102. Cooling Conflict by Tackling the Climate Crisis with Jens Stoltenberg

This week on the show we discuss the latest IEA Report, “Net Zero by 2050” which charts a path for the energy sector to achieve a 1.5 degree world, and specifically naming the 400 milestones that will get us there. It’s an incredible marker in this decisive decade because the IEA is the gold standard for energy policy around the globe (particularly for Oil and Gas), and in this report they explicitly detail the urgent and irreversible need for a rapid and comprehensive shift away from fossil fuels.

And later on, an O+O first. We get into the connection between national security and climate change with our special guest, Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO. With his extensive career history, notably serving twice as Prime Minister of Norway and as UN Special Envoy on Climate Change, he has uniquely straddled both worlds of environmentalism and national security. We unpack how SG Stoltenberg views a military response to the climate crisis as NATO fulfilling it’s duty to secure today and tomorrow for its citizens.

Stick around to the end this week for a catchy tune from Milky Chance.

Join us!

 

 

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

 

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Tom Rivett-Carnac: Hello and welcome to Outrage + Optimism, I’m Tom Rivett-Carnac.

 

Christiana Figueres: I’m Christiana Figueres

 

Paul Dickinson: And I’m Paul Dickinson.

 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: This week, we talk about the latest IEA report and its strong message to the world on the path to net zero. We speak to Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO, and we have music from Milky Chance. Thanks for being here.

So I normally try and give some kind of introduction when we start these podcasts, but this week I’m just going to hand it over to Christiana because I think, Christiana, you have something you’re kind of excited about.

 

Christiana Figueres: I am so excited. I’m popping out of my buttons here. I am so excited.

 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: An energy policy report has been released.

 

Paul Dickinson: This is a very serious moment. Listeners, pay attention. Cup of tea. Comfortable chair. Christiana, you have the floor.

 

Christiana Figueres: Thank you, Paul. So some people will know that the International Energy Agency, headquartered in Paris, is the world’s top authority on energy and now on energy transition. Some people may also know that the IEA has been famously underestimating the pace and the scale of the energy transition for years. And they put out the World Energy Outlook, which is the most authoritative read that you can possibly have every year on energy.

 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: Read by everyone in oil and gas. Right? Bigger than anything else. 

 

Christiana Figueres: Well, certainly oil and gas, but everyone else who is in the energy, particularly electricity part, but also transport and also perhaps not the whole thing but the executive summary or the policy summary for policymakers in different terms is actually read by probably every single minister of energy of the world, because most people who are in the energy sector take their cues from the IEA. Now, we’ve been working with the IEA to encourage them to actually be a little bit more ambitious in their reports because they have consistently been under estimating, as I say, what can be done and therefore, from my perspective, condemning us to such a delay in the energy transition that we would just not be able to address climate change if we followed the pathways that they put out for us. Now, here is the big news of today, drum roll, the IEA has actually put out a report that charts out the path toward one point five degrees. Not two degrees, one point five degrees, net zero by 2050 with no overshoot. What do I mean by overshoot? By that is included in many models that we actually emit more than we can and then we have to bring it down. This one is a safe path with no overshoot. It actually says that we can get to net zero, that the technical problems are solvable, that net zero in the energy industry and the sector can actually be done without even relying on land offsets- that just blows my mind.

 

Christiana Figueres: And they put out numbers for the participation of renewable energy systems that are actually consistent with the most ambitious analysis out there in the 70 to 74 percent that we will be moving to. So it is just amazing what they have done. They also say, as though that were not enough, they also say that net zero is actually better for the world, that there are more jobs and total there are more local jobs, there’s higher GDP, there is lower energy costs as a share of GDP. And, of course, about three million lives per annum saved from pollution linked deaths. They do say it’s not going to be easy and we need governments to drive change and that is their main message. They do say this is possible but governments have to enact the policies needed for driving the change. But drum roll again, they send the message to the oil and gas industry and to all fossil fuels that basically thanks very much, as we’ve been saying on this podcast, thanks very much for what you did in the past century but this century does not belong to you. They go as far as saying oil and coal sales have peaked, gas sales will shortly peak, and we don’t need any more new coal developments any more new oil developments any more new gas developments. I cannot believe what my eyes are reading in this report.

 

Paul Dickinson: And it’s not a drum roll, Christiana, it’s a chorus, so if you’ll join me, please. Dum dum dum. It’s wonderful what they said today at the IEA. It’s wonderful what they said today at the IEA. You can cut the campaigns, you can finish looking more. We’ve got all the fossil fuels we need. I made that up on the spur of the moment. Once again, my agent, you know, this kind of talent, it’s rare.

 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: Amazing, well the news is, the singing is, of course, a different story. Paul, do you want to come in with a comment?

 

Paul Dickinson: These people are not mucking around, this is really big stuff. I’ve always known about the IEA a little bit like the Mysterons, these kind of occult groups, the sort of Illuminati, like who are the IEA? Right. OK, so they were established in 1974 in response to the oil shock then, and they are representing a very large group of energy ministers from about 30 countries. You may wonder how it is that the particularly oil producing countries signed off on this report. Well, they’re not actually. Saudi Arabia isn’t a member of the IEA, Russia isn’t a member of the IEA. But basically most of the biggest economies in the world are members of the IEA and it’s headquartered out of the OECD in Paris, it’s got a similar kind of membership. And these ministers together have said, we came up with over 400 milestones and one of them is there is no need for new oil, gas and coal development, which includes no need for oil and gas exploration investments.

