98. 100% Outrage and 100% Optimism with John Kerry
Happy 51st Earth Day, everyone!
Today marks the first U.S. Earth Day Summit convened by President Joe Biden with the aim to strengthen climate ambition among invited world leaders ahead of the COP26 meeting in Glasgow in November.
And while the global community anticipates the details of the U.S’s own NDC announcement expected shortly before or at the summit itself, we speak to John Kerry in his role as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, about his recent deployment overseas to meet delegates and colleagues ahead of the summit to discuss climate ambition and the urgent need for even more ambitious targets to be pledged in this most decisive decade.
And just before the interview, we bring the latest in climate news this week. We discuss the latest IEA report citing carbon dioxide emissions are forecast to jump this year by the second biggest annual rise in history, the UK’s Prime minister, Boris Johnson, pledging to reduce emissions 78 percent by 2035 compared to 1990 levels, and the U.S. Treasury appointing a climate counsellor, John Morton, to coordinate the efforts of a new climate hub focused on leveraging finance to confront the threat of climate change. Plus, we discuss the ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.
It’s a busy Earth Day! Join in with us and listen!
And be sure to hang around after the interview for a musical treat from rock n’ soul legend-in-the-making, Aaron Frazer!
Christiana + Tom’s book ‘The Future We Choose’ is available now!
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Paul Dickinson: [00:00:00] Oh, Tom, do you have an announcement about a new newsletter?
Tom Rivett-Carnac: I think you should let them know about it.
Paul Dickinson: Global Optimism’s amazing staff are curating a weekly newsletter: Signals Amidst the Noise, demonstrating the momentum we all need to keep our eye on in moving towards a net zero world, knowing more and scrutinizing public commitments is an important step in the global crisis. Please check us out on Twitter @GlobalOptimism and subscribe.
Clay Carnill: Link is in the show notes. Enjoy the episode.
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: [00:01:51]This week, it is Earth Day 2021 and there is a big summit happening in the US. We’re going to be speaking about the Biden summit, but we’re also going to talk about the ratification of the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol, the fact that carbon emissions have soared this year. The U.K. has set a bold climate target for 2035. And we’re going to speak to Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry about his recent deployment overseas. And we have music from Aaron Frazer. Thanks for being here.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: Earth Day is a big day. I never grew up with that day being a big day. But since I have grown up, I realized that our friends in the United States think of it as a very significant day. And really I enjoy it, I think it’s fantastic.
Paul Dickinson: Out of the job in the Earth Day promotion.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: I brought it back. I think it’s very nice. I like it. Every day is Earth Day in Costa Rica, of course, isn’t it.
Christiana Figueres: Indeed, indeed. Indeed. But this is the 51st anniversary of Earth Day and it is being used as a major political driving force moment for so many announcements. So the US administration has called for what they thought was going to be one summit of 40 heads of state and is now turned into several days of summit at heads of state level, at ministerial level, of private stakeholder announcements on and on and on. They are really going to town this week to drum up more and more action on climate change. God bless.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:03:40] And it’s a bold move. I mean, to put that stake in the ground two days of presidential time inside the first 100 days of the new administration. John Kerry, of course, crisscrossing the world up to now to pull together the deals that we will see unfold throughout the course of today and tomorrow. And we’ll get to that in a minute. And, of course, we’ll speak to John Kerry.
But first, Christiana, if you wanted to speak about the Kigali amendment, why is that important?
Christiana Figueres: Well, we don’t usually speak about protocols and other conventions here.
Paul Dickinson: They’re all lovely every little bit.
Christiana Figueres: Exactly. And so some listeners may remember that there is such a thing called the Montreal Protocol, which actually brings countries together to reduce the ozone depleting substances that they produce. And is actually widely hailed as the most successful environmental legal agreement ever because it has been very successfully implemented due to the fact that it was completely funded.
Paul Dickinson: Proof that we can do it, though. Very important proof that we can fix things.
Christiana Figueres: That we can do it. But the scope of it obviously is much smaller than diminishing greenhouse gas but still very important.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:05:07] However, there was recently an economist report that said it was the second most effective. Can you guess what the first was? The China’s one child policy. Anyway, back to your point.
Christiana Figueres: As an environmental injustice. OK, but that was not a multilateral agreement, I think.
Paul Dickinson: Christiana you’re always right, but just give Tom his four seconds or something, that he had a smile.
Christiana Figueres: [00:05:35] Four seconds. Montreal Protocol. So several years ago, the Kigali amendment was adopted, which actually brings a new substance into the Montreal Protocol. The agencies, because of mostly they are also ozone depleting, but they have a huge, huge climate effect. And so those were included. And now the question is, how successful are we going to be in being able to phase out those. And the reason why that’s important is because if we are able to fully implement the Kigali amendment, we would actually phase down the production of those agencies by at least 80 percent over the next few decades, which shaves off 0.5 degrees centigrade of global temperature rise. And so when we’re saying, you know, we really, really, really want to keep this to 1.5, 0.5 turns out to be a huge deal. So it is a huge deal. And this week or rather last week, because it occurred on Friday, we had something that was from a geopolitical point of view, very interesting, but also just from a physical point of view, very interesting. From a geopolitical point of view. China and the US had not ratified the Kigali amendment and on Friday, not in the context of a conversation with the US, not in the context of the climate summit that President Biden has called, but rather in the context of the virtual summit between France, Germany and China. So in a European context, China announced that it would ratify the Kigali amendment.
