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142: Ukraine, Defense, and Climate Change with William Hague and David Miliband

Are we sliding toward a global catastrophe or seeing the birth of a new political order?

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About this episode

All eyes are on Ukraine as we watch the horrific events unfold as a result of Russian aggression. Are we sliding toward a global catastrophe or seeing the birth of a new political order? How will we know which one awaits us?

This week, we speak to former UK Foriegn Ministers David Miliband and the Rt Hon Lord William Hague. We pitch to them this question of, “how will we know which one awaits us?” as we admire the resilience of the people of Ukraine and witness the inextinguishable might of people power.

Is this the ironic end of global energy dependence on a petrostate or the resurgence of fossil fuel infrastructure for the sake of energy independence?

No simple answers ahead.


Christiana + Tom’s book ‘The Future We Choose’ is available now!

Subscribe to our Climate Action Newsletter!



Mentioned links from the episode:

READ: William Hague’s piece from 2019 in The Telegraph - Conservatives Have to Take the Climate Crisis Seriously

READ: David Miliband’s latest in NYT - Ukraine Presents a Moral Crisis, Not Just a Military One

CATCH UP: Outrage + Optimism’s previous episodes on The Future of Food

LISTEN: Our episode from Tuesday on the Latest IPCC Report

Thanks to our guests this week, William Hague and David Miliband!

Rt Hon Lord William Hague

Lord Hague of Richmond


David Miliband

President & CEO | International Rescue Committee

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International Rescue Committee

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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 Christina Figueres

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

Tom: [00:00:18] This week we discussed the deeply concerning events unfolding in Ukraine as a result of Russian aggression and ask the questions about the interlinkages between defense and climate change. We speak to two former foreign secretaries of the U.K., William Hague and David Miliband. Thanks for being here. So as all listeners will be aware, we are in the midst of an unfolding, deeply concerning series of events that are happening right now in Ukraine, with the remarkable defense of the country that's been mounted by the president and by the people in the face of ongoing Russian aggression. Now, obviously, this is a source of great concern to all of us, and the potential of escalation is something that every human in the world should be concerned about. And in no way are we trying to distract from the immediacy of this issue. But at the same time, many people have made the point that this conflict is deeply connected to climate change, is deeply connected to the fossil fuel industry, and that's what we wanted to explore this week. So I don't know if either of you would like to come in with a comment, and then we'll go to our discussions with our two guests and we will come back afterwards for some analysis. Load More

Christiana: [00:01:35] Well, my only comment to that, Tom, is just to make clear that this is not contrary to other bellicose situations that we've had. This is not a war about fossil fuel infrastructure, but it's very much a war that has been fueled, sorry to use that word, that has been fueled by the income produced by the export of fossil fuels, right? And so, you know, just an interesting twist there on the ever present relationship between fossil fuels and geopolitical safety.

Paul: [00:02:14] Yeah. I mean, just this extraordinary story rolling across our screens, you know, it is very difficult not to watch the news regularly because it's it's so visceral, but I have been completely struck by how extraordinarily many, many different countries in the world have gone to very significant sanctions and then closing air space and this extraordinary, you know, kind of economic action. And you know, we've got to ask ourselves this question: is purchasing fossil fuels from Russia, gas or oil, you know, is that supporting the invasion of Ukraine? You know, suddenly we're talking about fossil fuels in a different way, like energy independence and national security are kind of the same thing. But I'm also just sort of struck by this notion that the democracies haven't really been, we haven't been in favor of anything discernible for, you know, since the Berlin Wall fell almost. And I think the genius of a book like Orwell's 1984 is like when you see something really bad, it can help you recognize the opposite direction towards something good. So even in this crisis, I actually hold a lot of excitement that something good may come from it. 

Tom: [00:03:29] Quite right. Absolutely. So we're going to go to our conversations now, and there's two guests, both of them former guests on this podcast, probably well known to all listeners. But first, we're going to hear from Lord William Hague. William Hague, of course, is a former leader of the Conservative Party and subsequently Minister of Foreign Affairs under David Cameron. Since leaving politics a few years ago, he's done a range of things, including currently chairing the Royal Foundation, deeply involved, of course, with the Earthshot Prize that we've reported on extensively last year. And secondly, a former Labour foreign secretary, David Miliband, had a long career in politics. He was environment secretary under Tony Blair and then foreign secretary under Gordon Brown since leaving politics. David has moved to New York, and he's now the CEO of the International Rescue Committee, the world's largest organization focusing on the humanitarian crisis around refugees. So we're going to go first to William, and then after that we will flip over and we'll play you the conversation we have with David. Both these conversations were recorded on Wednesday, the 2nd of March, which is yesterday. If you're listening to the podcast the day it came out, and we will be back at the end with some discussion on what we heard from both of them. So here are the conversations.

