come to Outrage and Optimism.
Paul: [00:12:59] No, no, no. It's like a very positive thing. Oh, look. No, no. It's just like. It's like encouraging people to... Oh dear, I've got it wrong but you know what I mean.
Tom: [00:13:07] Right, anything else to add before we go to our interview?
Christiana: [00:13:10] Well, I just think, you know, as an interesting intro to the interview, this the relationship between supply and demand and in the context that we know as developing countries come up into their development, into their further development levels. Is the understanding that we are going to need more and more supply of energy, the only question being what kind of energy is supplied because demand will continue to grow. So how is that going to be supplied? We have to remember that there are two sides to this equation, always supply and demand and that is actually a very good segue to the conversation that we will share with you. Tom?
Tom: [00:14:01] It is. You're getting very good at this. Excellent. Okay. Right. So today we have an interview for you with Tzeporah Berman. Tzeporah is someone we've known for a long time. She is a Canadian, a Canadian environmental activist, campaigner and writer. She's got a long history of direct activism and a range of other things. She's also a professor at York University in Toronto. But for this conversation, the piece of her long career that we focus on is the fact that in 2020 she launched the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which she is the chair. We will have her explain that in much more detail to you as we begin the conversation and what it tries to do and how it's structured. So let's go to the conversation and we'll be back afterwards for some more discussion. Here's Tzeporah Berman.
Christiana: [00:14:49] Thank you so much for finally joining us on outrage and optimism. I think you've been talking about it, we have been talking about it for such a long time to have you on. So it's delightful to have you here. For all our listeners right off the bat, you should all know that Tzeporah has delivered an absolutely impassioned TEDx talk that we will put the link in our show notes.
Tom: [00:15:14] That we all had the privilege to be in the room for. I remember watching you do it. It was fantastic.
Christiana: [00:15:18] Yes! Indeed. Indeed. We were, so thanks for that. Having been there, done that, we know how absolutely harrowing a TEDx talk is to prepare and to deliver. So congratulations for that but really beautifully done. It'll definitely be in the show notes but before we get to the treaty itself. How about you just tell us, how did you even chance upon this idea? How did you get it? What were the roots? I would say what are the roots of non-delivery or insufficiency, perhaps? What were the roots of insufficiency that you detected that led you to this campaign for a new treaty?
Tzeporah: [00:16:06] Thanks, Christiana. I'm really glad to be here with all of you. I'm a big fan of outrage and optimism. For me, my journey started in Canada in the Alberta oil sands, also known as tar sands. I started working there, I guess maybe about 15 years ago. So beginning of my climate journey, really trying to understand, you know, in a wealthy country like Canada, what were we doing on climate change? I was pretty horrified when I first started digging in to realize that, you know, Canada has growing emissions, that at the time we had a prime minister who was denying climate change and committed to Canada becoming an oil superpower, wanted to triple the size of the tar sands. I started working on climate policy. I started trying to understand the extent of the oil development in Canada and why there was this huge disconnect. For years, honestly, I thought it was because we had a far-right government in Alberta and in Ottawa who didn't believe in climate change. So fast forward to when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was elected. You probably remember, you know, Trudeau standing in Paris with his hand on his heart and saying, Canada is back. And many of us celebrated this is going to be a new era. Canada and Trudeau worked hard to put in place a pan-Canadian climate framework. An economy-wide price on carbon, committed to a lot of other measures that are necessary to reduce our emissions.
Tzeporah: [00:17:47] Our emissions continued to go up and the government continued to approve more and more oil development while talking about becoming a climate leader. I started researching, well, what are the mechanisms that we have in domestic policy to constrain the production of fossil fuels? I understand reducing demand and our targets for emissions but what are we doing to constrain the production of fossil fuels so we're not locking in more and more oil development? And I realized that our government didn't really think that that was their job. That when I talked to government about it, they said, look, we have targets. We constrain emissions, we reduce demand but the markets will constrain supply. You know, we have to remain competitive and, you know, and we're going to continue to produce more fossil fuels. I spent years trying to work on climate policy inside of Canada. I was actually appointed by the Alberta government as the oilsands and to the Oil Sands Advisory Working Group to help negotiate with the oil companies and working with indigenous nations and others to try and figure out climate policy, in the oilsands. I'll never forget the day actually that I was at a conference and talking about how we continue to produce more and more oil but call ourselves a climate leader and, and someone from the government. I won't say who.