Christiana Figueres: Very interesting that they chose to do it in a European context and not in the U.S. context, which they perfectly well could have. But then they were followed very, very quickly with the United States saying we’re also going to ratify. So very interesting that up until then we had one hundred and eighteen countries and the European Union that had ratified. But the absence of China and US were huge. Now they’re going to ratify because they account respectively twenty nine percent of all of these greenhouse gases, China and twenty six the US. And so ratifying and implementing is a huge contribution. So that from a geopolitical you know, let’s think about why China chose to do that in the European context and not in the U.S. context. So we can have many different theories around that. But from a physical point of view, how important it is that independently of the geopolitical message that they’re sending, that both China and the United States clearly having checked that out with each other, are now going to enter into this amendment and and bring about an accelerated phase out because China on her own would be able to phase out more than half of the world’s HFC production and consumption. So a huge win and a huge win for a climate that comes at the same time as as this Biden summit, but is actually just sort of put into the broader package.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: And why has it taken so long? Because Kigali amendment was negotiated ages ago, wasn’t it?
Christiana Figueres: [00:09:11] Yeah, it’s taken long because I don’t think it’s easy for either the US or or China to do this. It does require a very, very clear regulation of the industry for them to move off of HFCs and onto the alternatives. And it does require actually funding to be able to do so. So I am assuming. But we will have to wait and see I haven’t looked into that, that the U.S. is going to actually help the companies to do this and China will help their companies. So it does require a public private collaboration there to be able to phase down those agencies in a timely fashion.
Paul Dickinson: Wow. Absolutely beautiful, though, to see this race to the top and not the race to the bottom. So, I don’t want to speculate about why China would announce this in a European context. It might be a little bit to do with the fact that China is noticing that the return of the United States to kind of the climate debate because of the sort of the dark days of the Trump administration means that leadership from the United States is not guaranteed, but great to see that the big hearted by the administration immediately follows China and the big countries are being grown up alongside the 180 smaller ones who got there first.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: And trying to describe the return of the US to the return of a truant child coming back to school rather than returning King to China.
Paul Dickinson: Written in a slightly childish way. But I kind of get the point.
Christiana Figueres: [00:10:52] Yeah, I get the point. And I think that is why they chose to do it right in the European context. Now, certainly it was just two days after special envoy John Kerry had been in China. So obviously they talked about this. But
China doesn’t want to be seen as being pulled into climate because of the US. China wants to have its position and its contribution fully respected on its own. And so I think that’s why they chose to do it on the European context. And then the US, of course, came in right behind and supported. But very interesting geopolitical moves here.
Paul Dickinson: Can I turn that question around, Christiana? Do you think the US are worried about being pulled into this by China?
Christiana Figueres: Well, honestly, the U.S. should be committed to being pulled in because of the planetary emergency a way above the time.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: As they are.
Christiana Figueres: Now. Yeah, after four dark years of the US, the US can’t just smoothly dovetail into the efforts. They have got to take a leadership position and be very, very determined about what they’re going to get done in the next four years for two reasons. Number one, there’s no guarantee that there’s going to be a second term to this administration or even to that political party, but also from a global perspective, the end of the let’s call it the first term, although we don’t know of the Biden administration or the Biden Harris administration is already going to be halfway through our decisive decade. And so for both reasons, both for national political reasons as well as for global emergency reasons, they have got to not just run, but gallop.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:12:47] Ok, we’re going to have to move on, although that was really, really interesting I learned a lot there. And I also particularly like you describing the re-entry of the U.S. into climate diplomacy was accompanied by your impression of British aristocracy.
Paul Dickinson: That is a heavily sarcastic voice.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: So on Friday, a few days ago, I was forced to go on the Today programme, the BBC by Sharon our comms director, who occasionally forces me to do terrifying things like that. But it was great. And for those who aren’t based in the UK, the Today programme is the most listened to breakfast show. And I was coming on to talk about the credibility of the British government in hosting the COP and did they have the means necessary? And I said during the interview I was challenged by opening coal mines or this sort of thing, and I said, you know, all of that’s important. But the real test is going to be, is Boris Johnson going to adopt the recommendations of the Climate Change Committee, the sixth carbon budget to be 78% reduction by 2035. Right now, we’re committed to 68% by 2030. Would he also go to 78% per cent by 2035? And that’s really important because those five years from 2030 to 2035 are where the rubber meets the road in decarbonisation. All the energy stuff is done. It’s hard to abate sectors.
Christiana Figueres: Do you think Boris Johnson was listening to you over his breakfast?
Paul Dickinson: [00:14:13] Well you actually have to. The Queen makes the Prime Minister listen to the Today programme, just kind of our tradition.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: Dickinson levels of assumptions of power. And it was amazing to see that today. We recorded this on Tuesday, the 20th. That’s exactly what the UK did, committed to 78% reduction by 2035. Now, this isn’t a time period that will be relevant for Glasgow. Everyone’s talking about 2030 for Glasgow, but putting out that additional marker of 2035 on the way to net zero by 2050. Of course it now needs to be backed up with regulatory measures and incentives and other things. It’s a pretty big deal. No other country has done that yet. So I mean, I don’t like to point out that Costa Rica doesn’t have that kind of target, but it just doesn’t have it so.
