Sept. 8, 2021

Ep53: Eamon Ryan 'Ireland's Jolly Green Giant'

Eamon Ryan is the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Minister for Transport in the Irish government and leader of the Green Party.
Eamon’s political career began in 1998 when he was co-opted to Dublin City Council. In 2002 he was elected to the Dáil Éireann. In 2007, when the Green party entered the government, he became the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. His time in office saw doubling of the renewable share in the electricity mix and a wide-ranging house retrofit programme. He resigned in 2011 after the Green Party left the government. After the Green Party failed to win any seats in the 2011 general election, Eamon became the party leader and has led it ever since. Eamon was elected TD for Dublin Bay South in 2016 and re-elected in 2020.
Eamon graduated from University College Dublin with a Bachelor of Commerce.

Eamon Ryan is the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Minister for Transport in the Irish government and leader of the Green Party.

Eamon’s political career began in 1998 when he was co-opted to Dublin City Council. In 2002 he was elected to the Dáil Éireann. In 2007, when the Green party entered the government, he became the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. His time in office saw doubling of the renewable share in the electricity mix and a wide-ranging house retrofit programme. He resigned in 2011 after the Green Party left the government. After the Green Party failed to win any seats in the 2011 general election, Eamon became the party leader and has led it ever since. Eamon was elected TD for Dublin Bay South in 2016 and re-elected in 2020.

Eamon graduated from University College Dublin with a Bachelor of Commerce.

Further reading:

Official bio:

EU’s carbon targets challenging but doable for Ireland, says Ryan (July 2021)

Statement from Minister Ryan at Leader's Climate Summit (April 2021)



Click here for Edited Highlights

Michael Liebreich: Before we start, if you're enjoying these conversations, please make sure that you like or subscribe to Cleaning Up, it really helps other people to find us. Cleaning Up is brought to you by the Liebreich Foundation and the Gilardini Foundation. Hello, I'm Michael Liebreich, and this is Cleaning Up. My guest today is an old friend, Eamon Ryan. He's the leader of the Green Party in Ireland, and minister in the current government for the Environment, Climate and Communications. And he's also Minister for Transportation. Let's bring Eamon Ryan into the conversation. So, Eamon, fantastic to see you. Welcome to Cleaning Up.


Eamon Ryan: Michael, it's good to see you again.


ML: Now I'm going to really enjoy this episode for all sorts of reasons. One of which is that we're both in Europe. And it's the evening so we're allowed to call ourselves a bear. Because quite often I'll have I'll be talking to somebody in the US or in Asia. And then you know, we end up drinking water or coffee. So I've got myself a little beer here and I understand that you have you do too. Is that right?


ER: I'm in Dublin Michael, what would you drink in Dublin? A pint of Guinness. With the miracles of advanced chemistry you should be interested in, you pour this into this, and it turns into a pint of Guinness, which is as good as it gets really when it comes to beer.


ML: Now when I last when we last met, you we're not yet back in government. So, I think if we're going to drink to anything to start this off. Congratulations on being back behind the wheel.


ER: Thank you. Take a minute for that to settle. Yeah, you know, I was in government back in 2007 to 2011. I was Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources then. And we lost all our seats. We were coming out of the financial crash when we were in government. It was tough but learnt a lot and was privileged to serve. So, then I was out of the Parliament for five years, worked with the E3G in London on EU climate diplomacy. And then going back to the parliaments got reelected. And now I'm leading the party Green Party in a three-party coalition and minister for a long tittle, excuse the for Environment, Climate, Communications and Transport. So, it's kind of a, it's two former departments that… I'm running two departments, but they all work together. It makes sense. They're there dealing with the three technological revolutions occurring at the world at the moment, the digital revolution, the clean energy revolution, and a transport revolution which is really starting, and they're all connected as you know. So, such a privilege. And it's, I mean, it's full on it where we're hearing. Now, mind you, the last time I was here was a financial crash. And now I'm it's COVID. And so, it's kind of familiar. There's certain sense of Oh, yeah, full-on crisis management. But it's also a real honour and real privilege. So I'm very glad to be here.


ML: That's fantastic. And it's been very interesting having these conversations I've spoken to. I'm thinking of two people that I know that you know, well, Teresa Ribeira, Deputy OM in Spain, and Catherine McKenna in Canada, and how different governments divide up the responsibilities to try to kind of get their arms around this very slippery transition, climate, energy transport and of course, digitization telecoms. So, Teresa Rivera's role is deputy PM, and she's called the Minister for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge. And then Catherine McKenna, is Minister for infrastructure. And what was the other one there's infrastructure and something else in her title. But you've literally got each vertical specified very clearly there.