Christiana: [00:19:14] Oh, go on.
Tzeporah: [00:19:15] Came up to me quietly and said it's really rude that you keep talking about fossil fuels at this climate policy conference. It would be helpful if you didn't keep talking about production. I had this moment and I thought, rude?
Christiana: [00:19:33] What's the whole point?
Tzeporah: [00:19:35] Well, what was happening for me in Canada is a microcosm of what has been happening around the world. I started reaching out to groups around the world and academics around the world and other supply-side countries, as we call them, countries who are producing more oil, gas and coal and trying to see what they were experiencing. What I realized is whether you're in Norway or Argentina or the UK or Canada or many countries around the world, we were all hearing the same thing. It's not government's job to constrain production. Climate change is just about demand. It's just about reducing emissions. So a group of us got together and started forming a network to really understand what was going on and to share strategies. That was the moment that I started looking at what are the mechanisms internationally to constrain fossil fuel production. I'll never forget the day that I searched the Paris Agreement and I searched for the words oil, gas, coal, fossil fuels.
Tzeporah: [00:20:37] As you well know, they don't exist in the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement is structured to reduce emissions and again, not production. For me, that was the moment when I realized we need some new framework, some mechanisms to constrain the growing problem of fossil fuel production. Because while countries have been working hard for decades and we've been collaborating internationally, it's almost like behind our backs. The fossil fuel industry has been growing production and putting in place more and more projects. Of course, now we know from the UNEP Production Gap Report, working with Stockholm Environment Institute, that we're on track to produce 110% more fossil fuels than the world can ever burn and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Around that same time there were a couple of academics, Peter Newell and Andrew Sims, that published a paper, a peer-reviewed paper on the need, looking at the analogy between nuclear non-proliferation and the need for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty. And the idea seemed so simple yet so bold, and I got really excited about it and put together a working group and started exploring the idea. Then I won this award, the Climate Breakthrough Award, where you're given support and $2 million to create bold new climate ideas and to take risks. So I put the funds into creating the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative.
Tom: [00:22:09] Amazing.
Christiana: [00:22:10] And Tzeporah, so what would be the outcome if I understand the process, but please correct me, you're trying to raise awareness about the urgency, the need to curtail supply because otherwise we're only curtailing demand or working on demand. So you're focusing on supply but who you would like to reach first? If I understand it correctly, the first universe is individuals, corporations, perhaps even financial institutions who would sign up to this effort. Then do you see as a second step to get governments to sign up to a new treaty or what is the final outcome, the final desired outcome of the campaign?
Tzeporah: [00:23:00] Well, the final desired outcome is a livable world.
Christiana: [00:23:04] Yes, we agree on that one!
Christiana: [00:23:06] Totally agree on that one. But one step before that?
Tzeporah: [00:23:11] Well, when we studied other treaties, nuclear non-proliferation, landmines, chemical weapons ban treaties, what we realized in studying all of those other treaties is that civil society plays a critical role and cities play a critical role. That if you look at nuclear non-proliferation, it was scientists, academics, cities, groups, civil society and NGO groups from around the world calling on our governments to stop stockpiling nuclear weapons. In the journey of developing that treaty, they shifted the social norm around nuclear weapons from being something that protects us to being weapons of mass destruction, something that threatens us. So part of our theory in the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative is to really create the idea, embed the idea, and grow support from around the world to push governments to address these issues. Because we see some amazing climate campaigns around the world right now, especially the growth of the finance work and divestment. But at this moment in history, we can't let governments off the hook! While there's amazing initiatives, especially by Indigenous leadership and frontline communities in opposing individual projects, from the Okavango Delta to the projects that are being opposed all over the world Argentina, LNG, new oil drilling in the heart of the Amazon. These are particular projects and we need to unite all those people around the world because together we are greater than the sum of our parts.