Paul Dickinson: Oh, my God. I’m going to hide. I’m going to hide.
Christiana Figueres: This is correct. But it’s actually only countries that have high emissions who can provide high emission reductions.
Paul Dickinson: Touche. You know, it’s very hard to reduce your emissions. You can’t worry about opening coal mines when you never had any.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: What Costa Rican Army reduction strategy will never be.
Christiana Figueres: [00:15:28] So we don’t like to reduce our army because we have an army of ants, turtles, birds, so we don’t reduce our army.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: So what do you guys think of this target?
Paul Dickinson: It’s big stuff. They’re talking about that, what’s it going to be. And it’s going to be electricity system that operates without carbon emissions, reduction in meat and dairy consumption across the UK, introducing low carbon heating systems in homes, planting woodland. You know, it’s big stuff. But I mean, I was just trying to work out how do you achieve these goals? And you’ve heard me talk about it before, but I’ve got a stat this time. Cigarettes my friends cigarettes. Did you know a packet of cigarettes in Nigeria would cost you ninety one cents, not even one dollar. In the UK it’ll cost you fourteen dollars. In Australia a packet of cigarettes, the same packet will cost you twenty five dollars. If you want to get things out of your society, you make them more expensive. It’s so simple. That’s my observation.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: Nice observation, Christiana, anything to add?
Christiana Figueres: No, I think all has been said.
Paul Dickinson: [00:16:30] So I will add something then moving to the US and actually talking about how exciting it is that John Morton has been appointed reporting directly to the Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, and he is going to be responsible for building a kind of climate hub inside the US Treasury, which is going to focus on trying to link up domestic finance, international affairs, tax policy reporting, as I said, directly to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. There is so much scope here for us to build regulation driven markets. Brilliant policy is going to get the US moving. I hope and believe. Some people have been a bit sniffy about whether he’s the right person or whatever, some people and NGOs. But look, what I think is most hopeful here is that we just get that power of finance, that power of technology, that power of regulation, combining, aligning and delivering the solutions we need. And, you know, it could all be done super fast to the general advantage of the United States economy. They’ve done it before. And I think this represents, ladies and gentlemen, an entirely new era for the world. And then the applause.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: I think it’s great. This is very exciting. They’re making some fantastic appointments all across the Biden administration. I know John Morton a bit. I’ve been in various meetings with him. He’s very impressive. He really knows how to pull stakeholders together. He understands, of course, the economics and what’s required. So I think we can expect great things.
Paul Dickinson: Ok, so one last thing. The scary thing. Who’s going to talk about it?
Christiana Figueres: [00:19:04] The IEA report,
Paul Dickinson: Exactly, the IEA. Well, they were talking this week about emissions rising very significantly, the second biggest rise since the rise after the 2008 economic crisis. And, you know, Fatih Birol talking about, you know, this is like the head of the International Energy Agency. This is shocking and very disturbing. He says. On the one hand, governments today are saying climate change is their priority. But on the other hand, we are seeing the second biggest emissions rise in history. It is really disappointing. So that is just a little something to kind of cool our heels a little bit, a little reality check.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: I appreciate that. Obviously, that is disastrous. And, of course, great outrage. But is it only due to the massive drop last year that it looks that we’re calling it such a massive increase? Are we back onto the trajectory of where we would have been, or is it because there was a seven percent drop last year that looks like a massive spike this year?
Paul Dickinson: Well, no, no, we’ve got to kind of reduce like seven percent a year.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: Yeah, I know. I just wonder of course, we need to reduce it and balance this further. But it does it mask the fact, calling it the biggest rise in history. Is that slightly misleading? Because it’s really was the biggest drop in history and then a return to business as usual?
Paul Dickinson: [00:20:35] Look, there’s no absolute sort of truth outside of the human soul, but I trust the IEA when they give that kind of a grim warning. We have the pleasure and honor of speaking to John Kerry shortly. And he has been giving very stark comments on global media about the inaction on emissions. So I’m inclined to say that, yes, it may be somewhat worsened by the return of our economies with these stimulus packages. But I mean, come on, you know, haven’t we learned what it means to have a global problem? Haven’t we got lessons from the pandemic? Haven’t we redesigned our societies? It looks like we haven’t. Not yet.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: So let’s put this in the hands of Secretary Kerry.
Paul Dickinson: I would love to if I may just very quickly read out a comment from a listener Mustang Erin who has about the coolest name I’ve ever heard of from the United States. They put a review on Apple podcast that says, I love everything about this podcast, this is the best climate change podcast out there. In my opinion, the banter is great. And I learn so much from every episode. I found you guys through the Climate Question BBC podcast, which is also great. Christiana, you are my hero. Your intelligence, thoughtfulness and ability to cut straight to the issue with a no nonsense attitude is inspirational. This podcast has motivated me to become much more aware of my behaviors and change them for the better. Thanks. Wow.