Christiana: [00:04:44] Well, Lord Hague, thank you so, so much for joining us on Outrage + Optimism on a honestly and such a crazy moment in our life and the history of the world. I think we're all still struggling even to figure out what is going on. So we would very much appreciate having that kind of a big picture conversation with you for a moment. Basically, we could set out two different scenarios here. We could be sliding toward global catastrophe if Russia decides to hit a button, or we could say, Well, are we actually in the face of a common enemy and having identified the common enemy, are we actually seeing the birth of a new political order with a strength and a conviction that we had never seen before. How will we know which path we're moving down?

William Hague: [00:05:46] Well, that, of course, typically is a very good question, Christiana. And I think, I believe we should move down, of course, I believe that second path that you are talking about and that the the reawakening that we are seeing in much of the world about understanding what is really important when you see what people are struggling for and Ukraine today, it really puts into perspective many of the troubles of our daily lives. And there is a real unity in much of the world. So I hope that is going to lead to seeing many things, and this will be a revelator in a moment of clarity about the world, not only about the dangers of one man having excessive power for a long time and the mistakes that that can lead to, but about what we really have to do to save ourselves and all sorts of ways. Do I actually think, Well, your question is how will we know we are on that path? And I think we will only know if in a few months down the road in this crisis, we're not only handling it well as a world, but we are linking it to other issues and saying, well, it's not just one thing on its own. It is a struggle about how power works in the 21st century that has implications all over the world and a subject dear to all our hearts. It is linked to people being free of the dependence on petro states. That is such a poisonous aspect of world affairs.

Christiana: [00:07:38] Absolutely. So let's go into that also a little bit more because there are huge implications here, obviously, for the oil and gas industry as a whole, assuming, of course, that we don't go the catastrophe route. What do you see as the major implications? And those could obviously go in many different directions. But what scenarios have you been thinking about?

William Hague: [00:08:03] Well, there's an immediate implication in price and an intriguing thing: differential price. Because as we speak today, Russian crude oil costs about $12 less than other people's crude oil because people actually don't want to buy it, even though you know it's the oil that they do need at the moment, they don't want to buy it. Now that is an interesting new phenomenon. It's not the result, so much of sanctions as it is just people en masse companies around the world taking a decision that they are not going to do that. It's their own decision in a way that's encouraging that people can take positive matters into their own hands. I think then, however, there is some negative effect of all of this is a huge distraction from what we really have to do. And as you know, people often when faced by higher energy prices, some people make the argument well, we can't afford then at the moment to invest in cleaner energy. And you hear that argument in the United Kingdom, sometimes, I'm ashamed to say. So there is some negative effect, and Germany confronting its dependence on Russian gas could easily end up burning more coal, which is the worst thing of all to do from as you have often pointed out, from a global point of view. But of course, in the longer term, well, none of this would be happening if Russia was not a country based on a corrupt pyramid of financial and political power based on oil and gas revenues and other countries dependent on its sale of those things. So we can really see that we can free ourselves from some of the causes of conflict in the future if we encourage the energy transition.

Christiana: [00:10:00] It's very much a question of timing, isn't it? Because although we have seen some divestment already, very interestingly, of some of the oil and gas companies divesting out of their Russian assets, which is a very interesting move. But it's all a question of timing whether we're able to manage the short term crisis, on the one hand, while having the long term view the higher lights on our on our vehicle here and to see that what we really need is precisely to, for every country to be as energy independent as possible, but there really is a choice here, whether or is there a choice? Do you think that we can manage both the short term and the long term, the short term crisis and the long term wisdom?

William Hague: [00:10:57] Well, we can, of course, because you know, if you and I were in charge of everything we would, it is possible to do it. It is both intellectually and physically possible to do that. It's extremely difficult to do that in this situation because there isn't global agreement on what to do. And I think the most worrying aspect of this overall is that if the world is going into reverse on cooperating between the biggest powers of the world, well, that is going to make it harder to make agreements on a whole range of issues that includes climate change, arms control, what happens in space in the future? I think that is really for me, that is the biggest negative about what is happening now, just at a moment when humanity needs to be able to come to common agreements,we are actually squabbling. You know, we're in a burning building falling out about how we're arguing who owes the furniture and things like that. So we can do it, but we're not currently on course to do it. And although you and I are born optimists, I actually feel people are going to need yet another shock. You know, some bigger shock in many parts of the world in order to really change behavior and see that the things that we're in this decade, we have to change things very positively and we have to keep going at full tilt on everything we're doing on climate. So I think we're not there yet. We can do it, but the population of the world is not yet there.