 

Paul Dickinson: Now, if you follow the logic of that, something just absolutely massive has happened in global industry because, let’s just pause at the magnitude of this. There are enormous industries that are involved in exploration and production of oil and gas. And there are incredible sums of money spent on that. Got just one figure from IHS Market saying that the figure in 2019 was 1.4 trillion, It fell to 1.2 trillion in 2020. I mean, of course, a little bit of that capital expenditure is replacing kind of rusty nuts and bolts but the bulk of it is going and finding new oil and gas. And if you follow the logic of this report, that industry kind of stops now. And we were discussing this earlier, Christiana and I said, how can we persuade the boards that it should stop? And you said and I think quite correctly, that it is looking like it’s irresponsible to spend shareholders funds on capital expenditure to explore for new oil and gas and if that’s true, it’s just a different world.

 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: So I’d love to just understand, because, of course, for the casual observer of this space and I’m sure many of our listeners would pay close attention to the energy space.

 

Christiana Figueres: Tom, are you just about to rain on our parade?

 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: I’m going to ask you a question because lots of people come out with reports that say no new oil and gas is necessary, et cetera. But tell me if this is right, the IEA developed global models from which governments make their policy. They look at those models, they take them and then they make policy. And so the IEA doing this is kind of almost now because that’s happened many governments around the world will look at that and they are likely to change their policies over time because this model says that this is the way global energy is going to go. Have I understood that correctly?

 

Christiana Figueres: Well, yes and no.The IEA will tell you that they are not prescriptive, that they are not calling the future, that they are looking at projections into the future based on past behavior, past industry investments, et cetera, et cetera. But we have been arguing for years to the IEA that although that is their intent, the opposite actually happens because they are such a powerful influencing institution on energy that although they, let’s say, objectively take their data and project it into the future because all of those projects in the past have actually been giving a lot of space to fossil fuels in the energy sector in the status quo, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It creates the future. So I, the Minister of Energy, read this and say, oh, wow, there’s a lot of space still for fossil fuels. Therefore, I’m going to invest and it becomes that self-fulfilling enslavement to these fossil fuels that were great last century but no longer. So we have been arguing with the IEA for years now saying, look, you have such a powerful influence to actually create self-fulfilling prophecies, but can you actually put the prophecy out that moves us to net zero, that moves us to renewable energy, because then that will be the self-fulfilling prophecy and that is what they have done now.

 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: And you say you’ve been encouraging the IEA, a close friend of ours who saw some of the emails that you sent to the IEA described them as cruise missiles that were sent into the building. So they were quite direct forms of encouragement and it’s led to a good outcome. But one question there is, given that, what do you think’s happening in energy ministries around the world now that this report has landed? Do you think that people are looking at this and going, oh my God, the future is going to be different to what we thought, we better get on it and figure out what this means to us.

 

Christiana Figueres: Yes, I do think there’s a lot of oh, my God going on today. And in fact, even yesterday, because the executive summary was sort of sent around yesterday. But I think there is quite a bit of total surprise that the IEA has taken such a forward looking position on where all of us know we have to go and not only are they saying we have to go there, but rather they’re also saying and furthermore, it’s doable, it’s good for us and we can do this. That is an amazing turnaround for the IEA and I think very unexpected, very unexpected. They have been working on this net zero report for quite a while. They have been doing extensive consultations. Fatih Birol has been convening ministers of energy for months now and doing extensive consultations and this is the end result. It really is mind blowing. It is mind blowing that they have changed their message so radically.

 

Paul Dickinson: Do you ever get a little bit scared? It’s kind of like I mean, for example, I’m in the UK and it’s like really cold. And, you know, it’s meant to be summer and I’m thinking like maybe the Gulf Stream is shut down. Maybe it’s never going to be warm again. Like maybe these energy ministers have seen some kind of terrible new science like and they’ve suddenly got with the program. But whatever the reason for this dramatic action, it’s got to be good for all the reasons you say, Christiana, and congratulations to you for your leadership and for your effective lobbying. And just one thing that Fatih Birol said, that the dart to the IEA said those countries whose economies are relying on oil and gas revenues will face huge challenges. And that is a fact. But on the positive note. Again, quoting the IEA, their pathways to a brighter future bring a historic surge in clean energy investment. Now think about that for a minute, creating millions of new jobs, if there’s one message from this, is that there is sort of kind of infinity money now for investment in new energy. And, you know, if you were thinking, I wonder if I should go out and build that very large offshore wind farm or that 40 kilometre solar display, do it now. And specifically, this is the jaw dropper for me, total annual energy investments in that scenario surges to five trillion a year US dollars by 2030 in the net zero pathway, adding an extra 0.4 percentage points a year to global GDP and that’s based on joint analysis with the International Monetary Fund. So this is serious global economics and it’s real and it’s happening.

 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: So can I ask something else about this, which is it connects to something else that happened in the course of the last week. So when Fatih Birol spoke today, he made a specific point of saying that this is based on existing technology that is out there at the moment that is ready to scale and I don’t know why he said that. But one potential reason why he said that is that also during the last week, special envoy John Kerry, whose recent guest on this podcast went on The Andrew Marr Show on the BBC in the UK, and he said 50 percent of the emissions reductions that we need to deliver will have to come from technology that we have not yet invented. And I’ve seen quite a bit of confusion on social media and quite a few people have reached out saying- What? I thought we had a lot of technology. How come we’re now saying that it has to be invented? So my read on that is that John Kerry was kind of perhaps slightly clumsily giving an indication that we’re on a pathway and that innovation and entrepreneurship will keep coming to help us and will provide additional technology to make emissions reduction cheaper. But I don’t think he’s right that half the emissions that we need to get will come from technology that has to be invented yet. How do you guys understand this issue?