Christiana Figueres: Wow, what an endorsement, how generous, how totally generous. Thank you so, so much.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:22:09] So now let’s turn to an astonishing interview. We are so fortunate and so privileged and honored this week that we had the opportunity today, just a few hours ago on Tuesday 20th to speak to Secretary John Kerry. Now, John Kerry currently holds the title of U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, appointed, of course, by President Joe Biden. Formerly, he was Senator and Secretary of State under President Barack Obama. He is a tireless and dedicated campaigner for climate action. He played an essential role in the creation of the Paris Agreement. We were very honored to speak to him today, recently, back from his trip to China just before the Biden summit on climate change, which is launching today. Hope you enjoyed this conversation. And we will be back afterwards.
Christiana Figueres: Secretary John Kerry, how delightful that you’re joining us, on Outrage + Optimism. Welcome back to the United States from your Asia trip. A pretty important trip. And I’ve been thinking, as you have been talking to your colleagues in Korea, Japan, China, I’ve been thinking it is really very fortuitous that the four years of the Biden administration take us halfway into what we now know is the decisive decade on climate change by 2025, when at least the first term of that administration would finish the course on emission reductions will be set for 2030. And we know we have to be at one half emissions by 2030. And furthermore, COP 26 sets the path over these first five years from now until 2025. So all of those mileposts need to be seamlessly integrated in order to protect 1.5 degrees as our top permissible temperature increase. So in that context, here’s my question to you, because it seems as I think about the U.S. returning to climate responsibility, that there is at least a double challenge. First, the challenge is how to engender and secure trust in long term U.S. domestic consistency. We all know there’s a political price of democracy. We all know that we won’t have decent legislation in the United States. We will have to build on regulation. But we’ve also seen how quickly regulation can be turned. So how do you engender trust in long term US domestic regulation and consistency? And the second which comes off of your recent trip that I saw you in the build up to Paris do brilliant bilateral diplomacy. And then fold that in so beautifully into the multilateral process, which is basically the same thing that has to happen now only on a much, much more constrained time scale. So how will you be doing that? And -the first question, trust in a long term US domestic consistency?
John Kerry: [00:25:29] Well, Christiana, first of all, it’s wonderful to be with you and thank you for your tremendous leadership through the years here. We’re going to need everybody on board to get this job done. It’s as gigantic as any challenge I’ve ever seen. For countries, not just governments, but for everybody. How are we going to regain trust? We’re not going to do it by talking. We’re not going to talk our way into a trustworthy position. We have to take action. And that’s why President Biden began immediately by joining Paris. Secondly, issued an executive order that makes climate a critical component of all government decision making. Every department, every cabinet officer has to now factor climate into every decision that we’re making. Third, he set the date for the summit this week, Earth Day, Thursday. We are convening 40 heads of state. And because it’s virtual and around the world with 12 time zones, we obviously can’t have everybody at the same meeting. So I’ll be meeting with over 60 countries on Wednesday morning, tomorrow morning, and then Friday morning as part of the summit where people were not able to be there and head of state status. But these are ministerial conversations we will have and they’ll fold in the consequences of those conversations at the end of the summit. But at the summit, we not only have convened the 20 leading economies of the world, which, as you know, we worked with leading up to Paris, we’re reconvening that.
John Kerry: But we’re also based on the Paris lesson about some of the countries that felt not listened to enough as we came into the final week, which is part of the reason for the 1.5 as you remember. We are inviting vulnerable countries to take part in this summit with the leading economies. So Bangladesh will be there, the Marshall Islands will be there and so forth, small nations from different continents. So every one of the leaders are listening to those who are most negatively impacted by the climate crisis. And environmental justice is a key component of what the Biden administration is going to be addressing. And I hope that will help create an easing into Glasgow. We look at every event not as a thing separate from Glasgow. The whole purpose of this is to build towards Glasgow to build ambition in all nations around the planet, so that’s really the centerpiece of this of this summit. Raising ambition now because 2020 to 2030 are the critical years. That is the decision decade. And we can’t have people content to just put 2050 net zero out there. But that’s 30 years away. And we all know what will happen to a whole bunch of nations will do too little now. Just today, headlines in The Guardian saying that while this won’t be seen by your folks, but carbon emissions to soar in 2021 by the highest rate in history, that’s unacceptable.
Christiana Figueres: [00:28:42] IEA report.
John Kerry: So the president will clearly lay out what the United States will do. But we’ve been working with more than 20 countries specifically to ask them to raise ambition at this summit. So you’ll have to see what people do there. And I think that we are going to try to keep the earth’s temperature, as we should, to the maximum rise of 1.5 degrees. Now, I just went to India recently in the last few weeks ago. Prime Minister Modi has set a target of four hundred and fifty gigawatts of renewables deployed by 2030, but India will need a partnership to try to help make that happen. So we agreed to step up with finance and with technology in order to work together with the UAE and with other countries, with Sweden, with U.K. and others. We want to come together to help India be able to do that. Why? Because if India can deploy that 450, India is holding and keeping faith with the 1.5. So what we want to do is make sure people know and see and have the message from these early days. This is doable. This is exciting. This is the greatest job creator in the history of our planet since the industrial revolution. And if we all embrace those possibilities, that’s where we think the United States can earn some credibility back. Now we look at the G7 and June as a as a focal point.