Tom: [00:12:43] William, I mean, you've answered part of this already, but I'd love to just ask you. I mean, Putin is now dragging the world into an era of higher defense spending, more military priorities right at this moment in the middle of this decisive decade. Whatever happens next, a large amount of the bandwidth of foreign ministers and defense ministers and energy ministers is going to be directed towards this. What do you think people can do to try to ensure that climate doesn't get lost in that mix? It feels like it's happening far away and there's not much we can really do about it. But what would you say will make the difference? Because now it feels like we need to just push on that right now.

William Hague: [00:13:19] Well, it's just crucial to make the argument in every forum at every level that these things are related. Solving the problems of climate change can't be just ignored while this is going on, it's we don't have to focus on that because we've got this immediate priority. They are actually linked. A world which has more decentralized provision of energy and more renewable, sustainable provision of energy wouldn't be in this situation. And there isn't going to be other answers and it's not like there's going to be a political answer to this. This war could go on in some form for years and for in a future insurgency if Putin manages to conquer Ukraine. So it's unlikely there's going to be a political breakthrough. So what are we going to be doing in the meantime to address the fundamental causes of this? We have to get to some of those root causes, so we have to make that argument in all the democratic nations of the world and the international forums of the world. And we have to take some good examples and hold them up. So if Germany as a result of this, I just mentioned how it's short term, the short term implication might be bad, but if they end up, they are advancing by five years, their target for having their energy supplied arguably. Well, if they can do that, there is a great example that we can hold up to everyone else.

Christiana: [00:14:56] And if they stay the course right, because there will be a temptation to now use that as a reason, to not say excuse, to to get off that course. So staying the course. It’s a very interesting test of the resolution of these countries who have put themselves on a path. It's a very interesting task precisely about the short term. On the one hand and the long term and how to calibrate both.

William Hague: [00:15:26] And it's an interesting test for conservatives, you know, as you know, I speak as a former conservative leader. And I think the first time we ever spoke together was when I wrote an article a few years ago saying it's a very conservative thing to care for the environment and to act on climate change, and that British conservatives have got that message on the whole, but that Americans and Australian conservatives and some others hadn't.

Tom: [00:15:56] You can say that quite loudly while you're in New York. Actually, it would be great if you could push that.

William Hague: [00:16:01] I will be saying that very loudly. Well, conservatives also want the West to be strong and part of that strength vis-a-vis somebody like Putin, part of the strength of not being not succumbing to this different view of how power works in the world he has, which is not that it's an interdependent system and what's important is to establish the rules. His view is you get people to be dependent on you and then you can squeeze them with that with the leverage. It's conservatives all over the world, just like people of other political persuasions want to stand up to that. And so all the more in the next few years, the importance of clean energy should be integrated into conservative thinking about the grand strategy of the western world, if we can call it that.

Tom: [00:16:58] William, I know we need to wrap up. Just one more question: the implications of this for China. I mean, do you think that this is going to lead to a road in which China becomes more isolated as well? Or what? What would you say about that?

William Hague: [00:17:11] This is a tricky moment for China. Now let's quickly, if Putin would not be able to do this if China did not have his back to some extent, he will have calculated that whatever the West does, he can still get his semiconductors through China so he can sell more energy to China. And China has been in an awkward abstention at the UN Security Council, despite having for decades supported the territorial integrity of nations around the world. It's in an awkward spot. Now, I hope that China becomes more critical of Russia because you know the danger for China here is that this reawakening of the West that we are seeing changes attitudes to China that people say Now, wait a minute here we have a crisis caused not by the Russian, not by some consensus in Russia, but by one man and a tiny circle of people working with them, imposing his will, getting very out of touch in power for too long with territorial ambitions. And then they're going to say, Oh, wait a minute, there's somebody else in the world who is going to be in power for too long and might get out of touch and has territorial ambitions in Beijing. And so attitudes to China might change. Now we don't want that breakdown of global cooperation that comes from that, but I would strongly recommend that China takes a more critical view than it has of what's happened in Russia, because it's not in China's long term interest to support it.