Tzeporah: [00:24:54] So the basis of the initiative is to grow that call on the theory that the journey matters by creating a conversation about stopping the expansion of fossil fuels. We're starting to create new moments of collaboration. Ultimately, where we need to get to is new global governance mechanisms to constrain production. Because right now we have no way of collaborating together to support, especially countries, where it's going to be so much more difficult to stop the expansion of fossil fuels. Right now there are countries around the world that are being forced to dig for more oil, to do more fracking just to feed their debt. So what are the mechanisms that can be created if we collaborate together internationally to constrain production and really look at if we have a finite carbon budget, who's producing what fossil fuels and how much? So if we can create those mechanisms, those new global governance cooperation to constrain the production of fossil fuels, then it will complement the Paris Agreement. It will help us meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Well, not just the Paris Agreement, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Tom: [00:26:11] The liveable planet, as you said.
Tzeporah: [00:26:13] And a livable planet. That's right.
Paul: [00:26:16] I just want to ask so first of all, congratulations for doing this. I mean, it's clearly hit a really interesting element of enthusiasm for people. It's like the resonance with non-proliferation from nuclear is amazing so we love it! I just want to ask you a question that it gives you a chance to respond to it. If you reduce your demand, then you can actually make it, you reduce your demand and therefore, theoretically, there is less emissions in the atmosphere. Right? If you reduce production, then will that, this is one of the questions I've heard people make about this. Will that not just lead unless you have incredibly strong global governance that manages everybody through a system of accountability, which is a long way from where we've got now. It doesn't mean we shouldn't work for it but it's a long way from where we've got now. Doesn't it just mean that another country will increase production and fill that gap? You know, top ten fossil fuel producers includes Russia, Iran, Qatar, China, Saudi Arabia, Algeria. You'd need to have all of those countries with 100% full compliance, all cooperating together to do the same thing in order to get to that outcome. I just want to give you a chance to respond to that as a structural question that I've heard levied.
Tzeporah: [00:27:25] No, thank you. It's a really important question. There are a couple of norms that we have in this conversation. We assume that if a country constrains supply, someone else will just produce supply. In fact, new research by the Stockholm Environment Institute, looking at specific jurisdictions is showing that that is not necessarily true. Why? Because we have what gets produced and where is influenced by what transportation infrastructure we have, where products, how products move around the world and so it's not necessarily a linear piece. This one produces less, this one produces more. But I think more importantly is that social change isn't linear. Leadership matters. Again, when you look at the example of nuclear non-proliferation, the US never signed that, but they're not growing more. That's because it sets a new norm. It sets a new leadership bar. I think that's one of the beauties of the Beyond Oil and Gas Initiative that was launched at COP 26, led by Denmark and Costa Rica, now signed by 11 other countries and subnationals. That leadership of countries to say, we know we need to stop expansion, we are going to do it and we're going to collaborate to create a peer-based network on how to do it. We see that as one of the building blocks towards a treaty. It's setting a new norm, which other countries will have to follow. One of the other critical building blocks which we've been working on is having accountability and transparency on who's producing what and how much a lot of funds don't realize.
Paul: [00:29:09] Yeah.
Paul: [00:29:10] Countries have to submit data on emissions. A lot of people don't realize that if we want to figure out who's producing what fossil fuels or planning on producing what fossil fuels, even the UNEP and the Production Gap report has to buy the data from RYSTAD. So the global registry would be the first public accountable and transparent registry on who's producing what and how much and how much each country plans to produce. The beta of that will go live as a result of the work of Carbon Tracker and Global Energy Monitor in July. I think that will start to shift supply to becoming a political issue and linked to climate leadership. Which will have a significant impact when a country says we acknowledge it, we need to stop production, we need to stop expansion and manage the wind-down in a just and equitable way. That's really important. The basis of the treaty is that there will be negotiations and governance to ensure that the wind-down is equitable. Then that's going to shift the norm of what other countries do.