John Kerry: We look at the UNGA meeting in September as a focal point, the G20 in Italy right before Glasgow, and then, boom, we’re in to Glasgow and leaders will fly from Italy to Glasgow. And hopefully we’ve done our homework enough with the experiences we learned in Paris that we are bringing everybody together, recognising what people can do and all of us being bolder because otherwise we don’t get there. The sad thing is, and I’ll end on this, but a lot of politicians, talk about the existential threat, I’ve said it, you’ve said it, and for many people, not everybody, but for many people, it is existential near-term rather than later. But we’re not behaving that way as a group of governments, we’re simply not doing what we could do. And we have technology at our disposal. We need to push the technology of clean energy through. Perhaps hydrogen is going to be, who knows, better storage. We’re already moving faster in storage now in the ways that we did in the early days of solar. We’re making leaps forward. So we’ve got to press nations to really get ambitious. And I think the critical years of 2020 to 2030 in which we do that and the United States needs to earn its spurs not by talking but by doing.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:31:06] So much in that, in the road to 2030. The critical nature of it, really, that’s the game now, rather than 2050. I just want to ask you a couple of questions about how far we can get onto that 1.5 degree trajectory throughout this year, what your hope is for that. And as a result of that kind of what the press release says that day out of Glasgow. Just looking at the numbers, there’s some analysis going around the UK government at the moment suggests that to get us onto a 2 degree trajectory, we need to find a further 12 gigatons of reductions by 2030. And to get us on to a 1.5 degree trajectory, we need to find 29 gigatons. So an ambitious Chinese commitment might be 5. The US and DC, maybe 2, EU target got us 1 gigaton. You sort of add those together and you think there’s a big gap. So how do we fill that? Is it commitments? Is it sectoral deals? And as a result of that work, where are we on the day after Glasgow? How much of that gap can be filled?
John Kerry: Well, let me be absolutely candid on this, because we need candor and we need to be operating around facts, not operating the way the Trump administration did, making things up and ignoring the science. We know that even if we got to net zero by 2050. We’re not finished. We know we have to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere, so we have a technology chase here and that is part of what we need to discuss in the context of 2020 to 2030, we’re going to be upping our efforts for R&D, for innovation. Bill Gates will be talking at our summit and he will be laying out in a whole panel will be discussing the innovation where we are and where we need to get to. I have argued with people that COP 26 needs to be the honest COP. We need to go there and know what we can do and we’re determined to do. Every country in that particularly 20 nations, account for 81 percent of all emissions. Those 20 nations need particularly to come to Glasgow and make it clear that they’re going to get on the 1.5 track and they’re going to be moving faster to get out of coal to shift even from gas to some degree. Gas is being talked about as the great bridge. Well, OK, if you’re rapidly deploying out of out of coal and you have an end time for the use of the gas, we don’t want to build out a whole new, huge, monumental gas infrastructure. And then the fight becomes in 20 years over stranded assets and whether or not we’re going to lose some of the jobs that are now invested in that.
[00:33:50] You can hear the political fight over that. Let’s avoid it. The reality is that countries are doing very well at 85-90 percent, a few of them, the ones that have really taken the plunge in being renewable. And if we can if we push the battery storage curve, which now is beginning to happen, we’re getting utility battery storage at four hours or more. If we can begin to up that, whoever breaks through with storage worth weeks. It’s a game changer and they’ll be richer. So, you know, I think what we can do, folks, is keep pushing. And here’s where I said the honest COP, there will be a gap. We have to acknowledge the gap, we have to define the gap, and we have to go after the gap, and I believe that we particularly the a lot of the countries that are technologically, very proficient. And there are many of them in the world. I mean, Israel is particularly technology proficient, you know, Russia, China, Europe, obviously, and the United States, India, India, particularly, Japan. I mean, there are a lot of countries. And if we pull people together and say, OK, is it going to be direct air carbon capture? Is it going to be valuable to the U.S.? And we can do better in terms of these things. If we’re honestly working at it and investing now and what we can do, we can get there and if we fake it, we’re in trouble.
Paul Dickinson: And thank you for that actually inspiring point to remind us. Absolutely. That we can do this. So then it comes a little bit to the the will of the people, in a sense, supporting their governments. That’s what can be achieved. I love the response you gave in India to journalist when you said we’ve got to behave like the adults we are allegedly. And here’s the thing. It’s a serious situation. It’s like wartime. And national leaders in every country need to need to be talking about national security, which is great. Can I ask you how we might think of getting more government communications to the people? Because I guess people can only really act as adults if they’re informed adults. And I think a lot of people around the world still don’t realize how serious it is. You do a wonderful job of of speaking about it in the media, but can we take it up a level. And if so, how?
John Kerry: [00:36:28] Well, we all have to work at in our society relative to the different tensions we have. We have a particular challenge in the United States, which I acknowledge up front, and that is we don’t have the same referees we used to have with respect to the truth. And if you can’t determine what the truth is and a baseline from which you are starting to make the choices you have to make. We’ve got a problem in democracies, so we have to fight for that. We are fighting for that. President Biden has already changed that equation. And I was today at a place earlier this morning and somebody commented to me, it’s so much calmer now in America. And let’s see what happens. And we still have racial tension. We still have some of these big challenges, but we’re not waking up to daily lying tweets. You know, it’s a difference and that’s a beginning of the fight, and we’ve all got relief.
