99. Hope Is a Verb with Fred Krupp
With the Biden U.S. Climate Summit barely in the rearview mirror, our hosts Christiana Figueres, Tom Rivett-Carnac, and Paul Dickinson unpack what this moment means for global leadership, ambition, and the gaps in the road ahead for the climate movement. The new U.S. NDC of 50% GHG reductions by 2030 sets the stage for the rest of the decade, so what is next?
And our interview this week is with Fred Krupp, long-serving President of the Environmental Defence Fund (EDF). We discuss one of the most pressing and, until now, overlooked issues of methane leakage and emissions, and their wildly powerful short-term warming potential. EDF is launching a satellite soon that will track methane emissions around the world to keep us all accountable. Amazing.
We also celebrate the announcement at the Biden summit of the launch of the LEAF Coalition, a project that the EDF is partnering in with both private sector and government participation, and the impact this private and public partnership will have on tackling the stubborn challenge of tropical deforestation on a meaningful scale.
And be sure to hang around for a live performance from ViVii of their song ‘One Day’!
Christiana + Tom’s book ‘The Future We Choose’ is available now!
Subscribe to our Climate Action Newsletter: Signals Amidst The Noise
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:00:12] Hello and welcome to Outrage + Optimism, I’m Tom Rivett-Carnac.
Christiana Figueres: [00:00:15] I’m Christiana Figueres.
Paul Dickinson: [00:00:17] And I’m Paul Dickinson.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:00:19] This week we speak about what came out of the remarkable Earth Day summit hosted by President Biden last week. We speak to Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, and we have music from ViVii. Thanks for being here.
So this is effectively the morning after the world changed and pivoted back to climate action last week. I don’t know how much of it you guys watched but it was just leader after leader. Different announcements, the tone. It kind of felt like the next moment that the world pivoted back to this issue after Paris. I mean, I know there’s been highs and lows since then, deep, long lows and the odd small high. But this was really everything was back. What do you think?
Christiana Figueres: [00:01:12] Paul, do you want me to jump in?
Paul Dickinson: [00:01:14] Well, I think so. You’re kind of moving your head in a little dance movement like this is such a great day. I just don’t want to stop the flow. So, Christiana, you have the floor. Are you happy?
Christiana Figueres: [00:01:25] Thank you. So we’ve been saying for a while on this podcast that we are on the right direction. We are moving definitely in the right direction of decarbonising the economy. But we have been lamenting and being extremely concerned about speed and scale. That has been the challenge. Well, I would dare say the speed and scale have definitely had an upward move through the Biden climate summit. In fact, I would say that just taking the U.S. announcement of a fifty to fifty two percent emission reduction by 2030, that in my book A it’s two times as much as Obama had been able to commit to. But let’s consider it Biden’s moonshot because it is way beyond anything that was previously considered, it’s going to be extraordinarily difficult to get power in the United States to completely walk away from carbon by 2035 significant electrification of transport, et cetera, et cetera. But here’s the difference between Biden’s moonshot and Kennedy’s. Joe Biden’s moonshot has direct benefits for the U.S. It creates millions of jobs. It makes the U.S. economy stronger and more competitive in a decarbonizing global economy. So that is what I think is so exciting.
Christiana Figueres: [00:03:05] And it begins to show that we actually have to have a moonshot mentality about how we deal with climate change. That’s for the U.S.. But then as though that were not enough, what was the impact for the global economy, for the world? My sense is that this summit truly established the 50 percent emission reduction that we have been talking about for such a long time, but that has been on the horizon, on the long horizon and not really committed to right now. It has established the 50 percent cut as the standard. It has also brought the focus from 2050 or net zero by 2050 to here to 2030. So a total shift in focus, I would say 2030 is the new 2050. And furthermore, because 2030 is the new 2050 and because the standard that has been set is now 50 percent emission reduction, that actually keeps the 1.5 degree ceiling of temperature increase alive, it does not guarantee it. And we know we still have to close that gap. But it keeps one point five alive, which we did not have just a week ago. So one point five is the new two degrees. Really remarkable tectonic shift in one day.
Paul Dickinson: [00:04:36] I’m just overwhelmed with the quality of keep one point five alive. It’s just like the slogan that we’re all going to get tattooed, where we got a bit of spare skin still remaining. Also on this moonshot thing. You know, Christiana, I’m really struck by something a friend said to me years ago, which was that NASA’s budget for putting somebody on the moon was zero. If you built an enormous rocket and you send humans to the moon, you don’t have to worry about a press release. All the world’s cameras will come and watch what you’re doing. And I mean, this has changed the world and the world has changed the summit. Finance analysts were saying that actually companies like Vestas and Orsted had gone up in value. I was checking just before this. And yeah, Orsted’s worth more than BP now, one of the kind of super majors. But in twenty seventeen, Orsted took the final step and divested that oil and gas business and look where it’s got them. So, yeah, this is incredible. A sea change in politics, but a sea change in business.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:05:33] And, you know, one thing that strikes me just listening to you talk, of course, the US and its NDC is remarkable, right? Fifty to fifty two percent by 2030 on 2005 levels. That’s impressive in global terms. Beyond that, and we’ll get into that, there weren’t that many really crunchy, substantive additional commitments from other countries. However, what’s interesting and I think this speaks to the momentum that’s created by the leadership that’s now being shown by President Biden. If you look at the way the media reported it, they lapped it up. They loved it because it was a strong signal like we’re going this way. He actually took the media and took the country, as far as I could see with him, with the strength of that conviction and with that determination. So even though we should get into what the other countries committed to, because there were some other things that the media still reported it as a massive success, I thought that was a really interesting outcome from the day.