 

Christiana Figueres: Well, I think Kerry is probably talking about competitive CCS as carbon capture and storage and because that’s still pretty expensive and somewhat unsafe, or at least we don’t know what the risks are. So I think maybe he was talking about that. I do think it was a little bit in the unknown territory and actually quite surprising for John Kerry, who has always been such a staunch believer that we can actually do this and do it in a timely fashion. So I don’t know what was going through his mind at that point. But can I ask you two a question? I would love to hear the two of you speculate on what happened inside the IEA, why this absolutely dramatic shift? This is not a gradual change, no this is a dramatic shift for them. I’d love to hear some speculation because it can only be that about what happened, that there is such a dramatic shift.

 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: And that’s a very good question after you Paul.

 

Paul Dickinson: Well, we have the great privilege in a moment to interview the secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization responsible for the armed forces of the world’s democracies and that individual wants to talk to us about climate change. You can’t get any more serious in terms of global security than the secretary general of NATO talking to us about climate change. This is an absolutely potentially catastrophic issue for our planet and it’s a moment where we can pull together and fix things and it’s that serious. And the IEA system and I think the ministers represented have sort of thought, OK, yeah, that’s true and there’s no point not telling the public about this. We’re going to make it public and that’s what they’ve done.

 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: Yeah, I mean, I think that, Christiana, you know this better than anyone, but there exists in the life of any institution, a grey area in its authority. I mean, you used to say this to me when you were running the UNFCCC, right. In the authority given to you as the executive secretary was slim. And then you would test the edges and you would press the boundaries and you would push your authority further out to get delivered what you needed to be delivered. And I think that what must have happened and again, it’s speculation, but Fatih Birol is supersmart, he’s know what we’re facing for a long time. But I think that he found or others in the organization found or he was encouraged, the courage to stretch the field of the authority that he felt he could take inside that institution and as he stretched that he’s basically taken a risk in doing this and deciding that he’s going to step out, he’s going to take more authority and he’s going to lead. This is a real departure, the future of the is different from the past as of today, in the past, that was basically an entity that was representing the interests of oil producers because that’s where it came from. And now it seems to be trying to represent the future and be clear about what we’re capable of doing. And that’s, I think, down to a human choice somewhere in there. And I don’t know who or where or how, but a human choice is made to do something differently and stretch the authority, recreate the future and that’s really inspiring actually. I hadn’t quite thought about it in those terms before you asked the question, what do you think happened?

 

Paul Dickinson: That’s my question to you, Christiana.

 

Christiana Figueres: I’ve been thinking about it since yesterday. I think probably a combination of things, probably, as Paul has said, a much higher recognition of the danger and the threat both to our natural environment as well as to our peace and economic development, for sure. I don’t think in the universe’s sense of humor and purpose, I don’t think it is totally coincidental that this amazing documentary is coming out Breaking Boundaries, because it’s coming out in just a few weeks. And had the IEA report come out after that, we would have said, aha. But, you know, there’s probably an indirect link there because the science has become so much clearer. I think there’s also a reading of the sentiment, of public and political sentiment, that is definitely shifting and perhaps that gave them that space that you are talking about, Tom, that space and that courage to say, you know, do we want to be the last one standing? Because up until now, they were the last ones standing. Or do we want to be the first ones illuminating the future- first ones in the energy sector. And I think that decision was made reading public sentiment and geopolitically do you think the fact that the United States has a different occupant in the Oval Office didn’t have some kind of an influence on this? Let’s remember that it’s the governments who are members of the IEA.

 

Paul Dickinson: The United States is by far largest member of the IEA in terms of government and presumably budgetary contribution.

 

Christiana Figueres: And governance. And, you know, I wouldn’t be surprised if perhaps under all of this stress that we have produced for IEA over the past four years specifically, I wouldn’t be surprised if they just felt like we don’t have any oxygen because, you know, the governance of this institution is such that the United States holds a controlling voice here. And I wouldn’t be surprised if all of a sudden, you know, the IEA felt there’s this oxygen mask that has just dropped in front of their face and they go, finally- we can say what we know we need to say. So, all of the above.

 

Paul Dickinson: And big credit there to John Kerry and, of course, the whole US force in global politics. And I mention that specifically because to your point about John Kerry speaking about technologies that don’t exist, it’s a bit of a throwaway thought here. But we said at the very top of the show that there’s going to be massive change, particularly in the oil and gas industry. Exploration and production for new oil and gas is pretty much gone now, I hope and believe. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a huge industry in carbon capture and storage, particularly biomass carbon capture and storage, pumping down, pulling down out of the atmosphere and into the earth’s crust, hundreds of billions of tons of CO2. That’s something that same industry can do. And maybe that’s what Kerry was pointing to. Who knows?

 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: So we have an amazing interview for you today. And the thing to say before we move on to the interview?

 

Christiana Figueres: So one more thing, one more factor that I think had something to do with it, this is the head of the energy industry, but the financial industry also reached that conclusion a while ago. And so, you know, I think they’re also following the money and realizing if they don’t get on board here they’re really going to be the last ones standing because the financial world has moved, science has moved, technology, geopolitics has moved. Maybe they should also move. So I think all of that put together has come together for this amazing and very, very welcome shift. And I will confess that I cried yesterday when I read the summary. I was so excited to see this massive shift of the IEA.

 

Paul Dickinson: The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, Mark Carney just a couple of weeks ago were talking about how, as you said, Christiana, the money’s there, the ministers are there. You’ve cried in a good way, I think that was a happy crying. And now well, the sky’s the limit.