Christiana: [00:18:47] Yeah. Well, thank you so much. We don't want to take any more of your time. Really appreciate your thoughts on this. And of course, everyone is remaining vigilant for the huge, huge consequences of every step of the way. Every step of decisions of every country are going to be critical over the next few days and weeks. So we remain vigilant and thank you very much for raising your voice, William, to warn us about the interrelationship between this and our fossil fuel dependency. Really appreciate that.

William Hague: [00:19:26] Well, thank you, Christiana. Thanks, Tom. Thank you.

Tom: [00:19:35] That was Lord William Hague. And now we're moving on to the conversation with David Miliband.

Christiana: [00:19:45] David, thank you so much for joining us on Outrage + Optimism today in which we're all grappling with this horrifying reality that we're witnessing. I'm sure this has been on your mind since it started, and we would really love to hear where you are with your thinking. Are we actually sliding toward global catastrophe with the press of a button? Or are we perhaps seeing the birth of a new political order? And if we can't tell the difference between that now, how would we know which direction we're going in?

David Miliband: [00:20:28] Hi, Christina. Very good to be with you. Let's try and chunk that up a bit and you ask questions and interrupt so to try and get what you want out of this. We've been, we the International Rescue Committee, we're a global humanitarian charity. We've had a team in Poland for the last four weeks really scoping out partner organizations in Poland and neighboring states, but also partner organizations, potential partner organizations inside Ukraine. I mean, there are really three fronts to the, and I know you want to talk about the geopolitics, but in a way the humanitarian is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the pain associated with this crisis. And so we will get to the geopolitics. But there are three fronts to the humanitarian crisis. The first is for the civilians caught in the fighting, and the names Aleppo and Grozny speak to Russian tactics in warfare. And what we are hearing and seeing from Kharkiv and elsewhere, potentially Kiev as well, speak to a I can only call it a pulverization campaign, a model of warfare that is about pulverization. And so the most dangerous front for civilians is obviously if you're caught up in the middle of that bombardment, the second front is the internally displaced. There are millions really who are on the move inside Ukraine. There are no good numbers on it, obviously, because they're not crossing checkpoints, at least not yet. And then the third front is obviously the refugees. We're going to hit a million either this afternoon or tomorrow, Thursday for the number of refugees. So what's my perspective? My perspective is what can we do? How can we deploy our expertise, our teams, our money, the money that's coming in as a result of this crisis in an area where, frankly, Ukraine itself $7000 per person per head annual income, Poland, Hungary advanced industrialized countries where the capacity of the state and of civil society to support people in humanitarian distress is much, much greater than in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon than in South Sudan, Uganda, than in Myanmar, Bangladesh than in Afghanistan, Pakistan, where we are also massively stretched. And so my perspective is inevitably more conditioned by that humanitarian imperative. But every humanitarian crisis is in fact a political crisis, and this one is born of a political crisis. It's the capstone, I said in my article in the New York Times, the invasion of Ukraine, the second invasion of Ukraine after 2014, is the capstone of what I call the age of impunity and impunity, as you know, is crimes without punishment, actions without accountability. And the impunity here is the breach of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of a sovereign state of a nation state, but also the abrogation of rights of individuals, of civilians, of citizens who are having their lives turned upside down. And so to answer your question, no one yet knows whether this is a new world order. What we know is that there is a systematic attempt to rewind the clock by 30 years, not to the recreation of the Soviet Union, but to the immediate period after the end of the Soviet Union and the dispensation that emerged after the 1989-90 fall of the Berlin Wall, etc. Now that attempt, I think a week ago, people, commentators would have feared that it had high chances of success. What's happened in the last week is there's been an enormous counter reaction. And the determination of essentially freedom loving people everywhere, including in Russia, to say no has been enormous and the willingness of governments that have often been attacked for their slowness, bureaucracy inability to take big decisions has been outmatched because Germany's got a new defense policy, Europe has a new international policy, Sweden and Finland are contemplating new defense policies themselves and in a long and winding road to the subject that you have led on with such extraordinary capacity, there is now a national security imperative for the world's largest richest single market to get off Russian oil and gas, just as there is a climate imperative to get off oil and gas. So your outrage is the first part of the title of your podcast. There should be so much outrage about the impunity of the Russian attack. Optimism, I can't offer you, but there is a possibility of a strategic reorientation. Sorry for the long winded answer.