Christiana Figueres: [00:06:24] Very interesting. True. The other piece that I thought was quite interesting is what was said on coal, because we heard from China, not in these words, but if you read between the lines, they committed President Xi Jinping to peaking Coal by 2025. Yeah. And then coming down after that. So that’s a very remarkable new contribution that we had not heard from China and Korea committed to stop financing coal abroad. And we know we have discussed this quite a few,
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:07:03] Which has been an enormous issue.
Christiana Figueres: [00:07:07] Enormous issue because coal financing over the past two or three years has no longer been coming from any private sources because private financial institutions have realized this is a stranded asset, way too risky. So they have really been retiring their financing from coal, but coal has been staying alive through the public finance of Korea, Japan and China. And so Korea being the first one to peel off Japan is apparently now considering also to stop its financing flow. And then China will, I think, actually have to follow. So my conclusion with that, because I’m now into what is the new coal, is the new asbestos. Nobody wants to touch it anymore.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:07:50] Well, the new smoking. Yeah.
Christiana Figueres: [00:07:52] Or the new smoking.
Paul Dickinson: [00:07:53] You know, I had the privilege to speak at an event in South Korea. I was going to say this week, because I don’t think North Korea is going to be financing anything anywhere, South Korea. And the point I wanted to make to the audience was that actually I think any kind of investment in coal is basically retarding your research and development. So, you know, you often find in a country like Japan or South Korea that there’s a bit of an interplay between some people who think that they can advantage their industry with fossil fuels. But it’s actually holding back the whole rest of the economy. It’s retarding technological development. And that’s the critical point. But by the way, if we’re wondering if we could possibly run the world on renewables, our friends at Carbon Tracker have come up with something absolutely astonishing. They’ve just come up with a report saying that it would be possible to power the world 100 times over with renewable energy. So you could do it a hundred times over. And I’m thinking about it because they came up with this fantastic phrase, stranded assets, carbon tracker. But I’ve been thinking about wasted wind and squandered sun. So we need to get this new lexicon going. You know what I mean about all this great stuff that’s happening that we’re just not taking it to the bank.
Christiana Figueres: [00:09:09] Not harvesting.
Paul Dickinson: [00:09:10] Not harvesting. Don’t forget to harvest.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:09:13] I think also I mean and I’d love your view on this, Christiana. There was one image from the day. So there’s a lot of things that struck me. I mean, one is President Biden using the phrase, this is the decisive decade, which I thought was amazing that he came across that clearly. And the other one was and I found this really touching. Actually, my experience of international diplomacy is that there’s not actually that much listening all the time to each other. And, you know, people are kind of coming in and out of the room reading pre prepared statements. I don’t know if you saw this, but there was a bit in the afternoon where they restarted after a short break and they invited some vulnerable countries to come and they spoke about the situation that they were facing. It was some island, some African countries, and John Kerry, Janet Yellen and Anthony Blinken and President Biden were sat there for about 45 minutes just listening to them sitting in the room. What a signal that sends that they were listening to other countries that were facing some of these impacts and hearing that and then responding again. I mean, it’s an optics thing. I don’t know how it was planned, but I thought it really sent the strong signal.
Christiana Figueres: [00:10:12] Well, and how ironic, right, that there is more listening when you’re actually not physically in the room. That is such an irony. Right, because we have been in these rooms so often. And as you say, most people are shuffling their papers, talking to their, you know, whoever is supporting them, sending their messages, whatever, while other heads of state are speaking. And the fact that there was so much more listening to each other is really quite, quite remarkable and absolutely the thing to do. However, before we go off into rapture here, OK, one more minute and then I have to tell you what was missing.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:10:58] No, what was missing?
Paul Dickinson: [00:11:01] Tell us, we’re ready. We’ve had our happiness now. We we’ve had our optimism. And now it’s time for our outrage.
Christiana Figueres: [00:11:07] Outrage. Well, so what’s missing is public finance, right? Woefully missing, I mean, yes, President Biden made made an effort, but the public finance that needs to be there from basically from everyone from the global north flowing into the global south for adaptation, including loss and damage, especially now that everyone is still trying to recover from the second or the third wave of COVID. That was just, you know, the elephant in the room. And that’s going to have to be the focus of the G20, of the other international meetings that are happening this year, because that’s got to be on the table. If there is not a much more serious effort at public finance, then we’re in serious trouble. And I underline public finance because it’s the political message that sends because we know that private finance is moving right. We know we have a Glasgow alliance for a net zero in the financial sector that is now covering 70 trillion dollars of assets under management that are shifting over from wherever they were on to clean technology and clean investments. So private finance is moving much, much more quickly. Public finance has got to be there.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:12:34] So that’s one elephant. I mean, I think the other elephant in the room and I think you probably I’d love to know again, Christiana, because I think you actually did another event focused on this or partly is it wasn’t clear. It’s still not clear whether the US is actually going to be able to pass significant chunks of what it’s committed to into legislation rather than regulation. So I think you did an event yesterday or a couple of days ago with our friends, John Podesta and Laurence Tubiana, for journalists to do a debrief on this. That must have come up. I’m sure people asked John that question, where are we on that? What does he think?