Tom: [00:30:10] Yeah.
Christiana: [00:30:11] So Tzeporah, help me out on this because you and I have had several conversations about this and I'm still unclear. We absolutely and I'm very sure that I can speak for Tom and Paul on this. We absolutely 150% support your outcome, which is curtailing supply because, without that, you don't curtail emission. You know from the Paris Agreement perspective, it does talk about emissions because that is the final outcome of both the supply and the burning. We totally agree that supply needs to be curtailed. Where I have a hard time from my perspective but please push back on me. My perspective unnecessarily complicating the path toward curtailing supply by what I perceive as a legal sidestep that only complicates. For sovereign states, who are the only ones who are, by international law, allowed to put forward or negotiators sign a treaty for them to now put forward another treaty that has to do with fossil fuels and negotiated and approve it and pass it through all of different jumps and hoops. Why do you think that that is necessary when your final outcome is curtailing supply? Everything that you speak about actually is absolutely within that space, which is, let's put pressure on the companies, let's put pressure on whether it's private companies or whether it is state-owned companies that are still, you know, still producing more. I am sure we're all celebrating that finally the IEA has come out and said no more new fossil fuels, no more exploration, no more drilling. That is absolutely brilliant. That is, it seems to me what your ultimate goal here is to curtail supply in addition to demand that is shifting. Why would you want to complicate the route to this, which is not easy anyway, by going through an international treaty that would have to be proposed, negotiated and signed by sovereign countries? It seems to me that we could get to your outcome without having to unnecessarily complicate things from an international law perspective.
Tzeporah: [00:33:02] But we're not. We're not getting to that outcome.
Christiana: [00:33:07] But complicating it doesn't help, right?
Tzeporah: [00:33:11] Well, it's already complicated. The fossil fuel system is incredibly complicated. What we're seeing is that all of our efforts globally are not working. Emissions are at an all-time high. We're locking in more and more fossil fuel production every day. We hear all these arguments today because of Russia's war on Ukraine that we need to start building more LNG, more fracking, more gas. In fact, many countries are now announcing that they're planning on doing that. Those projects will not stop and solve short-term issues. Those projects, once we build a new piece of infrastructure, billion-dollar pieces of infrastructure, they're going to lock in new fossil fuel production and emissions 20 and 40 years from now. So the bottom line is that it is a big, bold new idea but at this moment in history, we need big, bold, new ideas. What we're currently doing is not working. When we talk about cutting supply along with demand, it's not an either or. We have to do both.
Christiana: [00:34:21] No, for sure, for sure.
Tzeporah: [00:34:23] The fact is that we can't afford to continue doing more of the same. We have to recognize that there are many countries in the world that cannot stop fossil fuel expansion on their own and that's why we need global governance and new mechanisms for international cooperation. The journey matters. Just proposing a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty is already creating new conversations, bilateral and multilateral agreements.
Christiana: [00:34:56] Yes, that I definitely see. That I definitely see.
Paul: [00:35:00] The treaty is structured around three pillars similar to nuclear non-proliferation. First, we need countries to sign up to commit to no new expansion and no new expansion of production. That's the first pillar. Underneath that pillar, there will be principles and mechanisms in which countries can collaborate to do that. Secondly, disarmament, we need to phase out existing stockpiles and production of fossil fuels. How fast do countries need to phase out? Well, some countries, like the wealthy countries, are going to need to phase out quicker but we are going to need discussions and cooperation to do that. We're going to need new agreements around debt and debt forgiveness in order so that countries like Ecuador are not doing new oil drilling in the heart of the Amazon, right now, just in order to feed their debt. We don't have those mechanisms right now that global governance, that global conversation. In fact, some treaties have not taken ten years. Some treaties have taken two years. So we don't know how long a treaty will take, but we know that the journey towards a treaty matters. We need to shift the conversation to force governments to start to collaborate. Equity and justice are at the heart of how much fossil fuels we're producing and who gets to produce. Right now without a treaty, we're leaving it up to the markets. If we leave it up to the markets, then justice will not be taken into account. Oh no, I've silenced Christiana Figueres. I'm not sure whether that's terrifying or exciting.