 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: So we’re going to go to the interview in a minute, but just before we do we have thoroughly enjoyed, and one of the best parts of our week has been reading the listener comments that arrive via the different formats. We’ve got a great one for your this week. This is from Georgina from Yorkshire in the UK and she says Outrage + Optimism is one of the best parts of my week. It’s been a game changer for me in terms of increasing my awareness of the complexity of the climate crisis but also staying focused on the positive and believing we have the solutions and we have Clay. I bet I’m not the only one with a secret crush. Thanks guys, love you. 

 

Paul Dickinson: That voice.

 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: That smooth silky voice reading the credits at the end. 


Paul Dickinson: Clay, can you say thank you Georgina in your smokey voice?

 

Clay Carnill: Um no, but I did have a dream as a child that, when I would grow up, I would be very famous all around the world and I have to say this makes me feel like I’m kind of on my way. 

 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: You are. You’re getting fan mail from Yorkshire.

 

Clay Carnill: But really I want to say I’m so grateful that someone is listening to the credits. It’s making me very happy. This review made me very happy so thank you Georgina for listening to the podcast and thank you for listening to the credits.

 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: Right, moving on to the interview. So we have an amazing interview for you today. This is something completely different to anything that we’ve ever done before and an incredible human being, you’re going to absolutely love this. Jens Stoltenberg is the first Norwegian to become Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO. Of course, one of the most important security organizations in the world borne out of the Second World War. Jens himself has this amazing background, he was born into a political family and his father was a diplomat and then minister of defense, minister of foreign affairs. And these amazing stories from his background, his father believed in practicing what he called kitchen table diplomacy, and he’d invite others that he was speaking to and engaging with, friends he called them, to the family home, serve them breakfast and talk as the family ate breakfast, encouraging the kids to ask questions. So as Jens was a child, guests at the breakfast table included people like Nelson Mandela and many other notable international freedom fighters and he grew up thinking that this was the normal diplomatic process, which is kind of an amazing indicator of how he then went on to become a statesman and a diplomat himself.

 

Christiana Figueres: And Tom, you’ve forgotten one piece, he’s also your personal hero. His father, Jens’  father is your personal hero because of the way he decided on the education of his children. Can you please talk about that?

 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: That’s true, because I’m sure like many listeners who are parents, I obsess a little bit over how to educate my children and I’ve always chosen to do it in a slightly unconventional way. We’ve homeschooled for periods of time we’ve traveled. They go to slightly alternative schools where I live here in Devon and Jens himself went to a Waldorf or Steiner school, which is not where I send my kids. But it’s also interesting that he did go to a school like that and he was later asked what form of education had given him. And he always said what it gave me was a desire to become a better human being throughout my life. So I think that’s also kind of an amazing story about education. So as I said before, that slight aside, he is currently the secretary general of NATO. He’s held that position since 2014. His term will expire in 2022 before NATO, as you’ll hear when Christiana opens in the conversation, he was the UN Special Envoy for climate change. And prior to that, he was elected as Prime Minister of Norway twice in 2000 and 2005. And during his tenure, interestingly, at NATO, he’s been working specifically to drive the issue of climate change up the agenda. He spoke at the leaders summit on climate convened by Joe Biden just a few weeks ago. And as you will hear again in this conversation, he is making plans for the NATO summit in June and climate change will play a role. So we’ll be back afterwards. Here is Jens Stoltenberg.

Christiana Figueres: Well, Secretary General, thank you so much for spending some time with us here on Outrage + Optimism. If I may be so brazen, I will call you Jens, because I’ve known you before you were Secretary General. In fact, we worked quite closely together in the lead up to the Paris Agreement when you were U.N. Special Envoy for Climate Change. And once again, thank you so much for everything that you did to get us to where we did in 2015. But today you are the Secretary General of NATO and we are so delighted to see that in your trajectory in NATO, you have not stepped away from your commitment to address climate change. In fact, you have presided over the publication of NATO 2030, which is your groundbreaking report where you cite climate change explicitly as a direct threat to NATO’s operations of national and international security. Now, here is my question Jens, how do you square the following circle? It is the responsibility of NATO of course, to have a firm military defense, let’s say now against Russian and Chinese military action in the high north. And however, at the same time, you understand perhaps better than any other previous Secretary General of NATO that climate change truly is such a threat to national international security. And you know that we’re not going to address climate change unless we do it in a collaborative fashion among all countries together. So how do you square the circle of a mental building up of a wall to protect and defend the territory for which you are responsible, while at the same time reaching out beyond those boundaries to the likes of Russia and China and others from which we need a very active collaboration in order to address climate change. How do you do both things at the same time?

 

Jens Stoltenberg: I think it is absolutely possible because I think that both NATO allies, Russia, China and and all other major powers in the world really understand and that’s the big breakthrough with the Paris accord, is that they really understand that climate change, global warming is an existential threat to all of us. And therefore, despite all our differences, despite disagreements and sometimes also conflict on all the areas we need to work together, addressing climate change is a truly global challenge, and it can only be solved that when we work together. So there are many big problems in the world. But when it comes to climate change, actually what we have seen is that we have been able to prevent them from destroying our ability to work together, addressing climate change. And for me, the biggest demonstration of that is the Paris agreement. So I’m quite optimistic when it comes to our ability to overcome all the differences and at the same time working together on addressing climate change.

 

Christiana Figueres: And Jens, since 2015 when that agreement was adopted, have you had the opportunity to/the responsibility to actually bring, let’s call it right now, those two big military powers to bring them beyond a traditional NATO stand off position in order to collaborate on climate, for example, in the Arctic.