Christiana Figueres: [00:13:08] So it’s going to have to be a combination, right? There is much that can be done on regulation, but ultimately, legislation is also going to be important for some sectors that can only move at the federal level, at the national level. But also, let’s remember, for policy continuity, we can’t do this on an ebb and flow of executive orders. It’s just not going to happen. And that’s what we’ve had. Right. We had for four years executive orders that were rolled back, many of the regulations that were in place in the Obama years. And now we’re rolling back the roll backs, but we can’t continue in this seesaw. And so some things will have to go into legislation. But more importantly, more importantly, the next four years are an absolutely critical opportunity for the U.S. public to understand that this is not a partisan issue, that this is actually a broad citizen wellbeing issue that has to be supported by both parties and taken out of the political seesaw. So it has to happen and it has to happen in these next four years because otherwise we go back to the seesaw and then it’s too late. Let’s remember that this term of Biden, whether it’s his first or of two or his only, is already halfway through the decade, the decisive decade. So it has to happen in these next four years, which means that a lot of effort needs to be done on regulation and legislation. But equally important is communication, communication, communication for people to understand that this is actually in their self-interest.
Paul Dickinson: [00:15:08] Yeah, they have a special name for that in the United States, Christiana, which is a national security. That’s what it’s called. All this freedom and I’m you know, I’m a citizen of the United States and I’m free and I can carry my gun and all this kind of stuff. But, you know, there was a whole experience in World War Two about a certain amount of sacrifice, not of one’s way of life, but to a higher purpose and focus. And that is the national security in the United States and amazingly, the US spends more than 700 billion dollars every year on its national security. And it can certainly afford to spend a few billions of dollars sorting out the global equity of the climate change response.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:15:49] Just two more things I want to raise on the summit. One is, wasn’t it amazing? And again, this harks back to Paris. I mean, if you sat there and watched all of the different world leaders, I mean, is there any other issue where you would have Netanyahu followed by King Salman, followed by Modi, followed by Bolsonaro and then Merkel and I mean just everyone across the political spectrum broadly united with the necessity to act varying degrees of commitment, but again, just a strong signal that this is the issue of our time. This is the strong political statement of togetherness that was amazing. I mean, the other thing I think we have to call out is, is our good friend Xiye Bastida.
Christiana Figueres: [00:16:33] She was so brilliant. If you are listening to this kudos, a huge shout out. Oh, she was brilliant.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:16:41] She was brilliant. And it’s you know, the thing about those hard hitting messages that are uncompromising can sometimes be exclusionary. You know, they can sort of blame others in certain ways. But she managed to construct this message that was hard hitting, that was uncompromising, but was inclusive and that everybody felt they were part of. And I love the bit where she said at the end of the day, we are striking because we are striving for joy, just totally framed in the positive. It was beautiful.
Paul Dickinson: [00:17:08] When you have all those heads of state coming up and saying this is unbelievably important, what that means is you listening to this podcast and your friends in any office situation, in any company, in any government department and any investment institution, in any organization at all can say, no, we’ve got to do this because of climate change. Pretty much the head of every government in the world said this is the most important thing. And therefore, in this meeting, we’ve got to do the right thing. Take that authority. Authority is taken not given. They just gave it to you. Take it.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:17:42] And to bounce that now into Glasgow.
Paul Dickinson: [00:17:46] I got one more thing on a separate topic, but it’s actually from Cambodia and it is a bit of news that recent satellite data suggests that 2021 is not starting out well for Keo Seima, which is a region with a higher number of deforestation alerts detected than in years past. But I thought that’s so cool. I mean, we’ve got eyes in the sky now. And I think it’s fascinating that we’re really starting to think, kind of like, oh, that’s my liver that’s getting chopped down in Country X, and we need to take responsibility for looking after each other’s health. We’re basically one kind of giant organism. We’re like little cells. So we’ve got to go off and vaccinate that using our satellites. And I think if I try and make this medical metaphor any more complex, it may explode.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:18:38] But it’s very exciting. No, I completely agree. I mean, the degree of oversight that we can now have to make sure that we’re not sort of shooting ourselves in the foot, to mix your metaphor is amazing. OK, move on to our interview. Anything else?
Paul Dickinson: [00:18:52] I’ve got one review I’d like to read out. From Amy in Melbourne, Australia, via Apple podcast who said: Fantastic podcast. Thanks, Christiana, Tom and Paul for all the outrage, optimism and for the entertaining, interesting educational podcast that is both sobering and enlightening. I live in Melbourne, Australia, and I’m disgusted by our relative lack of progress here. But hearing you each week gives me hope. Thank you very much and please keep going. P.S. we’d love to hear your thoughts on animal agriculture and an update on progress related to climate change in this sector. Well, that’s a really good steer because I think the food sector is about to undergo a complete revolution. We did have the privilege to interview previously chief executive of Beyond Meat, but I hope we can make a whole in-depth multi show investigation of this because it’s huge.
Christiana Figueres: [00:19:46] Yes, I agree. And may I share one more listener reaction?
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:19:52] These are like the best part of my week. By the way, when you two read out these responses.
Paul Dickinson: [00:19:57] By the way, thank you for that lovely response from Melbourne, Australia. You’re very kind.
Christiana Figueres: [00:20:01] Yeah. And we have another lovely one from Manila, Philippines. I love this podcast for all of the wonderful information that I’ve learned and also for how entertaining it is. I wonder if that refers to Paul only or to all of us.
Paul Dickinson: [00:20:16] I think about, you know, entertainment is a sort of his art, style is a lifestyle.