Christiana: [00:36:43] No, as I say, I totally agree with your final outcome. I must say, you know, having devoted 30 years of my life to get an international agreement, Frankly, I don't want anyone to have to go through that again. That's my thing. It was so excruciatingly difficult and geopolitics has only become much more complicated now than it was in 2015. So I don't see the value had, to be frank, of going through the legal steps again, as opposed to injecting everything that you have said into current efforts. I totally agree with you that, you know, we haven't done our job. This is not a secret statement of mine. I've just published two articles, one for Stockholm 50 and another one we're saying, it is not about renegotiating yet another agreement. Please do not focus, in fact, even within the COP process, within the UN F.C.C. process, government should not be going to these processes and renegotiating something. For God's sakes, implement what you've already promised! Implement what is already domestic law. That's the thing. There is such a gap between what is already legally binding, both at an international level as well as the domestic and what governments are implementing. So to tell governments, look, the only way to close that gap is to come to another international agreement. My fear is time, Tzeporah. My fear is time.
Tzeporah: [00:38:45] I hear you. I hear you.
Christiana: [00:38:47] We know that we have to peak emissions by 2025 if we're now going to undertake yet another complicated process to come to an international agreement, I'm just really concerned about time.
Tzeporah: [00:39:00] I'm concerned about time as well. What I know is that we don't have time for more of the same. Nelson Mandela famously said it always seems impossible until it's done. The way that we see this working is through building blocks towards a treaty. Now, let's fast forward two or even four years. So we have generated, we have created and helped to support a growing movement calling on their governments to constrain the production of fossil fuels as well as emissions. We have created a global registry of fossil fuel production, which is one of the building blocks, so that there's accountability and transparency. We have BOGA is much bigger. More countries have joined the Beyond Oil and Gas Initiative because many of them are considering it now because they're afraid of a fossil fuel treaty so they're going over to join BOGA. Maybe we've even created a world commission on fossil fuels, where we're looking at what are the barriers to stopping expansion and how can we support these equity measures and justice measures to help countries stop expansion and wind down in a way that is fair and just? Maybe at the end of that time, we realise that at this point we have enough bilateral and multilateral agreements that production is being constrained and we don't need a treaty. Well, great! I'd like to retire. Maybe we won't. But if we don't create the conversation and shift and create a new conversation then we will not be on that pathway because we're not on it today. That's why we need to unite people under this call for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty. It is actually an exquisitely simple idea that is motivating people around the world and making them realise the disconnect between the production and new projects constantly and our goals of a climate-safe world.
Christiana: [00:41:03] So if I understand that, you're using this concept of the treaties, Tzeporah, as what I would call a political forcing moment, right? It's a political forcing vehicle for people to understand perhaps much more in their gut than just in their brain. To go, okay, this is it to draw the line and then create much more of a forcing context for governments.
Tzeporah: [00:41:35] It's a direction of travel and it's a new direction of travel. There are already countries who are supporting the concept president of Samoa, the president of East Timor just last week, Vanuatu in a speech. So we're starting to hear countries support the concept. We're already in behind the scenes conversations with a number of countries who are saying that they will propose it to the UN. So if it's proposed it creates a process. Maybe that process is the World Commission on Fossil Fuels exploring the barriers to stop expansion. I believe that we can get a treaty but even if we don't, this work every day is what's giving me hope because it's changing the conversation to an honest conversation. That we can't keep building more oil, gas and coal and saying we're on a track to reduce emissions.
Paul: [00:42:33] And a world commission is a wonderful idea. You know, we're all very familiar with governments in their countries. They have a commission on this or a commission on that but surely it's time for a world commission on the production? Because you're absolutely right. If it doesn't get dug out the ground, it doesn't get burned. It's that simple. I can imagine nations saying we're not going to manufacture cigarettes in our national territory anymore. It's kind of the same idea. You know, cigarettes don't work.