Christiana: [00:25:36] No, that was really very thoughtful. I was struck by the European term being used about a violation of human coexistence. How interesting a choice of words there, where they really are looking at this from a human or let me say humanity's perspective. And it's a quite interesting choice of words, because one could say this is a warfare in which some have chosen old style warfare techniques and the others are uniting around a very new kind of warfare: economic pressure at the outermost point more than we have ever seen before. Squeezed in between is the humanitarian pain and the cost that we are already seeing, and that will only escalate. And then also and that is already for sure, we don't even have to wonder if that's going to happen, what we do have to wonder still is whether the squeezing in between these two choices of warfare is that going to lead to more energy independence, which is what everyone here on the podcast would prefer. Or is this going to lead to even more entrenchment in the incumbent industries?

David Miliband: [00:27:04] Well, let me go back to the beginning of the question. The great missing element of discussion of relations with Russia over the last 30 years, I think, has been the denial of agency to the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe in all the discussion, on the one hand of quote-on-quote NATO expansionism, I reject that phrase, but that's the the Russian allegation, and it's often parroted in the West by people who want to say it was the quote-on-quote expansion of NATO that has led us to this past. That denies agency, to Poles, to Hungarians, to citizens of the Baltic states, who chose that they wanted to defend themselves by joining the EU, joining NATO. Now we mustn't repeat that denial of agency in our assessment of the situation today. There are pictures. I mean, I almost tear up recalling, I've just seen this, of a line of Ukrainian, I mean, a road in Ukraine blocked by thousands, if not tens of thousands of Ukrainians who are just standing there and saying you shall not pass. I mean, that is an extraordinary effort of people power, but I'm not a romantic who's going to pretend that that can silence the guns in the same way that it's not straightforward that sanctions can't stop tanks. But let's recognize the agency of the people on the ground, which is extraordinary. And there is, I heard Anne Applebaum today talk about a civic nationalism. I'm always I always say patriotism, good nationalism bad. Patriotism can be positive. Some nationalism can be and is zero sum at best, negative sometimes. She was making the point that a Jewish president, a society of Russian speakers and Ukrainian speakers are pushing, are developing a civic nationalism that is standing up for the kind of pluralism that was hinted at in the quote that you've given from Josep Borrell. But of course, the coexistence isn't just within nations, it's between nations. And I always remind people in 2008, after the Russians invaded Georgia, I went to Kiev and gave a speech where I reminded people that George Kennan, who famously wrote the long telegram after the Second World War, he said Russia's tragedy is always to look at its neighbors and see either vassals or enemies. And I think that the point about coexistence is that you don't see neighbors as vassals or enemies. You see them as potential partners and people who are living their own lives and you want to coexist with them. So I think that the values at stake and the order at stake could not be more fundamental here. It's interesting that China has been put in a pickle by this decision. It's vacillating on the fence, really, because it can see the danger of a disrupted world order. It's doing quite nicely thank you out of a slightly more ordered world. And I guess my perspective is that your interest in the global climate and the stability of the global climate is a preeminent interest in a preeminent global public good. I like that way of thinking about a stable climate just in the same way that nuclear security is a global public good, just as treatment support for countries hosting refugees is a global public good. And what we're fighting for here is whether or not there is an international order that can tend the global commons in such a way as to sustain the global public goods. Because the alternative to an ordered global system is either three or four systems. A Russian sphere of influence, a Chinese sphere of influence, a Western sphere of influence, or a kind of leaderless world global, a more anarchic situation. So I think that the right way to think about your question is at the level of tactics, where this question of the national security imperative boosting the European climate imperative is important, but also at the level of, if you like, concept, what's the global concept that we've got? And I think that there is one available and it should be a rallying point, and it's that we have to live in this world together. We live with one planet and that needs rules and it needs rules that are about accountability, not impunity.

Tom: [00:32:01] So David, this is so interesting. And I mean, you know, sustaining public goods is hard to do at any time. And and I'd love to just go one level deeper on those tactics because Putin is now dragging the world into a scenario in any scenario that it's more focused on military spending and more focused on defense priorities in the middle of the most decisive decade, as we would claim in human history to determine the future of our climate. What are those tactics that can actually enable us to continue to focus on this bigger picture rather than get drawn into these, you know, heartbreaking details of these specific things that have the very real potential to distract us from our task and mean that as a result of this, we fail in maintaining a stable climate.