Christiana Figueres: [00:20:21] Do let us know. Anyway, she says, keep up the great work. I live in Manila, Philippines and work on environmental issues. So that is Lisa in the Philippines. How wonderful to hear from you.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:20:34] Thank you, Lisa. It really makes such a difference. Thank you so much. Everybody who leaves us a rating, leaves us a review. We absolutely love it. So we really, really appreciate it. Cool. Okay, so this week we have a very exciting and timely interview given what has happened and someone who has just been so involved in this sector for such a long time with such deep experience, particularly of the US. But not only. Fred Krupp has presided over the Environmental Defense Fund for 30 years, championing the power of the marketplace to positively change the environment and has transformed EDF now into one of the world’s most influential environmental organizations. He’s been a leading voice on climate change, energy, corporate sustainability. He gave a brilliant TED talk talking about methane, which is such a crucial issue. And actually, Christiana, a while ago you told me a wonderful story about Fred Krupp because you’ve known him for a very long time. Do you want to share that story with the listeners as an introduction to who the man is?
Christiana Figueres: [00:21:30] Yeah, let’s see. This goes way back to the early 90s when I had just moved to Washington, D.C. and founded what started as a tiny, tiny little NGO doing educational and capacity building work on climate change, mostly in Latin America. It was called CSDA, Center for Sustainable Development in the Americas. And at the end of our first year was first a two women show. And at the end of a of the first year, I was just so concerned because I wasn’t taking a salary. But I also didn’t have the budget to pay the salary of my colleague and I was just feeling absolutely miserable about that, despite all of our fundraising. And lo and behold, one day because this is the way it used to happen, a check arrives, a physical paper check arrives, I open the envelope. And inside is a check for ten thousand dollars from Fred Krupp at EDF. And I was so touched. We hadn’t fundraised with EDF and I just thought, wow, that is such a demonstration of, you know, trust and confidence to a tiny little struggling little NGO. And honestly, it could have been a 10 million dollar check because it definitely allowed us to get over the hump that we were facing. So, yeah, I’ve always had a soft spot for Fred for that reason, but also for his amazing leadership of EDF.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:23:08] That is a wonderful story. And it’s also a story about the power of philanthropy. I mean, what else could you have done 30 years ago that would still be remembered as an impact that changed the world so far, so much later? What a satisfying thing to do. Fred Krupp.
Christiana Figueres: [00:23:23] I’ve told him it ended up being a pretty good investment because it kept me in climate change for a while.
Paul Dickinson: [00:23:28] I’m going to back that one hundred percent, big return.
Christiana Figueres: [00:23:34] Well, what was the internal rate of return of that one?
Paul Dickinson: [00:23:38] Priceless.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:23:41] Wonderful. Here is Fred Krupp. We will ever see you afterwards.
Christiana Figueres: [00:23:49] Fred, what a pleasure to have you on our podcast in what seems like just a few minutes or seconds after the Biden climate summit. I don’t think any of us have actually had time to digest the impact of what came up and was put on the table last week, both on the part of the governments that came together, but also other stakeholders, but would love to know one week after the summit, where are you? What are your overarching conclusions? What is the good news for you and what are concerns for you?
Fred Krupp: Thanks, Christiana, it’s delightful to be here with you and Tom, and I think the summit was a tremendously uplifting event. It’s not as though the fight is over, but it did what it needed to do. It signaled that the United States is back in the game. The United States put forward an ambition of fifty to fifty two percent reductions. That’s an ambitious goal. That’s the goal that many companies, as well as environmental groups were looking to get over the 50 percent mark. And we did. We were pleased by some of the announcements by countries and companies that accompanied the announcement as well. And the key now is going to be, speaking as a U.S. citizen and knowing the role of the US can and has in the past played but has been absent for the last four years. The key now is the US needs to make good on this pledge, and that’s going to require a lot of hard work by almost everyone in the United States to make it happen.
Christiana Figueres: [00:25:37] Fred, how much of that can actually be executive regulation through all of the different agencies, departments? And how much of that do you think is going to have to be negotiated with the Republicans because it needs legislative backing?
Fred Krupp: Well, I think there’s a couple of parts to that question, Christiana. One is a lot of it can be done through the executive branch, but even there, the more support it has from Republicans and the more support it has from the interest being regulated, the companies, the more durable those regulations are likely to be. But on the regulatory front, they can do cars, the administration, if it wants, and it has not yet said whether it wants to or not, can do trucks and buses. They can do power plants and they can do oil and gas, methane emissions. So that’s a lot that can be done on power plants, though, honestly, the more durable way to get it done would be in Congress. And the president did propose in the campaign a clean electricity standard. It will be hard to get that done in Congress. So we certainly are encouraging him to have the EPA put in tougher standards on power plants. But to get the high ambition, the 80 percent reduction we need by 2030 from the power sector off of 2005 levels to get that much out of the power sector, we’re going to need Congress and the utility industry is being reasonably constructive. Several of the biggest utilities in our country have now come out and urged the White House to go for an 80 percent reduction from that sector by 2030. But we’re not there yet. We don’t have enough utilities. We don’t have enough environmental groups. We certainly don’t have enough Republican senators and congressmen agreeing to do this yet. But we’re trying to lift this rock.
Christiana Figueres: And since the price of democracy is that every four years, there could be a change in the White House, everything that is regulation, and you gave us a pretty long list there. Doesn’t that stand the threat, let’s call it the threat of democracy, a voting, a different kind of leadership within four years.