 

Jens Stoltenberg: So I think that NATO has an important role to address climate change. We need to, first of all, understand how global warming affects our security and everything that matters for our security matters for NATO. Global warming and climate change is a crisis multiplier and therefore we need to address it. I also think that NATO’s role in adapting to climate change and also helping to reduce emissions, but I don’t think that NATO is the platform to, in a way, negotiate with China or with Russia a big climate agreement. I think that will only confuse the responsibilities with the responsibilities of the U.N. and all those who are working within the UN framework for addressing climate change. So NATO has an important role, but not in a way to replace or to start to sit down and negotiate the climate change agreements with Russia. I think we should focus on arms control and on those issues when we talk to Russia or with China.

 

Christiana Figueres: But that would lead me to think that you don’t think that NATO has a role in climate change, but you do know that it does. So how would you define that role of NATO on climate change?

 

Jens Stoltenberg: I strongly believe that we have a role to play in three ways. First, to set the gold standard when it comes to understanding the consequences of climate change on our security, more extreme weather, more droughts, flooding, heatwaves, all of that will affect our security, partly because it will force people to move, migration. And it’s obvious that that affects our security, it will fuel conflicts in many places in the world. Second, we have to adapt because to be effective in delivering deterrence on defense, which is our core and main responsibility, we need to make sure that our soldiers can operate in extreme weather conditions. We have, for instance a NATO training mission in Iraq helping to fight Daish or ISIS. Last year there were several weeks of more than 40 degrees Celsius, extreme heat and NATO forces have to be able to fight, to train, to operate in these extreme weather conditions, meaning it will impact our exercises, our equipment.

 

Jens Stoltenberg: We need planes, the trucks, all other equipment to be able to function under extreme weather conditions, more rain, windy weather, we need to be able to operate. So that’s adaptation of NATO. And the third thing is that we have a responsibility to contribute to reductions of emissions. I was in Kyoto back in 1997, I remember we exempted military from any national reporting on emissions. It was not part of the Kyoto agreement. It was explicitly exempted from the agreement. Now, that was not the case in Paris, but we have a long way to go to make sure that our militaries are contributing to reduction in emissions. If we look at a battle tanks or battleships and so on, they can be very impressive. But they’re not very green, at least not normally. So they are not constructed to be emitting as little as possible. They are there to protect us. So we need to reconcile the need for green and effective military equipment and thereby reducing emissions, but also increasing the resilience of our military operations.

 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: Jens, if I can just jump in, as it’s so interesting to hear you set that out and thank you for explaining that three step strategy as part of NATO’s response to climate change. Can I just dig in on the first point? Because you talked about understanding the consequences of climate change for our world as that will affect future conflict that is happening now. And you gave some examples there around how we’re already seeing that. And I’d just like to ask about the connection from that to the world finding the tenacity and the determination to actually deal with this in a timely fashion. Most of the analysis, the economic analysis on whether we deal with climate change is based on a very narrow set of criteria, what’s the cost of gas and what’s the cost of solar, and it kind of compares these things in a very simplistic way. What they don’t do is incorporate the cost of a world that is going to be rife with conflict, the cost of this major change to our entire security landscape. And if there was a way of incorporating those elements into our economics or indeed into our understanding of human suffering, it becomes even more of a no brainer that we need to change our world incredibly quickly to one that can deal with the climate crisis. So I’m just wondering, do you see as part of your role to help people make that link to sort of say, look out if we keep going down this road, it’s not just about collapse of ecosystems, but there’s going to be conflict everywhere and use that as a driver to get people to make the right decisions now while we still can.

 

Jens Stoltenberg: Yeah, that’s very much the point is that I think that the link between climate change and security is yet another argument for taking climate change seriously and to do something with it. For many people, and that’s a good thing, is that they don’t need more arguments because it’s so obvious that climate change is a big and real problem. But it’s always good to underpin and to further strengthen the arguments for doing something with climate change and we still have some countries, some political forces, which are a bit hesitant when it comes to realizing the dangers related to climate change. And then if you can add on top of all the other arguments that actually this is also important for our security, it adds to the urgency and the importance of addressing climate change. And of course, I know one of the reasons I believe, for instance, in economic tools addressing or to help to reduce emissions is that you can appeal to the idealism of companies and people. But in the long run, if it is profitable to act and behave in an environmentally friendly way, I think that more people will do it. And in the same way, if you can tell people that to protect your own security, you have to reduce the risk for conflicts and war and not least reduce the risk for even bigger challenges related to migration. By addressing climate change, you will motivate more people and more political forces to engage in the fight against climate change.  

Tom Rivett-Carnac: Very quick follow up to that. I’m curious to know about your own experience in the corridors of power. I mean, you’re someone who talks to foreign ministers, defense ministers, heads of state. You ask them about these questions, you must say to them, look, we need to deal with climate change or else the security issue is going to become even more acute. Does that argument land with them? Do they make that link? Do they buy that? And does it lead to decision making in a different way?

 

Jens Stoltenberg: Yes, they buy it. And I think many things have changed over just the last few years of all NATO allies now realizing dangers with climate change. All NATO allies actually signed the Paris accord. I mean, we had the US left the Paris accord, but now they’re back again. So all the allies have signed that agreement. So allies are on board. They understand the link and we are now preparing for the upcoming NATO summit on the 14th of June. And Christiana mentioned the NATO 2030, which is a project economy initiative, we have to modernize and to renew NATO. And one of the proposals there is to make climate change one of the important decisions, allies, so that the government will make when they meet in Brussels.

 

Paul Dickinson: Secretary General Jens, there is a question that fascinates me about the kind of competition, a healthy competition, perhaps even of ideologies. NATO is constantly adapting and modernizing. That’s why it’s been the most successful alliance in history. But it’s more than a defensive shield. It exists to ensure freedom and prosperity in which sovereign countries thrive. And NATO is a democratic force. I mean, China has been doing some great work in response to climate change but generally, I think the performance of one party states is not so good, particularly if we consider Russia to be such a governmental system. So I ask you, how can we promote responding to climate change as a project, embracing the priorities of security, but also democracy and freedom? How can NATO promote climate change leadership by 50 percent of the world economy that your members represent almost in terms of proving our core beliefs and our effectiveness as societies?