Paul Dickinson: It’s such a relief. The whole world was waking up to those tweets.
John Kerry: That’s what people are saying. I hear people say what a relief. But boy, we don’t have the time just to be relieved. We got to go to work, folks. And the wartime analogy is absolutely real. I’ve used it. That’s why I started World War Zero. World War Zero because it’s global. You can’t do this without all the nations involved, particularly the 20 critical economies. It is war because some people have declared war on facts. They’ve declared war on science. There’s a denialism at large that is very, very dangerous. And we have to really fight to bring back from that. And zero, because the goal is we have to get the zero emissions. We just have to. So I think that this is not mere chatter. It’s the reality of what we what we see as opportunity in this. This is not doomsday. I really think one of the things that I tried to do with China the other day was change the equation of people feeling, oh, my God, you know, we can’t even get everybody together on the same page. How are we going to possibly do this? Well, China, for the first time ever, the headline of our joint statement, US China joint statement on climate crisis. They have never called it a crisis. And not only it was repeated in the body of the text where they said it’s urgent, it’s serious.
John Kerry: And for the first time, instead of being content to say we’re going to we’re going to peak at 2030. And then if you looked at their plans, the peak went out from there as a plateau, not a reduction. They’re now saying we must take actions in the 2020s. And if President Xi comes to the summit on Thursday, which we hope he will, we anticipate he may well lay down some of the steps China is going to take in the 2020s to move faster. So if China, the United States, it’s sort of similar to what we did in 2013 when I went to China, negotiated. Then we came to Paris jointly, not because we want to be joint, but because we want to be cooperating. But we want people to see that this issue is bigger than two nations. This issue, the differences between us, which are real, we’ve got to all compartmentalize climate as the thing that absolutely. We need to move on and do. Now, one thing I share with you, which is different, and China, by the way, repeated throughout the statement, the need to mitigate, to adapt, to come together and share that endeavor. But I have been working with the largest financial institutions in the United States over the course of the last several months.
John Kerry: [00:40:33] And you’ve all heard the names, you know, the big names of JP Morgan and Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, BlackRock, et cetera. They are setting out in the next few days. And a number of them have released. I mean, one of them individually, they’ve already said we’re going to do a trillion dollars over the next ten years because we’ve been working with them to concentrate how much can you put into climate investment? Because no government has the trillions necessary in the climate gap, in the finance gap to do what we need to do to get this job done. So they have now stepped up and we have several trillions of dollars that they will invest in alternative energy, renewable and solar and wind and next generation of storage of hydrogen, geothermal, et cetera, et cetera, these are commercial capacities. So this is what we want to do with India. We, the United States want to work with these other countries, put the finance on the table, get the power purchase agreements that we need, and begin to move and accelerate the deployment as if we’re really in a war and we have allies and we’re coming together with a real plan to get the job done. That’s what we need to do.
Christiana Figueres: That is what we need to do. And I’ve been delighted to see that the financial sector has moved so dramatically over the past two years except the financial sector in the US. And so it is really thrilling to hear that the financial sector in the US is now waking up to the threat to the values of their assets and realizing that this is about protecting their assets and investing into profitable investments, as you’ve been saying for years. So, John, what is after this? All eyes this week are clearly on this series of summits that you and President Biden have convened. After this week, which is going to be hopefully tectonic. After this week, what is the next step for you on the road to Glasgow?
John Kerry: [00:42:46] Well, the next step becomes continued diplomacy, we will work with countries, we have teams that we put together. We’ve sat with many of these countries and said, look, I mean, we’re not trying to do the heavy hand or the big foot or whatever. We’re trying to work with people. Trying to cooperate, but we’re trying to bring some technical expertise to the table that can show some countries how you actually can make your distribution energy more efficient are ways in which you could transition out of coal and actually rapidly transition.
Christiana Figueres: Rapidly.
John Kerry: And do the following. So our hope is that that diplomacy I mean, we’re sharing this effort with everybody and others will engage, I hope, in that diplomacy with us. We want to work in a cooperative way with every country that wants to work at this because no one country makes this happen. No no one region makes this happen. This is truly one of the most global multilateral initiatives we’ve ever engaged in. And we all have to come together. And, Christiana, you know that you’ve done it. You’ve been part of a it as leader in Paris. And we just need more countries to embrace the upside possibilities of the future. We start getting this air cleaner. I mean, this is pollution. We’re talking about pollution. We used to have a polluter pays principle. And CO2 is destroying the ocean. The acidity of the ocean is rising. The chemistry of the ocean is changing faster than it has in 40 million years or x million years. And we have the seabed being destroyed, the shells, the spawning grounds.
The warming of the ocean is part of the contribution, significant part to the increased flooding and the increased moisture and the intensity of storms. And 51% percent of our oxygen, oxygen that we breathe comes from the ocean.
Paul Dickinson: [00:44:14] It’s a tough call. And I do hope that your summit, you will be able to get the countries, those countries representing 81 percent and companies and investors to kind of make the laws so that polluter pays, because I think that will help steer investment.