Fred Krupp: [00:28:02] Well, it does, but the great thing here is that President Biden and John Kerry and Gina McCarthy and Michael Regan, Jennifer Granholm, the whole administration is making the case to the American public that this is going to be good for people now as well as for the atmosphere over the long run. It’s going to create jobs now. It’s going to create health benefits now. And the fact that some companies, including GM, have said that they’re going to transition to all electric vehicles by 2035 and other manufacturers have made some similar statements. The fact that the administration is making the case this will help us in the short and long run and some companies are climbing on board. Makes these regulations more likely to be durable, there are no guarantees.
Christiana Figueres: Well, honestly, depoliticizing this whole topic would be perhaps the most important contribution of all of this administration if they can do it, to depoliticize it and take it out of the partisan politics arena.
Fred Krupp: [00:29:15] Agree with you completely.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: How how do you think it’s going because if you look back at the last time there was a really serious attempt to do something from a legislative perspective, soon after President Obama came in and he tried to sort of persuade the American people that this was a recovery from the financial crisis strategy and they never really bought it. It was sort of seen as a kind of pet project that was being foisted on them at a moment of vulnerability is how I now look at that history. And I’ve heard some commentators talk about that. And I suppose between the lines of what you said, if Biden can persuade the American people that doing something now on climate is a recovery from covid strategy and it’s sort of helping them get back on their feet, then it will be enduring. I’m just wondering, looking at the US from the rest of the world, we’re kind of waiting for the penny to drop in terms of the other half of the US understanding these wider climate issues, are we making progress or does the nature of partisan politics just mean that divide is is still there. It’s just sort of invisible to us right now because of who’s in the White House.
Fred Krupp: [00:30:22] Well, it’s a completely different situation, Tom, than 10 years ago, here’s why: one, people have connected the dots in the last 10 years. We’ve seen tremendous hurricanes, we’ve seen big storms, we’ve seen enormous rainfall events. Lord knows we’ve seen wildfires in the West as well as Australia. And so people now are much more aware that climate change is not some projection that will happen way off. Their lives are being affected now, too. People are aware that the price of solar power has come down 90 percent since 10 years ago. Wind power, 75 percent, battery storage, which was supposedly not going to come down in price, is down eighty five percent in the last 10 years or so. And people are seeing that the fastest growing sector for job growth is in clean energy jobs. People are seeing that electric cars are actually better vehicles to require less money to fuel them. They’re more fun to drive, less maintenance. You got it. So I’m not going to say that we’re in a new era in the sense that the issue is completely bipartisan, but the polling data also, including polls that just came out last week, show there’s far more support among all sections of American society. So I think there are actual reasons to be much more hopeful now than there were 10 years ago.
Christiana Figueres: [00:32:03] Well, may this be the four years in which we actually get there, that would be really such an important contribution to the U.S. economy, to U.S. political continuity, but also to the planet. And speaking of the planet, Fred, if I could take you on a little cognitive trip right now, a cognitive journey to the Arctic.
Christiana Figueres: You’ve been working for a while on the relationship between methane emissions, which are short lived and the disappearance that we’re already seeing of summer ice in the Arctic. And I believe you are concluding that there’s a direct relationship between those two. I would love to hear your explanation of that, because as far as I had heard, until I’m reading some of the results from your work, is that albedo effect that the summer ice sheet has been protecting those with, was not necessarily directed to one particular greenhouse gas. Are you making a direct relationship to methane?
Fred Krupp: [00:33:10] Yes, and here’s why, Christiana, it turns out that we have to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, as you and Tom both know so well, we have to do that as quickly as we possibly can. We also have to reduce methane and the urgency of reducing methane is so important because the effect of methane is so immediate. So while carbon dioxide will have that effect over 100 years, methane has this big bang right in the very beginning. And so looking at is there a way we can keep that summer sea ice in the Arctic? What the scientists have concluded is there is no way, no matter what we do on carbon dioxide, we can save that summer sea ice unless we bring down methane emissions dramatically here over the next decade or so. The good news is, according to Fatih Birol at the International Energy Agency and others, we can bring down those emissions from the oil and gas industry by 75 percent by 2030. And we damn well should. And we can also attack methane sources from feedlots, from landfills and from coal mines. So this is a tractable problem. We can save the Arctic sea ice, but only if we get after methane with much more urgency now that we know this and then the world has had in the past.
Christiana Figueres: Could you explain why that albedo effect is so important? To someone who hasn’t heard this, why is the summer sea ice in the Arctic so critical? And what is its relationship to the ice down south in the Antarctic?
Fred Krupp: [00:35:10] Well, the ice in the Antarctic is critical because it sits on top of land, so when it melts, sea level rises the ice near the North Pole, the sea ice sits on the water. So like the ice in a glass of water, when it melts, the level of the water doesn’t go up.
Christiana Figueres: But –
Fred Krupp: Because it acts like a mirror, it’s reflecting the sunlight back into space. And that reflected light isn’t heating the atmosphere up as much as it would be if it were just coming into the ocean and being absorbed by the ocean. And so by saving the summer sea ice, we are preventing an escalation in the greenhouse gas effect that will otherwise occur. Also, there’s ecologically significance for doing it. Also, by keeping temperatures down, we’re less likely to be passing other tipping points, melting the tundra in the Arctic, which could release methane. I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon, according to the best informed scientists. But we don’t want to get anywhere near those tipping points. The more we can keep temperatures down in the short run, the better. And it turns out that methane mitigation is the most cost effective way to do that. At the same time, we can’t keep our eyes off the ball. We’ve got to be driving CO2 down pedal to the metal as fast as we can.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: I know that you guys have been pushing on this methane thing for a very long time and really raising it to global attention. And it feels like the moment has really come now that we have this big gap to a one point five degree trajectory. I’ve had various chats with people in the COP team here, and there’s a realization that unless we can get methane leakage down to basically zero or thereabout, we’ve got no chance of a one point five degree trajectory. So it’s really interesting to see how it’s developed.