David Miliband: [00:32:42] Well, that's a very good question. And what I've learned when living in America is that when people say that's a great question, they say a lot. That generally means that they don't know the answer. So when I say that's a great question, I don't have an easy answer to that because look, the lesson of COVID is that clear and present danger isn't enough to make for international action. I mean, the clear and present danger of mutations of the virus has not helped vaccinate the world. The places that the International Rescue Committee works is, you know, less than five percent vaccination at best. And secondly, there's a real danger that the shift of focus to Ukraine becomes a myopia, which is dangerous. Now I've said about the humanitarian situation, we the world have got to be able to walk, chew gum and play the violin at the same time that we've got to be able to address starvation in Afghanistan, break down in Ethiopia, a tragedy, a crime in Yemen, coups in the Sahel and address the Ukraine crisis. I think that if you want me to just throw one thing into the pot, what could rather than predict the future say, well, what could shape the future? I think the people power point is real. Big change happens when there's government leadership, business and NGO innovation and mass mobilization, but they don't have to happen in that order. Yeah, the lesson of this crisis may be that people can move first or businesses and NGOs can move first, and then governments run and catch up. But then they end up leading because they've got legitimacy and power. And so I don't want to just say, Well, we've got to, you know, redouble our efforts. That feels a bit pathetic, but I do think that this is interesting to hear. The army generals say morals and morale are the most precious commodity in war and that's about people.

Tom: [00:34:38] And so look, David, it just seems like this extraordinarily kind of teachable moment in the world at the moment. I mean, you know, all these sanctions and you know, I can't even believe that the airspace of the USA and you know, the EU is closed to Russian aircraft. I mean, you know, there's this. It's extraordinary what's going on. You know, we've talked about national security and energy independence now being the same thing. You know, maybe I'm being a bit panglossian and a bit over hopeful. But could the world's democracies be in a moment of sort of rediscovering their values?

David Miliband: [00:35:08] Yes. I mean, I think that I said at the beginning that this was an attempt to rewind the clock by 30 years by Putin. What I also say is it may well be the moment when not that the clock is rewound to 1990, but the spirit of 1990 is rediscovered tempered by all of the failings that have happened since 1990. And that would be the ultimate irony, because remember the pictures of people scaling the Berlin Wall? Those were incredibly inspiring because they were people standing up for human values. And that's really important. So could this be a moment that galvanized or has this been a moment that's galvanized the West? It has. There's no question, and it's galvanized Switzerland to move into this space as well. It's moved Ireland to constructively support the deployment of EU military material. So that is significant and we have to build on that with the unity and the humility, but also the clarity about what's at stake now, just to give you a. So what does that mean, Miliband then stop waffling on. Just give me some specifics. Well, it means that we need the same unity about peacemaking in Yemen. We need the same unity about gender based violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and we need the same unity over climate. And we also need to learn one other thing, which is that it's unity plus action. Unity doesn't mean waiting for everyone to agree. Sometimes you just have to get on with it. And Coalition of the willing is a very mixed phrase. But those who are willing to act should act, and they shouldn't be held back by the speed of the slowest.

Tom: [00:36:55] Courage speaks to courage, the suffragettes said. Thank you.

Christiana: [00:36:58] Well, what a moment. David, it could be, you know, the worst of times for the best of times, as you've said. And let us let us definitely pray, hope, meditate in the direction of it being the best of times. It could be the ironic awakening that we have from a very deep and painful and hugely costly slumber that we've been in for such a long time. And when I say costly, I don't mean just in terms of financial cost, but human cost. And so is this the moment for awakening?

David Miliband: [00:37:35] Things are going. I'm afraid things are going to get worse before they get better, especially for the people in Ukraine, people of Ukraine. You know, if any of the four or five of us were in Ukraine, if we were men, we'd be conscripted. And if we were women, we'd be either in the metro stations or we'd be fleeing to the borders. So it's as sobering a moment as Afghanistan, as Syria, as Tigray in Ethiopia. And you know, humanity's capacity to get things wrong is huge, but it's never had more resources to get things right, and that's what I always keep coming back to.

Christiana: [00:38:15] Well, on that wonderful, hopeful conclusion, David, thank you. Thank you very much. We will all be obviously staying vigilant all of us, and might come back when we have when the dust settles and the horrific things have begun to slow down might come back for a lessons learned conversation. But thank you so much.

David Miliband: [00:38:38] Thanks a lot.