 

Jens Stoltenberg: Sometimes I believe we should not make things too complicated. I am concerned about climate change in a way, regardless of my commitment to democracy, the rule of law, the core values of NATO. I’m saying that because I think we need to realize that to be able to do something real about climate change, we need to work also together with authoritarian regimes, regimes that in no way share our values like China, like Russia. So I will stand up for democracy, the rule of law, NATO’s core values. And I really believe that that’s  the reason why NATO’s founded. But to make one conditioned on the other, I think would just complicate the very urgent need to do something real on climate change as quickly as possible. So I’m not linking those two issues too much just to make sure that we are really making progress on both of them and on China or on climate change, we need to work with them and make agreements with a lot of nations we normally don’t agree so much with.

 

Paul Dickinson: So that’s a brilliant answer from an international statesperson. So I salute you there. But if I can ask just one more tricky question. You have spoken before about the challenge to our democracies from, for example, foreign elements wishing to interfere with our electoral processes or whatever. There may be a case of them sometimes undermining science of climate change, even in a strange alliance with people within NATO member countries. And I just wanted to what degree, you know, you thought that there was a role for NATO to have an awareness of the security issue, of the integrity of our public debate regarding climate change.

 

Jens Stoltenberg: That’s the task for NATO to make sure that we have cyber defenses, that we have intelligence which helps to protect us against any attempt to interfere in our domestic political process to undermine the trust in our democratic institutions. And again, that’s something I believe in regardless of climate change, because I believe in the importance of people being able to elect their own leaders and to have transparent democratic institutions and independent free press which can provide us with facts and reliable information. And of course, if anyone tries to interfere in our democratic processes and spread the information which is undermining scientific knowledge about the dangers of climate change, then of course NATO should help to prevent that from happening because we are there to protect our free and open societies. But again, we should not make this too complicated, because the reality is that some of those countries which we have seen trying to interfere in our democratic processes, they at least accept that climate change is an issue. Again, China is the best example. I’m very concerned about what China does when it comes to democratic values, oppression of democratic forces in Hong Kong, the way they treat minorities in China or the way they violate international law or hamper freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. But despite all that, we have been able to make big and beautiful agreements with China on climate change. So, we should not make it more complicated. We should try to work on the separate issues and work also with countries we normally disagree with.

 

Christiana Figueres: And keep them separate. That’s interesting because I guess in the back of our mind was can climate change actually be a good playground to exercise more multilateralism? And I think what you’re saying is, yes, as long as we don’t confuse the issues. You mentioned the forthcoming NATO summit. I would love to know what you expect other than the many more, let’s say, more traditional issues that you will be dealing with at the NATO summit. What do you expect as a result on climate change? And secondly, would that result help to elevate the attention of the UN Security Council on climate change? You know that many attempts have been done to bring climate change to the attention of the Security Council. And many of us feel that there is not enough or deep enough attention to climate change at the Security Council level. So first for the NATO summit and then is there any possibility to raise the issue at the Sec Council?

 

Jens Stoltenberg: I expect that when the heads of state and government when President Biden, Prime Minister Johnson and the other leaders in NATO and other countries meet in Brussels on the 14th of June, they will make many important decisions. But one of the important decisions they will make will be decisions on climate change. And I put forward proposals which is actually based on the three elements I just outlined. We need to understand, analyze the link between climate change and security. We need, for instance, better statistics, better data, because we don’t have good enough data when it comes to, for instance, emissions from military forces. Second, we need a program on how to adapt NATO and our military forces to global warming. And thirdly, we need actually concrete commitments to reduce emissions from military operations. We are now working on that decision so I cannot reveal the exact language because it is under negotiation. But I have told the allies, we should reduce emissions from our military operations because it will help to reduce the risk of global warming, but also because in the long run, I’m absolutely certain that it will increase the effectiveness of our military forces.

 

Christiana Figueres: How is that Jens?

 

Jens Stoltenberg: Because if we end up with a military force or military equipment, which is totally based on fossil fuel, which they are today and the rest of the society moved towards greener new technologies, electric vehicles, we will be stuck with old fashioned technology. So, I mean, if you look at electric cars, they’re not only environmentally friendly, but they’re more and more the best cars, and that will also be the case with battle tanks, with fighter jets, with the battleships. So Winston Churchill is known for many things, but he was recognized for being able to turn to the British navy from coal to oil before the First World War, which is regarded as a huge step forward for the speed, the fighting capability of the British Navy. And we are now in the same kind of energy transition. We’re moving away from fossil fuels in the rest of society and that will impact also the way we conduct military operations. And I would like NATO allies to be in the forefront of that transition, not only because I’m concerned about climate change, but because I’m concerned that NATO has to maintain its technological edge, have the most modern and advanced military equipment, and therefore we should focus on how we can do that. One example is Afghanistan. We know that one of the most vulnerable things we have done in Afghanistan is to transport fossil fuels to our military operations. So if we can reduce dependence on fossil fuels, we are reducing emissions but we’re also increasing the resilience of our military operations because we don’t have these very dangerous transportation of fossil fuels, long distance to fuel aggregates or to provide that fuel to battle tanks or armored vehicles or whatever. So to reconcile the need for green and effective armed forces is actually to be at the forefront of technological development and that’s exactly what NATO should be. And I expect NATO allies to actually make bold decisions on this at the summit in June, then on the Security Council, I strongly believe that the UN should take this very seriously. I welcome the fact that the UN has been the driving force for the climate conventions going back to the climate convention also in Rio in 1992 and all the way with the different protocols and now with the Paris agreement.