Christiana Figueres: [00:36:52] Fred, most of those methane emissions from industrial sources like Tundra is a different thing, but from industrial sources basically come from fossil fuel infrastructure. Right. And those fugitive emissions, my sense is that the oil and gas industry, at least some of them have realized that it is actually in their interest to control those fugitive emissions of methane. Do you think we’re making progress there because they’re motivated by their own, by their own interest, their own bottom line?
Fred Krupp: Well, many of the oil and gas majors, I think 13 of them have pledged to dramatically cut methane emissions. So we are making progress. However, those majors only represent 30 percent of total production around the planet of oil and gas. So we need to get all the producers to be driving their methane emissions to, as Tom says, virtually zero. That’s where the methane satellite we’re going to launch next year comes in. It will be able to look at all the oil and gas infrastructure around the world. And we’ve promised to make that data available in real time for free to the public. So it will provide accountability that’s just been missing because this stuff is invisible. The other big sources of methane, of course, are agriculture, including dairy cows, beef cows, rice production, various other things. And coal mines also put out methane, landfills do too. So these are all the sources we have to get after.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:38:34] I just want to ask you quickly about something that came out last week that we thought actually was one of the most exciting things to come out of the summit. So I know you’re involved, fascinated to know your views, and that is the LEAF coalition lowering emissions by accelerating forest finance, which for listeners you don’t know, is a global initiative involving partnering private companies such as Amazon, Airbnb, GlaxoSmithKline, with governments like the US, the UK and Norway to mobilise a billion dollars to protect tropical forests. Now, this is the largest public private investment of its kind. Of course, deforestation is now the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in nature based solutions have not been funded to the degree that they need to be. So we’re feeling very optimistic that this could be a sort of point of departure where we start really finding solutions and investing in doubling down on them. Maybe you could just take us through that a bit. How are you feeling about the LEAF Coalition? How will it address these issues? And do you feel that this is a moment where we could see some of those challenging issues begin to improve?
Fred Krupp: Well, this is a huge breakthrough, Tom, thank you for bringing it up. It will mobilize a billion dollars, this year for large scale forest protection and sustainable development. It’s called LEAF for lowering emissions by accelerating forest finance. It will be the single largest private sector investment to protect tropical forests. More than half the money will come from a group of companies led by Amazon, but also Airbnb, the Boston Consulting Group, GlaxoSmithKline, McKinsey and Company, Nestle, Salesforce, Unilever. Thanks go to the United States government, the United Kingdom and Norway for providing some backstop guarantees on this. What’s critical here, Tom, is the idea has been developed in collaboration with indigenous communities, forest peoples, Brazilian NGOs, and it’s a game changer because, as you both know, people have been talking about various ways to get funding into avoiding deforestation, but it just hasn’t materialized until now. And now it’s being done at a jurisdictional level. Which means that, you know, it will prevent cutting one place while another place is being saved. And, you know, there’s several countries around the world that are poised to benefit from this and will be able to lower their deforestation. And I couldn’t be happier with this announcement.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:41:18] I’m just going to ask if you could explain what jurisdictional means, because we hear a lot about jurisdictional forest finance.
Fred Krupp: Yes. It’s not self-evident. In the past, the way some people put together projects was to save the trees on one plot of land. But unfortunately, if you save trees on that plot of land and somebody else wanted to produce soybeans or graze cattle, they could burn the next plot over. And so you weren’t really getting a gain there. You were still destroying forest jurisdictional red stands for the idea that there’s got to be at least two and a half million hectares in scale before there will be credit. And so when we’re talking about these bigger landscapes, the whole landscape having to perform by showing that it’s reducing deforestation, then we’re able to know that the money being invested is getting real reductions because it’s happening at either the state level or at the subnational, if not a nation state, at a subnational state level.
Christiana Figueres: [00:42:38] The other thing that is interesting about this is that it’s performance based, right, so it’s not that the full amount of the financial resources is put up front, which makes many people very nervous because then they never know where those resources go, but rather that there is a very strict on the ground monitoring. And it is based on proof points that the forest has been protected. So that’s performance based finance. So that’s actually a very very important characteristic of it. But it leads me to wonder, Fred, whether this is it on the financial model for avoiding deforestation or in fact, even for reforestation or regeneration of degraded soils. Are we going to have to depend on this kind of financing, which in the end is not investment, it is basically corporate. I want to call it philanthropy because they’re not getting any direct monetary return for it. And that in and of itself, I think if this is the only instrument that we have, would put a ceiling on how much funding we can invest into an area that is as critical as this one. So do you see that this is one of several financial instruments that can be contributed into a broader portfolio of financial instruments? Or do you see this as being the most effective?