John Kerry: Well, I think you’re going to be impressed. And President Biden is probably going to be calling for disclosure. Europe has already called for disclosure. I think there will be a global move towards disclosure.
Paul Dickinson: Secretary Kerry, that’s a fine thing.
John Kerry: And that’s really going to begin to drive the way people invest and where they invest.
Christiana Figueres: We have to let you go to your very busy schedule, one word or one sentence from you at the end. We always ask people the interview that took place themselves on somewhere along the range between outrage and optimism, which is the name of our podcast, because I think we need to be outraged that we haven’t done more and quicker, but optimistic about everything that can be done. So where on that spectrum would you place John Kerry?
John Kerry: [00:45:27] One hundred percent on both. 100% outraged, 100% optimistic.
Christiana Figueres: I like that, I like that. Love it. Secretary John Kerry, thank you so, so much not being with us here, but for returning to the leadership on this challenging issue of our times.
John Kerry: Thank you.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: So how wonderful to get the chance to sit and chat with Secretary John Kerry. What do you guys leave that discussion with?
Christiana Figueres: [00:46:04] Well, first, I’m just so incredibly grateful that he took the time to talk to us, his calendar, especially this week, is the most valuable real estate. He’s just come back from a very, very taxing trip to Asia, China, Japan, Korea, basically in three days, I believe, or four. He is supporting President Biden with the summit that Biden is hosting this week. He has his own summit with 60 ministers. He is just a very, very busy person this week. So thank you so much to him for taking the time out of his crazy schedule to be with us. The other thing that I wanted to say as we were talking to him and I’m sure, Paul and Tom, that you remember this is. Yes, as as Tom mentioned at the beginning of this episode, he would come into the negotiating room at two or three o’clock in the morning and want to know what is going on and how can he help. How can he instruct the US team and really very, very impressive his commitment. But I was also so deeply touched when literally five years ago on Earth Day. In the signing ceremony of the Paris agreement in New York, in the United Nations, how when it came for him to pick up the pen and sign the Paris agreement on behalf of the United States, John Kerry had his granddaughter on his knee and that photograph of him with his little granddaughter just went around the world.
Christiana Figueres: And it is such a beautiful, a beautiful statement of how he understands the moral imperative on this, the intergenerational injustice that we must right at the same time as he totally understands the economic imperative because he is one of the most compelling speakers about the economic benefits that come from addressing climate change. And he’ll rattle off how much investment and how many more jobs it’s going to create. He is very, very clear that both of those are actually mutually reinforcing imperatives and he takes that strength of those two arguments to all of his diplomacy. And that is a particular approach to diplomacy. He’s not telling others what to do. He is very, very committed to both growing the global economy in a clean way and do so so that there is intergenerational and in fact, let’s say social justice to this. And it just gives him such a different approach with leaders. And he is frankly so disarming when he approaches any of these leaders. I’m just in such gratitude. I don’t think there is another US citizen who was as helpful in the Paris agreement as John Kerry. And I think he’s definitely proven to already be incredibly helpful to the US administration. And he will be a leading figure in the success of COP 26.
Paul Dickinson: [00:49:42] So you’re a bit on the fence there, Christiana.
Christiana Figueres: Yeah, I don’t like him at all.
Paul Dickinson: I know I’ve never quite heard such an endorsement of somebody. I mean, I was really moved by his comments in focusing on, the forces of opposition that we face. And he said it focuses on truth. He said truth itself has become something that we fight over. And I was really pleased to hear him talk with such kind of clarity about how that’s the kind of foundation for us. He called it the honesty COP, which I think is going to be the name of this episode. And that’s the heart of this. You know, we’ve got a massive problem. We’ve got a chemical problem with the atmosphere. We’ve got a geophysical problem with the energy from the sun. We’ve got a political problem between these nations. And we’ve got a kind of social science problem that underpins that. But I don’t think he’s afraid to address that, to talk about it. And actually, he also alluded to mandating corporate disclosure and other kinds of financial disclosures related to climate change, which moved me very deeply, having spent 20 years trying to to achieve disclosure from corporate entities regarding their emissions and, of course, cities to hear him say, OK, we’re going to definitely put that into the law. It made me also want to join you, Christiana, there in the kind of John Kerry chorus choir of appreciation.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: Well, I’m definitely in there, too, and I would I mean, there I would say I like the honest COP as as a name for this episode, but there is a contender which is 100 percent outraged, 100 percent optimistic.
Christiana Figueres: [00:51:31] Yes, I love that too.
Paul Dickinson: Best answer we’ve ever had.
Christiana Figueres: I think all of us will have that right. I think it was such a beautiful statement of where we all are on that.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: Yeah. It was all of it. Let’s do it. And just his dedication, his commitment, his determination just shining through. And he’s been at this a long time, but he’s not tired. He’s fired up and ready to go. As his old boss would say, and really committed to this issue. The other thing, just a very detailed thing that I thought was was interesting. We didn’t push him on gas, natural gas, but he jumped straight in there. And he was straight into saying we had we cannot get locked in to an infrastructure around gas. He was 100 percent clear that we need to move away from coal and straight to renewables. There’s no realistic kind of building of infrastructure. And as a US politician, that’s kind of more brave than might immediately be apparent to some listeners because he’s actually sort of like calling for what is really needed and not sort of saying, well, we can sort of solve it in the near term with gas because he knows that locks us in.