 

Christiana Figueres: But the Security Council is a shining example of not taking this responsibility. Of the whole UN. Yet.

 

Jens Stoltenberg: No, I understand that. But my main focus is how to make sure that NATO is leading, how NATO can do more as an alliance. And I’m a bit afraid of giving too many advice to the UN. But I can tell you that in my previous position as a special envoy on climate change, of course, I was very much engaged in how we could make sure that the UN and including the UN Security Council stepped up when it comes to addressing climate change,

 

Christiana Figueres: Well, we’re certainly hoping that after this NATO summit that there will be a ripple effect over to the Security Council. Now, obviously very important members of the Security Council are not allies of NATO. But we’re hoping that there’s going to be some ripple effect because as you well point out, that NATO 2030 report points out, it truly is a global threat to national and international security for which the Security Council is the ultimate authority.

 

Jens Stoltenberg: Well, absolutely.

 

Christiana Figueres: Could I take you to a different stakeholder group that you have actively reached out to. quite amazingly, and that is to young people, because you encouraged your young leaders group to put together their own NATO 2030 report entitled, I believe, Embrace the Change and Guard the Values. First of all, what led you to reach out to that stakeholder group? I think quite unusual for NATO. And was anything there in that conversation that truly surprised you or was everything that they put on the table already predictable from your perspective?

 

Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, I think it’s always important to talk to young people. The problem is that I also regarded myself as a young man for many, many decades.

 

Christiana Figueres: Love that.

 

Jens Stoltenberg: But now I realize that I’m not young anymore. So then I need to organize ways to reach out to young people. And I think that that is important because the decisions we make today, they will, of course, affect what kind of world the young people today will have to manage for good or for bad in the future. Perhaps not a big surprises, but they were very focused on on climate change, on exactly the issues we discussed now, it’s actually one of the reasons why we have made climate change such an important part of NATO 2030 is the very clear input we got from young people because climate change has been on the NATO agenda for some years. So we actually agreed back in 2010 that climate change had security consequences, but it has never been prominent on the NATO agenda. That is changing now, partly because we see the urgency and partly because it’s so obvious that this has security consequences and also partly because we see that we need to adapt and to mitigate emissions. But the outreach to young people has in a way forced that movement towards setting or putting climate change higher on the NATO agenda and not only having it on the agenda, but actually trying to agree some actions that we have to implement to make sure that we deliver on the fight against climate change.

 

Paul Dickinson: As we move towards our final question that we ask all guests, I just wanted to make an observation about why I think our listeners are so supportive of your leadership. Both the scientific community and the security community are allowing us as societies to really think about the long term, which is very often neglected. I love to spend time sometimes with trustees of pension funds. We spoke to Thomas DiNapoli of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, who said he’s an investor forever. But I just wanted to really thank you for that long term perspective and encourage you to continue to bring it with ever greater clarity and force to the world.

 

Jens Stoltenberg: I can promise that I will do that. But it’s not only long term, because this is happening now. The climate change is not a kind of theoretical thing that may happen in the future. It’s taking place as we speak right now. People are forced to move. We have droughts. We have more extreme weather. And also in the Arctic, we see that the ice is melting because back in the 1980s, when I started to work on some of these issues, climate change was something we were believing that might happen in the future. We thought that could happen in the future and we needed very advanced models to try to predict the possibility of climate change. Now, you don’t need it. It’s good to have models and to try to understand the scale of climate change in the future but climate change is a fact. It’s something which is happening and it’s possible to see with your own eyes, especially in the high north. And for the NATO soldiers operating in Iraq, I think to have so many days with more than 40 degrees Celsius, you know this is climate change. So, yes, it’s long term, but it is also very immediate. And that’s also the reason why we all have to act and also our armed forces.

 

Paul Dickinson: It means a great deal to hear the Secretary General of NATO say that. Thank you.

 

Christiana Figueres: I was just going to suggest, if I may, just to see how urgent this is, I highly recommend that on June 4th, you and your team sit down and watch the most amazing documentary that has ever been put together. It’s called Breaking Boundaries is going to come out on Netflix on June 4th. And from a totally scientific point of view, it really explains what you have just said, how much of an emergency we’re in, not just on climate, but also on all of the other boundaries. So if you needed scientific proof for your sense of urgency, there you are. Jens, thank you so much for spending this time, for illuminating us. Thank you in particular for this leadership at at NATO that has been missing for such a long time. So thank you very much for that. As we close, we always ask our guests to place themselves on the spectrum between optimism and outrage. We believe that we need both, but we always ask our guest, if a spectrum between optimism and what we can do, and frustration or outrage that it has taken us this long to get to where we are, where would you place Jens Stoltenberg?

 

Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, agree with you that we need both optimism and outrage because outrage is fuelling action. Having said that, I’m more on the optimist side, partly because I have seen such a huge shift in the political sentiment. Again, comparing to where we were in the 90s, for instance, where many allies or many countries didn’t want to sign the Kyoto agreement at all. And it only covered a small part of the emissions in the world. Now, the whole world has agreed and the whole world has signed up to something and things are starting to happen. And the second reason is that we see in our technological development, especially when it comes to new sources for energy, solar, wind, which is now actually commercial, it’s profitable. So even if you don’t care about climate change, you should invest in this rather than coal. So then change will happen and based on what you’ve seen before, when things start to happen, they happen much more quickly than expected. There’s another tipping point. I think we are very much on that tipping point or close to the tipping point now where new environmentally friendly energies will just be more competitive than the old polluting technologies, so technology has been so important in all other transitions and it will be it also this time. So I am an optimist, but we need some outrage and some frustration because that will help us to move on and keep up the pace.