Fred Krupp: [00:44:18] Well, first of all, Christina, you and I share the goal that avoiding deforestation, is one of the things we can do right now and make a huge difference. And we haven’t yet seen any model that can avoid those who have cooperated to create it. A lot of people have been involved. This is the first model, this LEAF coalition that has the possibility of moving billions of dollars into this. And so, no, it doesn’t have to be exclusive or the only model. I’d love to see others emerge. But for now, this is a real breakthrough that for the first time since I’ve worked on the avoided deforest issue, which spans 25 years, this is much bigger than anything that’s come before.
Christiana Figueres: And what is your sense of what is the motivation of the companies? The countries, I understand, but what is the motivation, the incentive of the companies to put this money into this?
Fred Krupp: [00:45:38] Well, you know, more and more consumers care that the companies they’re purchasing from and doing business from are good citizens. They certainly want companies to be reducing their own footprint. And these companies all are doing that. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have them part of the coalition. But in addition to doing what they can in their own house and in their own supply chain, these companies are also saying we want to do more. And I think their employees appreciate having an employer that wants to do more and the customers, when they hear about this, will also be very positive. So I think there’s enormous reputational benefits for these companies.
Christiana Figueres: I would add a third constituency. They’re definitely employees, customers and future employees. Right. Young people have so much higher expectations of companies these days. I mean, basically, companies are being classified into are you contributing to the problem or are you contributing to the solution? Because you can no longer say, you know, Humpty Dumpty on the wall. It’s either show me that you are very effectively on the ground contributing to the solution or anything else other than that you’re contributing to the problem. And I think that lack of tolerance for the wishy washy ness of companies, especially among young people, is really making these companies realize if they want to be able to attract brains, if they want clients, in the mid and long term. And if they want business continuity, they have to begin to do these kinds of things. So it’s actually quite, quite exciting to see that they are realizing this and stepping up.
Fred Krupp: [00:47:31] Well, I think you’re exactly right, it’s important for the expectations that young folks have in the future employees and by the way, those expectations also apply to you and me, government leaders, NGO leaders. Now is the time to be bold. We’re out of time. All of us have to be looking to do things at scale in big ways. And if we’re not willing to do that, we should get out of the way. Fortunately, I know you two are, and I certainly know EDF is as well. The Environmental Defense Fund. We’re working on the biggest at scale solutions we can find.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: So, Fred, this has been such a pleasure and so wonderful to talk to you. We have one question that we ask everybody who comes in the podcast. And we’d love to also, of course, ask of you. We call the podcast Outrage + Optimism. And that’s because, as you’ve said, we’re at this most critical moment and we need both our optimism that we can make the change and we need to bring our outrage because we’re not where we need to be. So we’d love to hear you tell us, are you outraged or are you optimistic or where do you fall on the scale between the two?
Fred Krupp: [00:48:49] Yeah, you can’t do this sort of work that I do without having hope. I like to say that, you know, optimism is kind of a prediction. It’s all going to be OK. Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up. We need to be hopeful, but we need to be working on it because everything is not fated to be OK. We’re still at a tipping point where things could go either way. And thanks to the great work that you two have done, the book that you co-wrote, I am hopeful and I think with a lot of work we can all afford to be, we will all be able to afford to be optimistic.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: Fantastic. Fred Krupp, thank you so much for joining us.
Christiana Figueres: [00:49:38] Thank you, Fred. Such a delight to see you again. Thank you so much.
Fred Krupp: Good to talk to you. Take care.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:49:49] So how great to sit down with Fred Krupp. He’s been in this space for such a long time, such an amazing leader, such wonderful insights in terms of what’s happening right now and what can happen next. What do you guys leave that conversation with?
Paul Dickinson: [00:50:01] Well, I’m super sorry not to be in it, actually, but having listened to it’s fantastic. But, Christiana, what are your reflections?
Christiana Figueres: [00:50:07] Well, I love your term. I’m Paul of eyes in the sky because what we heard, how important methane emissions are and I had honestly not put those two things together, that methane being a short lived gas has a huge impact on right now on the cryosphere, especially on the Arctic summer ice sheet. I hadn’t put those two things together. And he has been working for such a long time on eyes in the sky, satellites for measuring emissions from the oil and gas industry worldwide. And you know, he has been focused on this methane thing for years. And God bless him. Right. Because all the rest of us usually go into CO2 or we use it as our proxy currency for all of the other greenhouse gases. But he has been razor focused on short lived gases and actually reminding us this is actually something that we can do. It is entirely possible to dramatically reduce our methane, fugitive emissions, and we have to do it. And in fact, it is even in the interest of the oil and gas industry, because those emissions that they have that are fugitive are lowering their efficiency of their fossil fuels. So it is a very, very doable thing. And with a satellite that follows and monitors where those fugitive emissions are, we will be able to track it much better and to put pressure on those responsible for decreasing that.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:52:08] And so, consequential. I mean, there was a report that came out, you know, that Fred was obviously part of and it hasn’t come out yet. But there was a report in The New York Times it’s perfectly feasible to reduce methane emissions by 45 percent inside this decade. That would prevent 0.3 degrees of warming, nearly half a degree just on its own by 2050. That is insane that that is not top of the to do pile, because actually, as you say, it’s easy. It leads to cost reductions, makes people money. So we absolutely have to get on that. I totally agree. And I think one of the other things I took from the conversation is it’s just how practical Fred is. You know, he’s not coming at this with any kind of ideology of I’ve got a view of how the world should be and I’m going to follow that ideology here. Just look for how we can have an impact. And I think that’s a big part of the success of EDF. I think he’s very, very impressive, an inspiring person.