Paul: [00:42:58] What I love about it is, you know, lots of people are now saying many of our international institutions are unfit for purpose, right? They were created at a time of colonialism, post-Second World War and they don't really fit with today's world. We need to reimagine those institutions for a governance of a world that can take us forward. So I think it's amazing. We've talked about it's amazing what you're doing there. You've changed the conversation to production and that's really welcomed and appreciated. I'm going to ask the closing question, if that's all right? We've gone on too long because we love talking to you, so you're going to have to make it pithy, although I'm sure it'll be brilliant. The podcast is called Outrage and Optimism because we think both of those things are now needed to move us forward. Can you tell us, looking now at the world, at this amazing task that you've taken on with Road to Run but huge benefits to be taken from it. What gives you what's one thing that gives you optimism and what's something that keeps you outraged?
Tzeporah: [00:43:48] I think that hope is not something we have. I think it's something that we create.
Tom: [00:43:54] For sure.
Tzeporah: [00:43:54] Every day I'm astounded and amazed by how quickly this movement is growing. There are now 267 elected officials, parliamentarians from 60 countries that are calling for no new expansion of oil, gas and coal and a just transition. This is a parliamentarian initiative that was created by parliamentarians from the Global South, fossilfuelfreefuture.org. I've already talked about over 1000 civil society organisations, the Nobel laureates, the scientists. This movement is growing so fast and that takes courage, especially on behalf of the parliamentarians. So that gives me hope and optimism.
Tom: [00:44:37] Great.
Tzeporah: [00:44:38] And outrage. I am outraged that companies and countries are claiming to be climate champions. They're lobbying net zero. We have to get to net zero. We have to get to zero and beyond. But they're doing that while expanding the problem. This is a fraud. Net-zero is being used to kind of obscure the refusal of companies and countries to keep expanding new oil and gas projects. The top 20 oil and gas companies in the world plan to spend 930 billion in new fossil fuel developments by 2030. These companies are saying that they're green and yet they spend less than 2% on renewable CapEx and spend billions on building new fossil fuel projects. I don't think these companies are going to design their own demise and that's why we need to hold governments to account. I think this constant drumbeat of unabated coal, inefficient subsidies, new projects that don't compromise our carbon neutrality objectives, oil expansion in line with net zero. These are accounting tricks. They're vague promises and we no longer have time for technological fixes to justify expansion.
Tom: [00:45:58] Tzeporah Berman, thank you for your passion, your vision, everything you're doing. We're so grateful. Thanks for joining us today and all the power to you.
Paul: [00:46:07] Thank you very much indeed.
Christiana: [00:46:09] Thank you.
Tom: [00:46:16] How fascinating to get a chance to sit down with a Tzeporah and hear the work that she's doing. I would love to hear from both of you, what you leave that conversation with?
Christiana: [00:46:27] Well, uncharacteristically. Can I jump in? I usually let Paul go first. Here's what I really love and appreciate about Tzeporah's efforts. That is that she is really inviting more and more focus on the supply side of fossil fuels. Because we are so intent on focusing much more on the demand side and less use and less purchase, etc., etc., and changing technologies such as electrifying vehicles so that they don't demand fossil fuels in their tanks. So a lot of the technologies that we have actually are technologies that focus on decreasing the demand for fossil fuels, all of which is important. Tzeporah is reminding us it's not just about that side, it's also about the supply side. We should be putting more pressure on diminishing the supply. She's absolutely right. As we have seen recently, oil and gas companies who are the major suppliers are feeling that kind of pressure as should be. Now, the piece where I frankly can no longer accompany Tzeporah, is in the interpretation of the Paris Agreement. Because the Paris Agreement is a comprehensive, legally binding agreement in the 190 countries that have made it national law. The Paris Agreement understands that because this has to be a global response you need to work on three different vectors, if you will, at the same time climate change. One is mitigation, which is reducing emissions, all emissions. The other is adaptation, which is the number one concern from developing countries. How are they going to adapt? The number three is finance, because it is actually finance that certainly for developing countries determines whether developing countries can both mitigate and adapt. So mitigation, adaptation and finance are the three pillars of the Paris Agreement.