ER: Yeah, I work with Teresa, we're in several European councils together, actually, I'm on four of them. But we work particularly in the energy and on the climate Council's environment council together. The person I also met in goods to my time in politics, you meet some people who kind of have the similar crossover. The person I always kind of sent was very much admired and saw as a great a great example of this sort of crossover was Ed Markey, Senator Ed Markey, when he was both a congressman and a senator. I just thought he really got the way in which that digital revolution is fundamental to the clean energy revolution and the transport revolution. And in turn, the feedback like the digital revolution is going to require clean energy more than anything else, it'll have to be 100% zero carbon like everything else. And so, they cross over. And now even on the transport, it is about electrifying everything. So, all three to do connect. And I always… well, I was inspired by Jeremy Rifkin, like some of his analysis about technological change your cars, and how it influences cultural change, and the politics of it. I think he was also someone who kind of oftentimes really got this, you know, in some of his books, the Empathetic Civilization and others, he kind of got the way in which in politics, we need to really understand how these revolutions are occurring and what they're, what they're affecting. And so, it's I'm only learning but I'm very glad to be in the area. I just think it's an incredibly interesting and an important area for social and economic change, as well as environmental protection.


ML: And I think that that's, you know, there is a theme, which is what we're seeing is these kind of branches of energy, transport climate environment being brought together, you know, maybe not, that they're no longer individual and reporting to prime minister or the premiere and in different countries are actually being brought together, because you kind of need to be working all of those simultaneously, don't you in order to actually make this transition happen?



I think people are starting to see it, not just at ministerial level, but in, you know, in Europe, the Green Deal brings it together, it's green, and digital. And I see that in the UK, a lot of what Boris Johnson's administration, since we're talking about in is kind of integrating them. And then Biden's administration something similar. And actually the China… remember years ago, I was at a it was an International Energy Agency event in Paris. And it was very high end with Mr. Kissinger and everyone there kind of, we were discussing whether you know how we reintegrate China and India, which we thought was a bit, we weren't very diplomatic in the sense that they were there at dinner with us. And we would be so kind of superior talking about how we would, whether we would have them in the club as at work. But it was interesting enough to come right back. And this is going back to whatever it was, it's 10, 15, 12…12 years ago, and looking at their plan at the time. And I think actually, I remember listening to the Chinese minister quite some time ago now and what they were talking about the dematerialization of development, if I recall, the kind of quality was caught he was using for their latest five-year plan. I remember think at the time, yeah, they got us they kind of see what they kind of have to do it because of the scale of their population and so on. But, but yeah, I see various administrations around the world to kind of understand this is central. And it's central now, to economic strategy. Like, you know, the European Union has bet on this green new deal as our 55 package which is just developed, it's kind of just a legislative mechanism, but it is… it's pretty central to economic strategy and social strategy as well. So, and to greater or lesser extent, I think we can see it in a number of the major economies around the world.


ML: Yes, indeed, as we're recording this, there's just been the first release or the first reveal for the Fit for 55 package from the EU. So that's some of the mechanics around how the EU is going to deliver this 55% reduction in emissions in 2030, viz a viz 20 the 1990 baseline figure. Have you been involved in developing that, you said you're on four working groups, so have you when it when it all goes horribly wrong, is it your fault?


ER: That's the great thing of having this trialogue where we can all divide up responsibility the parliament's, the council, and the commission. I'm on four of the European Council group in transportation, digital, communications, and energy under climate. I think the council's do have a role. And I mean to see as… you mentioned tracer there like I think what I see and I suppose in my experience in the European Council goes back as well to the 2007, 2008, 2009 periods when I think there was similar so leadership at European Council level, remember, Connie Hildegard was on the council at the time… if people know French minister at the time and a number of others, and I just remember the time thinking that there was a bit of leadership there, and including from the commissioner…. So you can sometimes in the likes of European Union Council, you can actually get leadership and I said sits there at the moment, France Timmers is the vice president with responsibility for climate. But more than that, a kind of a group of ministers we tend to meet sometimes in advance of the main council meeting. We're kind of a team where with enhanced ambition, and, and I see it in some of the major European economies as a, that, that they're starting to be that sense in my mind of political ambition and commitments. Now it's not, we have a long way to go. and Europe by heart has a lot to do, and particularly in the run up to cup in Glasgow and beyond, to start being more diplomats engage globally in some global diplomacy in diplomacy, showing such leadership. But I have a similar sense to what I had in back in 2007, 2008, 2009, that in the likes of the European Council, there is, there is now some real ambition and the legislative packages is an expression of that now, it's not perfect, and there'll be no way it will be the final deal. There'll be, it'll be amended. But I think, compared to what I see in the US, and I could be wrong. I haven't been to Washington in a while, but I'm not so sure. Congress is in the same space. And I think that might give Europe a certain advantage. I think, you know, the political leadership, we might be able to show because it's not as divisive. There is a united understanding across most of the groupings in the parliament, and in the council. That Yeah, this is our economic future. And that might just give us a wee bit of a head start.