Paul Dickinson: [00:53:00] I just wanted to chime at a little bit more about Fred for listeners. I was doing some reading about some of his comments. And I couldn’t agree with him more when he says the business world needs to unleash the most powerful tool they have to fight climate change, their political influence. That’s a good systems thinker. And what about this comment from the 13th of January 2021, the Environmental Defense Fund is fully committed to free and fair elections, to the peaceful transfer of power into the core institutions that made the U.S. a great nation that it is. Last week, these key principles were violated by President Trump, et cetera, et cetera. You don’t put somebody in a box and say, I’m an environmentalist because, you know, the environment is everything. So if you’re an environmentalist, you’re an everythingist. But I think he actually is a great example of an everythingist.
Christiana Figueres: [00:53:51] Well, let me underline that, because one characteristic that EDF has always had under Fred’s leadership is that they haven’t from an ideology point of view, stuck corporations into the evil box, the devil’s corner. They’ve actually really, really made a very impressive effort to reach out to corporations and bring them along, pull them into the transformation that they should each be contributing to without greenwashing, without, you know, just papering over what those corporations are doing, truly keeping their feet to the fire, but with a very constructive attitude of we are not going to solve this unless corporations do their bit. And today, that is not a unique position because most people have understood that that is the case. But it was definitely unique 20 years ago. In fact, even 10 years ago, it was a leadership, very, very progressive position from EDF. And so, you know, kudos to Fred for that.
Paul Dickinson: [00:55:09] I’m just going to say a last word on that one. It’s just I think that that’s exactly what corporations are in business in general. That’s contested real estate. You can say it’s over there and it’s not to do with us or you or actually you can you can play there and say, no, this could go either way and I’m going to try and get my oar on this side.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:55:28] That’s great. Thank you. Well, I was going to move on. This has been a great episode and I was going to thank the listener and move on to our music for this.
Paul Dickinson: [00:55:36] Say you were going to, but are you going to?
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:55:37] And now I will. Thank you, listeners. We appreciate you being here. This has been a fun episode.
Christiana Figueres: [00:55:43] Wait. Hold it. Before we sign off. Hold it. We are actually hitting our two year anniversary, having been on the air this week. And we’re coming up on our 100th episode. So how cool is that? How did we forget that? We have to celebrate that.
Paul Dickinson: [00:56:06] Next week is our 100th birthday.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:56:09] Let’s make it all next week, 100th birthday. And do it all in one. What do you think? So this week, we have a wonderful piece of music for you from Vivii, Swedish Dream Pop Trio, their amazing new single, One Day. It’s this rich and textured pop aesthetic. They have one thing in mind with all of their music dreaming up a better world through song. This is an amazing track. I’m sure you’re going to enjoy it.
Paul Dickinson: [00:56:34] See you next week.
Christiana Figueres: [00:56:35] Bye bye.
Vivii: [00:56:38] Why do you think it’s important that artists engage with climate change, inequality or other social issues? It’s important because they have the bigger platform. And if they have a lot of listeners and a lot of fans, I think it’s important that everybody does what they can. I mean, those little small parts that we can do for Mother Earth, that’s how we can make the big change. I mean, I love the David and Goliath kind of thing. I mean, look at what gets done and when a nobody can be a somebody in that situation. That’s beautiful. And what was your inspiration for this song? Simplicity, just trying to make a simple song with few chords in it and a pretty melody, but it’s also about daring to change, which is like the hardest thing. But sometimes you just have to leave everything if you want to run towards something new. Sometimes you have to do that. And I believe also that we as humans, we I mean, we really need to change the way we’re living right now is not good for the planet we’re living on. So we need to dare, running towards new solutions. And that’s really hard, at least for me. But I’m trying.
Clay Carnill: [01:02:03] So there you go, another episode of Outrage + Optimism. I’m Clay, producer of the podcast. Thanks for listening. This song you just heard is One Day by Vivii. This performance you just listened to, you can go watch it. They performed it live and filmed it, which we love. And because we haven’t been able to go to concerts, go to house shows. I mean, I know Christiana is a big fan of house shows. Go watch the performance. One thing I liked about it, the keyboard player, she has this cool little Yamaha port of sound with this vocal patch and just makes that dreamy vocal sound really thick. And anyway, I’m a fan, so go check it out. And huge news. They have a brand new record coming out May 21st. You can pre save and pre-add the music on your music player of choice. Once the album drops, you get that notification and it’s already in your pocket. Amazing link in the show notes to all of that. Thank you, Vivii. OK, and before we get to the credits, I definitely want to thank all of you who have been leaving us a rating and review on Apple podcasts. Like Tom said, it’s the best part of our week and you are all so great if you have not left us a reading in review, but we encourage you to do so.
Paul Dickinson: [01:03:19] We might read it on the podcast for everyone to hear. So get to it. Have fun and thank you. OK, Outrage + Optimism is a Global Optimism production Global Optimism is Sarah 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, I’m going very fast today. Thank you so much to our guests this week, Fred Krupp. I’ve got links in the show notes to his contact, as well as the Environmental Defense Fund’s social media. And speaking of social media listeners, you can follow us on all social media platforms @GlobalOptimism. Send us a message. That is a wrap next week is our one hundredth episode. But not only that is our 100th episode, our two year anniversary of being a podcast. And yes, it’s going to be a Race to Zero episode. So the question is, how are we going to celebrate all of this all at once? We’re going to do it together, hit subscribe and we’ll see you next week.