Christiana: [00:48:53] You would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to do any supply-side restriction that is not complemented by the other pieces just because it is financially impossible but especially politically, completely unacceptable. The other piece that I think one has to take into account is that the convention and therefore the Paris agreement also the Kyoto Protocol, the previous legal agreement also actually covers all of the greenhouse gases. It covers carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, HFCS, PMCs and SF6. And those are all of the greenhouse gases. All of which we have to diminish. Some with much, much worse short-term impact even than CO2. The fact is that fossil fuels I don't want to say only because it's not only they have a huge contribution but fossil fuels contribute carbon dioxide and methane. They do not contribute nitrous oxide, they do not contribute CFC, HFCS, etc., etc.. So the Paris Agreement, because it has to be complete, the transition of the economy has to be complete. The Paris Agreement, of course, covers fossil fuels but it also covers deforestation, cement, agriculture, fertilizer production, industrial processes, refrigerators, etc., etc., because it is a comprehensive agreement. What Tzeporah is doing is really going in with a sharp focus. Which needs to be there on the one piece that is not the one piece, because there are several pieces that are still not progressing as fast as they should. She has chosen to focus on the supply side and she's right about that. We have to understand that the supply side of methane and CO2 for which fossil fuels are responsible is one part but not the whole answer to climate change.
Tom: [00:51:11] For those of you who are wondering and I know you all are SF6 is a non-toxic, inert, insulating cooling gas called sulfur hexafluoride.
Christiana: [00:51:18] Sorry about that.
Paul: [00:51:23] I mean, this is such an interesting and difficult area. If you bring it all down to one concept, you could argue, will countries nationally decide that they're not going to produce any more oil and gas or any oil and gas? Probably if you're somewhere that's never had oil and gas, it's kind of easy. If you're somewhere like Norway, which is essentially a very rich country, which has also a very active oil and gas industry. At what point might the government of Norway say, you know, we're going to take down our oil and gas industry? You know, in 2019, a new Labor Party came into, sorry, 2021 I should say, October 2021, a new Labor Party came into Norway and said that they are not going to dismantle the oil and gas industry. It's a question. I think it's a way of just bringing forward the thinking of a country. Are we going to you know, I put it previously regarding cigarettes, can a country say it's not going to manufacture cigarettes? Not about the global market for cigarettes. Just we here in our country, we're not going to manufacture them. You know, is Norway, for example. I'm calling out Norway. I could just as easily mention the U.K. or many other countries that have pretty significant oil and gas but also in the great scheme of things, relatively wealthy. We're all agreeing on net zero, 2050. What does leadership look like? I feel that's the invitation, the challenge that's put forward. I think it's also fascinating that cities, for example, start to flex their political muscle in terms of the megaphone they've got to back such an initiative. If you logically think it through, if they're not going to be any fossil fuels, then somebody's got to stop producing them. It could be you and you could do it first and it could catapult your economy forward because you'd have to invest in potentially alternatives and could end up owning that market.
Tom: [00:53:20] Yeah, no, I agree with you, Paul, and obviously countries need to lead. I think what I like about what Tzeporah is doing is she shifts the thinking that people have around how we should account for fossil fuels, right? We've become used to thinking of them as this is a demand-side issue that we need to manage the demand and regulate our way down. Actually, when you flip your thinking and think about it in a different way as how it might emerge. We might have approached this in a different way. I mean, I had a conversation with someone recently and they were lamenting the fact that all of China's emissions were so high and there was nothing we can do. They'd never had the thought that the reason that China's emissions are so high is because they're producing all the stuff that we're consuming in the West so there are other ways to think about this that lead to different breakthroughs. I think what's great about the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is getting individuals to sign up, building that kind of activist base, getting organizations on board. I think that a global treaty on that is a hard road and good on her for having a crack at that. I think having part of the Paris Agreement, I know some elements of what's involved there. I think having this as a narrative in the world that can help us think about this issue in a different way has got to be good, right? So, good on her for doing that and driving forward and using that award she got in such a productive way.