Tom: [00:38:40] Thank you. So how fantastic at this moment to be able to sit down with two former foreign secretaries who, of course in their lives have done a lot more than just be foreign secretary, although that was a big part of both of their careers. I'd love to hear both of your reflections on what we heard from both of them.

Christiana: [00:39:02] Shall I go first for a change, Paul?

Paul: [00:39:04] Why don't you, Christiana? 

Tom: [00:39:06] He always seems to want you to.

Christiana: [00:39:08] Well, I'm struck by a couple of things. First, the outrageous, outrageous war of choice. This is really a war of choice. Yeah, Putin has chosen to wage war against the nation that had no provocation, has not, you know, nothing. This is simply a choice to go to war against a neighboring nation. So that already is just, you know, completely outrageous. And it is already today in the present, provoking a humanitarian crisis that will only rise, which we heard from David. Now, in addition to that, this is a tale of two futures we are really seeing, we can already see evidence, if you will, or at least fear of one or two futures emerging. The panic that many of us are feeling is if future one emerges from this, which would be a catastrophic world should Putin decide to escalate even further, whereby the humanitarian crisis, let alone the environmental, survival crisis of humanity, is beyond anything that we can possibly imagine. Let us hope that that is not the road that we're taking the other future that could be emerging. Although frankly, you really, really, really have to look behind and underneath most of the news that newsreels that we're reading, to still harbor the hope that there is the emergence of a new political order in the face of a common enemy and that everyone except Russia, and China teetering, but India also, by the way, and the UAE, let's put them all three because they were the ones, the ones teetering there and and China not being willing to go either way in the Security Council. But with those exceptions, could there be, as was spoken by both of them, a new political international alliance here? Very interesting that Russian gas prices are falling, that global gas prices are rising and that there is a divestment from many of the companies, many of the oil and gas companies divesting from the oil and gas assets. And that's that's the present right now. But does this actually lead to the wake up call that we were discussing of everyone realizing that we have been fed the untruth, that we are dependent on a few countries for energy provision? And the fact is, in this century, that is just no longer true. We can actually strengthen our energy independence and thereby minimize these kinds of temptations.

Paul: [00:42:18] I mean, look, just one comment from the news at Berenberg Bank's Chief Economist said faster diversification away from Russian oil and gas, more spending on renewables plus nuclear power and on hydrogen for storage and energy are the long term impacts of the Russia Ukraine crisis. And you know, just one story from the charity I work in, CDP, you know, we saw a massive increase in interest in our products, for lack of a better word, directly correlated to COVID. And it was really strange because I think the whole world felt vulnerable and then they thought more about climate change. The world is feeling vulnerable again right now, and I hope and believe it may lead us to change and pay more attention to our economic and security interests. But by recognizing that, you know, we are a we and there are things that we are against and there are things, therefore that we're in favor of. 

Paul: [00:43:17] Yeah, I mean, it's exactly as you say, that's the path forward, right? But we have consistently shown that it's hard to take when there's an acute thing that happens. And as a result of that, wisdom sneaks in and we take the deeper path that enables the mitigation of future risk. The situation we're facing right now, and it was, I mean, so fascinating to sit down with two people who are as deeply steeped in geopolitics as anyone on the planet and have sat in those seats. And what I took from both of them was that they're really worried. I mean, they didn't say quite that way or they sort of did. They're really worried that we're going to get distracted by this and we're not going to remain focused on these critical issues. And they both said there's a chance we can and here's what we need to do and the issues are connected and we need to keep making that case. But, probably the general direction of travel, unless we're able to pull off something significant is that this takes the world's attention in the middle of this most decisive decade to something that it should be focused on because it's a humanitarian outreach, but at the same time takes us away from where we need to focus, which is an urgent, urgent focus on transformation of infrastructure and sources of energy. So I don't know. I mean, I agree with you, Christiana, that it's there underneath the news, but you've got to squint pretty hard to see it. And you know, the next, the next little while Will will uncover more. But it's very challenging, you know, these are the sorts of things we have to get right in this decade if we're going to succeed in this difficult task on climate. And this is a big one that's going to potentially stand in our way unless we really manage it well. 

Christiana: [00:44:52] I'm pulling from my bookcase a book called The Future We Choose, which I think can guide us at this critical moment. Sorry, Christiana.