 

Christiana Figueres: Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO, thank you so much for joining on this Outrage + Optimism.

 

Jens Stoltenberg: Thank you so much for having me.

 

 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: So how wonderful to get a chance to sit down with Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of NATO, and what an amazing analysis. And it just shows you that the climate issue can be viewed from so many lenses. And it’s now that it’s reached this moment, everybody is an ally and you can find people in the most unusual places and they think about climate from different angles and you always learn something. What did you leave that conversation with?

 

Paul Dickinson: I was really amused at the fact that I really tried to lead him in a certain direction and he just completely shut the door on me. But I mean, where I was going with this was, you know, I associate NATO essentially with the Cold War and actually the competition between the West, if you will, and the USSR, the Soviet Union. And I actually think that that competition of ideologies was quite interesting and quite important because I believe that after the Berlin Wall fell, somebody said that the West Germany didn’t have a mirror to say I am the better of the two or something. I actually think a lot of problems with modern capitalism happened when the Berlin Wall fell because the West was no longer in a kind of a competition of moral or ideological competition and ethical competition with another. Right? So I wanted to see if the Secretary General would be willing to characterize the competition. We have to decarbonise our societies as something uniquely kind of to do with democracy and the rule of law and the open society. And the computer said no, actually. And he wasn’t interested in talking about that. He said he wrote me off so absolutely brilliantly. I really admire him for it. He said, why make it more complicated? Fair answer.

 

Christiana Figueres: I was taken by, yet again, the breadth of the implications of climate change, because we spent much of the time speaking about the threats, the security and military threats that climate change poses, but he also went in to that, I would say the macro view. He also went into the micro view. And I was so grateful that he did, because I remember having visited the Pentagon several times in the run up to the Paris Agreement in our quest for broader and broader support for an ambitious agreement. And it was at those Pentagon meetings that I learned that the U.S. Army and apparently it’s not the only one, was already then moving over to renewable energy for their military stations that are at a certain distance because of exactly what the Secretary General said, because having to transport liquid fossil fuels over long distances very often very close to enemy territory, and taking it to what they call the theater, which is where they actually have their battles, is A, very expensive because of the transport and B, very dangerous. So they have to have these huge tankers that transport this fuel over long distances.

 

Christiana Figueres: Plus they have to be accompanied with a whole bunch of other vehicles that are protecting the fuel vehicles, making it very dangerous and very expensive. And to switch from that to putting up solar panels and creating much of the energy that is needed on site, that doesn’t obviously take care of vehicles yet, but it will soon. But I was really struck way back then about, wow, you know, renewable energy because it is so distributed, because it can be produced where it is used. Supply and demand can actually coexist right there in the same space, just radically changes the logic of fueling and dependence on fuels. And I was thrilled that he referred to that. Had he not referred to it, I would have asked him. But clearly I learned about it, as I say, from the US Army. But clearly, it’s not just the US Army. It is other armies that have discovered that that is a way to cut down on costs and cut down on risk.

 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: Yeah, I remember our old friend Paul, Neil Morisetti from the British Army, Navy, telling me at one point that their destroyers did three inches to the gallon and that was a real problem for them. 

  

Tom Rivett-Carnac: But I completely agree with your analysis, Christiana. And I thought what was interesting that was when he drew that analogy with Churchill shifting the ships over to the defense in the Second World War made the Navy ready for the modern war as it was then. And he drew that analogy with basically saying renewable energy is just better. And it reminded me of sort of Extreme E or other things where you just demonstrate that shifting over to renewables is just a better way to do what you’re doing. In this case, of course, military operations, which is complex, to say the least, in terms of whether that should be done, but it is necessary in many cases. So, yeah, I thought that was really fascinating, I suppose. Interesting that we asked him about whether the argument that not taking action on climate will lead to future conflict landed with decision makers as they put their policies together, and his strong indication was that it did and that that was driving decision making. And who knows how that manifests in ministerial decision making or policy formulation. But clearly his perspective was that that was making a difference, that was landing. So I thought that was really fascinating as well. What an amazing guy. What a great life he’s had, you know, to sort of come from where he’s come from, run Norway and then be special envoy for climate and now run NATO.

 

Paul Dickinson: How fortunate we are to have as such a sort of thoughtful individual. And I mean, I was born just 20 years after the end of World War Two, really. And, you know, that was still something in living memory when I was growing up. And that was a pretty terrible time. Now, the creation of atomic weapons changed the nature of war. And we haven’t had and I hope and believe we cannot have any kind of large scale conflict really anymore because of the nature of nuclear weapons. But, of course, you have all these terrible proxy wars and all sorts all over the place. But the point I want to make is the defense of our nations, our national security, is the ultimate obligation of the armed forces. And I am just so glad that that community are recognizing climate change and particularly and actually didn’t back me off when I said that’s both about protecting our societies and the integrity of our debate from foreign influence. You know, if people trying to undermine our democratic institutions or derange the debate on climate change and acknowledging that we have similar threats from within our own countries, potentially undermining science and undermining action and recognizing that the security services have a role to make sure that we have a rational debate, I find very reassuring. 

 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: So this week, as ever, we are playing you out the wonderful piece of music. We have an amazing artist this week. Milky Chance are playing their single We Didn’t Make It to the Moon. This is a song with an amazing story that is so relevant for our times. As eve, it will be introduced by the artist and then you’ll hear the music. Thanks for joining us. Stick around for Clay’s credits. It’s always worth it. And we’ll see you next week.