Paul: [00:54:36] Yeah, it's just thinking about things in another way. You know, there's a problem in the US. We all know with guns, there's 340 million people with 380 million guns or something. I mean, you want to ban the products or stop people buying so many guns. Part of the problem seems to be manufacture less guns. You know, it sounds childish but maybe sometimes childish principles are good. Maybe we need to shut down the production as part of shutting down the consumption, they're kind of hand-in-glove.
Tom: [00:55:06] Yeah, no, I'm with you, Paul. I think that sometimes those solutions, those straightforward questions about how do we address these issues are sometimes the smartest ways for us to approach it. So this has been a really interesting conversation to bring that into the light. Now to music unless there's anything else to add?
Paul: [00:55:24] Not really, other than Clay just says it's actually statistically true about this is the way to solve the gun problem. So there you go. That's it from me. Thanks, Tom.
Tom: [00:55:31] Paul Dickinson addresses the gun problem. We can look forward to that on a future show. Okay. Charmant Mushaga, No Te Rindas. This is an amazing piece of music. Really hope you enjoy it. Thanks for joining us as ever this week for this conversation with Tzeporah. We will be back as usual next week. Have a good week!
Paul: [00:55:48] See you. Bye for now.
Christiana: [00:55:49] Bye.
Charmant Mushaga: [00:55:51] My name is Charmant Mushaga, I'm a Ugandan-based Congolese. I was born in eastern Congo, in Kivu. This is a message for you today. Who is giving up on your dreams? Keep dreaming. Keep walking. Dreams do come true. God bless you.
Clay: [00:59:24] So there you go another episode of Outrage and Optimism. Welcome to the end of the show. I'm Clay, producer of this podcast and this is the part of the show where we wrap things up. We send you on your merry way. Thanks for sticking around! That amazing track you just heard was No Te Rindas by Ugandan-based Congolese artist Charmant Mushaga. Charmant, as you heard, is an amazing artist and guitar player. I've got two videos of him playing that you need to see. One of them is like a really big live jazz festival where he's playing electric guitar. Then there's a second video that's like a direct-to-camera, small room, a solo nylon string, acoustic playing video to kind of show you the versatility he has as a guitar player. I've also included an interview from 2020 in a Ugandan publication where he tells a little bit more about his story of becoming a refugee, talking about his music and the state of guitar playing in Uganda, which probably wasn't what you thought you'd be learning about when you hit play on this podcast, but nonetheless, it's awesome. Links to his social media and more music in the show notes, of course. Thank you, Charmant, and thank you to our guest this week, Tzeporah Berman. Tzeporah, if you are listening back to the show, it was such a pleasure having you on the podcast. I know Tom and Christiana mentioned it earlier but it was absolutely amazing to be there live for your TEDx Talk and I'm so thrilled that we could finally make this happen so it's great to have you. Listeners, links to learn more about the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty and Tzeporah's socials and of course, her TEDx talk linked to that are in the show notes for you to check out.
Clay: [01:01:13] So thank you Tzeporah. I was off last week and as May was the last month for a few of our team members here at Outrage + Optimism. I just wanted to give a quick shout-out to Sophie Baggott and Fabio Scaffidi-Argentina as well as Nicola Lang for all of the hard work, the creativity, the passion and truly the love that you brought to this podcast to make the podcast what it is. You've been absolutely instrumental in shaping Outrage + Optimism with your stubborn optimism. I just want to say thank you and I'll miss you. Listeners, if you like this podcast, it is in part to do with the work of Nicola, Fabio and Sophie so thank you to the three of them. I'm not good at goodbyes, so I hope that was normal, but I'm actually good at see you next week. Before I say, see you next week, I just want to add that if you like this podcast, please leave us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. We read every single review and it makes a difference getting the word out about our podcast. So thank you so much for doing that. You know, we have maybe seven or eight more episodes left in this season before we take a little summer break. So make sure you don't miss a moment. Hit subscribe or follow on your podcast player and we'll see you next week. Bye.