Christiana Figueres: [00:52:35] He also didn’t prevaricate on 1.5 degrees, very clear that that’s the top, that is the absolute ceiling.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: He strengthened what came out of Paris. It was 1.5 maximum.
Christiana Figueres: Exactly.
Paul Dickinson: But he goes around the world, you know, talking to the media directly, saying, you know, we’ve got to make these changes or else we’re going to have problems with food, with water. We’re going to have problems with migration, people not able to live where they are, inviting vulnerable countries, including Bangladesh, to the summit. I think that ability to kind of combine the need for industrial change with the moral duty we have to each other as citizens, I found that very inspiring and very effective.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: So how wonderful to have a chance to talk to John Kerry and go through this episode. This has been very inspiring and exciting and just fascinating to see what comes out of the next 48 hours. We are at this critical inflection point on climate and it looks like it’s going to be an amazing ride. So I’m sure it’s going to be a fascinating few days. Thanks for being here this week. As ever, we are going to leave you with some music this week. Aaron Frazer with the song Bad News, US based artist Aaron Frazer. We’re very appreciative that he’s joining us this week. The single Bad News was inspired directly by climate change and Frazer saw the lyrics is coming directly from Mother Earth and her cries for help falling on deaf ears. As ever, we’ll hear from him and an introduction to the piece. I really hope you enjoy. Thanks as ever for being here. This has been a great episode and we will see you next week.
Aaron Frazer: [00:53:57] I’m not somebody who personally believes that every single artist has to engage with social issues directly, you know, in this model of like Marvin Gaye or Gil Scott Heron or Curtis Mayfield, Bob Dylan, people like that. I do think that sometimes, just having art that’s purely escapist is also really important. But I think that artists that do engage with social issues have a tremendous amount of good that they can do because they allow people to integrate thinking about these things into their everyday life, because there’s never like a great time to sit down and think about climate change. And because it’s big and scary, it’s also not an appealing thing to think about. So if you can integrate it into your everyday life, you can start to make decisions that can that can make the world better, that can start to change things that are systemically wrong. And I do think that starts with integrating into your everyday life. My inspiration for the song Bad News was climate change. I think that a lot of times when an issue feels really big and hard to solve, like climate change or homelessness, for another example, I think it’s easier to look away a lot of times. But I think when you feel that urge to look away, that’s when it’s probably most important to stare directly into it. So the lyrics to the song, I wanted them to be read almost as if they’re coming from Mother Earth. So like I’m on fire and burn and I can barely keep it turning. It can be all of us just trying to get through it. Or it can be the planet, sort of like asking for help and having it fall on deaf ears. Far too often.
Clay Carnill: [00:59:48] There you go. Another episode of Outrage + Optimism, my name is Clay, I’m the producer of this podcast. Thank you so much for listening. The tune you just heard was Bad News by Aaron Frazer. And this track is just a sample of what you can enjoy from Aaron. I’ve been listening to his latest record titled Introducing. I highly recommend you check it out. It’s got this mid 60s soul vibe, but it’s really imaginative. It goes beyond that era. And, you know, when a Detroiter hears this record, it’s Motown, and it just doesn’t get better than that. It’s like Mom’s cleaning the house on Sunday. Good. You know, I’m saying it’s great music and it’s great music for Earth Day. Aaron has partnered with the Sierra Club on an initiative called Soul Nation, which is a climate justice solutions based organization led by black thought leaders who are closing the green gap and placing people at the core of environmental justice work. And that’s what I’m talking about. So links in the show notes. Thank you, Aaron.
And Happy Earth Day, everyone. So what are you guys doing for Earth Day? I think myself, I’m going to check in on my compost pile, tune into a few virtual Earth Day events and maybe plant some stuff. Oh, and I’m definitely going to check out the latest Signals Amidst the Noise newsletter from Global Optimism. It’s actually true. I need to read up on that because I’ve been a bit busy this week and I didn’t read it. But you can read along with me and subscribe. It’s the perfect way to spend a nice Earth Day afternoon. And this newsletter is hot. I mean, we are getting a great response from all of you on it. Thank you for checking it out. Lots of subscribers. And I think Sharon actually told me it was, and I quote, going gangbusters, which is one of my new phrases. So link is in the show notes to that hit subscribe and read up. Outrage + Optimism is a Global Optimism production. Global Optimism is Sara Law, Katie Bradford, Lara Richardson, Marina Mansilla-Hermann, Sophie McDonald, Freya Newman, Sarah Thomas, Sue Reid and Jon Ward. Our executive producer is Sharon Johnson and our producer is Clay Carnill and our hosts are Christiana Figueres, Paul Dickinson and Tom Rivett-Carnac, thank you so much to our guest this week, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry. It’s great having you on. OK, those are all my notes. That’s a wrap. I’m going to go enjoy Earth Birthday. Happy Fifty First Earth Day. Send us a message on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter at Global Optimism with what you’re up to today. And we’ll see you next week.