Christiana: [00:44:58] No, I mean that that comment Tom takes us back to, you know, sort of a leitmotif that we have had in many of these episodes, which is acute and chronic. The moment that we see those two as being mutually exclusive routes of engagement or motivations, then we're done for and we're totally done for because we know that as humans, we will tend toward the acute because that's, you know, our human evolution has trained us to first tend to the lion that is roaring right in front of us before we tend to everything else.

Paul: [00:45:41] Before we give up smoking, although which kills more.

Christiana: [00:45:43] Yes. And so the question is and you know, here I still hold my trust that that I myself need to fertilize every day because the news does not fertilize it, but hold my trust in human long term wisdom and human capacity to realize that we must do both the acute and the chronic. We must deal with both of those challenges. It's not that we can accept that one is actually going to throw the other one out the window. So, you know, in David's terms, we have to be able to, what do you say, walk chew gum and play violin? Well, exactly. And we've never had more capacity to do that than right now.

Tom: [00:46:35] And also just, you know, I'm very much in awe of David's ability to look at this humanitarian crisis and contextualize it with so many others that are not on our television screens right now. Yeah, no, I agree with you, Christiana. It's just hard, right? It's hard to solve an acute problem with a long term solution, and we see that time and again. And that's where the answer lies. Whether it's, you know, deciding that you're going to improve your health by going running every day or deciding you're going to avoid future conflict by focusing on energy consumption. You know, it's hard for us to do and that's the growing up that we need to do if we're going to solve many of these big problems.

Paul: [00:47:13] And we will. We must, we can, we will. Someone once said to me.

Paul: [00:47:18] OK, anything else to share before we close out this episode?

Christiana: [00:47:20] Just a nod, Tom to, you know, ourselves, the part in ourselves that is beyond sad, right? That is just deeply, deeply concerned. And all of us have a part of that. And there are so many people out there who are just incredible. I don't even know what adjective to use. It's beyond concerned. It's beyond afraid. You know, we can so easily push ourselves into a corner of debilitation of who we are. And so just, you know a call out there to those who are in that situation that we understand, we understand that pain.

Tom: [00:48:07] Yeah, absolutely. And further, I call out to the remarkable citizens of the country of Ukraine. I mean, it has been incredible to watch this spirit that, you know, places like the country where I live hearken back to days decades ago when people feel like that spirit was present, is there live and in full view of the world. And I think whatever comes out of this, and we hope and pray that it is not more loss of life and heartbreak, it has completely changed the world the way the world sees Ukraine and massively increased the estimation and understanding of those people completely. 

Paul: [00:48:47] Yeah. And regular listeners will have heard me many times speak of how important TV comedians have been to me helping through the Trump period and all the rest of it. But it turns out they make very turns out they make very good presidents. 

Tom: [00:49:02] All right, thanks friends. We're not going to have any music this week. It feels like it's a very acute episode and it kind of didn't really feel appropriate, but we'll be back as ever next week. Thanks for joining us. Thanks for focusing on these issues. None of this stuff's easy, but that's why we've got to do it. Thanks, everyone.

Christiana: [00:49:15] Bye.

Clay: [00:49:20] So there you go. Another episode of Outrage + Optimism. Hi, everybody. This is Clay, I'm the producer of the show. Very short credits from us this week. Thank you so much to Lord William Hague and David Miliband for joining us today on the show. Great to have them back on. So I know a lot of us have been busy with the news. I just wanted to inform you if you didn't see that we had another episode we released this week about the latest IPCC report that came out on Monday. We released a podcast the following day on Tuesday with Patrick Verkooijen, a CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation. Be sure if you have not listened to it, go back to that and give it a spin. Last word for me before you move on with the rest of your day, you can find us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn under the name @GlobalOptimism. And if you enjoy this podcast, would you consider leaving us a rating and writing us a review on Apple Podcasts? We read every single one, and it really does make a difference getting the word out about our show. Thank you for doing that. Next week, we are continuing in our series on the Future of Food. This episode we've put together for you will take you into the global food system and the effect that climate change is having on farmers, their land. We look at how they can adapt to overcome the impacts of climate change and who needs to come to the table to support them. You'll hear from a coffee farmer in East Uganda, the the director general of Consumers International and, yeah, Wanjira Mathai, among others. So it's a great episode. Can't wait to share with you. That's coming out next Thursday. We've done two episodes previously in this series, The Future of Food, and you can find them in our podcast feed or I've put a link in the show notes directly to those episodes. But the best way to make sure that you don't miss the next episode is to hit, follow, or subscribe. Ok, that's everything. Thanks. We'll see you next Thursday.


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