ML: Because it is one of the big questions, pretty much for, you know, for all the big blocks, whether it's China, translating from President Xi down to, you know, how does this translate into five year plans? How does this go to the provinces in the US, you've got the Biden administration, you know, talking a completely different game, obviously, from the Trump administration. But again, can it actually get things through, whether it's the infrastructure bill, whether it's the, you know, any aspect of its net zero plans? And then what you're saying is, you think that in the EU, it might be easier to go from the sort of the [inaudible] level?


ER: I think now without talking about… our prime minister had a meeting with President Biden recently. And it was interesting, apparently, he was able to sing afterwards, what was the conversation centered around, one of the things was sent around whether constitutional democratic republic's will be best able to deliver this change are in a world where, you know, there are other, shall we say, governance models. And I think that's a really interesting question. And it's not just a function of, you know, how committed the political system is, well, it's how do you bring people with you? Or how does this system we have, where there’s loads of checks and balances and where you've got the ultimate test, you got to get reelected? Okay, we know what we have to do, how do we do it and still get reelected as the kind of question and will our democratic systems with independent legal and free press and all those institutions of liberal democracies, will they be best placed to deliver the scale and speed of transition we need? Or will other governments met models, and that's what the conversation between our Prime Minister and President Biden was recently and I think, I suppose I stand ford constitutional democratic republic, that we're in and, and I like to think we will be able to do it, then it will delay us in some ways, we make mistakes, but in some ways, they'll be better corrective mechanisms to learn from those mistakes, and so we might be better at this transition you have to make.


ML: Now I'm exactly there as well. And, you know, it's one of the great pleasures talking to you. Because, you know, politically we ought to disagree on everything. You lead the Green Party, I'm a Conservative, but I see it absolutely as critical that we don't give up on democracy because this climate challenge is so big, and there are there are lots of people, lots of young people who think that democracy is not well suited to dealing with this challenge. They like what they see out of some more authoritarian countries because they can make decisions and at least extensively deliver. But, I certainly think that the only way to get the sustained effort and the innovation, the engagement and the innovation throughout society across all sectors, is by you know, it may not be easy, but it kind of forces people like you to think about what does a just transition really mean? How do you actually take the folks who are perhaps you know, not, you know, well off urban liberals, but everybody who's really struggling to get through day by day, how do you take them on this journey and I think you have to do that hard work, and as a result will get better solutions and more creativity along the way.


ER: Can I reflect on one thing, and that might be because it's set my own history and past I was elected out of office, which is good lesson in the humility and the democratic system when you're not reelected. And back in 2012, 2013, myself a number of friends who are very involved in this climate issue, have we have been, you know, among them over the years? and retain can, why are we getting our story wrong, like what's not working here. And so, I spent a couple of time,, we put up some of the material in a very creative session when it didn't have anything else to do because it lost my job, as it were. But just really taking the question of what's the story that we need to tell here to inspire people to the sort of scale and speed of actions we need to take. And it was really interesting, we do this in a very safe space where, and I just couldn't, because what you said there, just the very start what your last comment was ago, yourself myself with different political views. Fine, I mean, the definition of a liberal in my minds is that you're tolerant to the other person's view. And be that even more so if someone's from a different perspective, because when you start listening, rather than kind of writing that person off and, and put yourself in their shoes, we better understand that they might have something bugging them that informs you know, what they, how they approach it. And I just mentioned that, because I do think in the politics of climate change, that we need that sort of perspective, that there needs to be a not a kind of divisive perspective, I say that for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the scale of change is so great, and has to be.. it can’t be stop star, you know you don't want it to be one government comes in, you've made capital investment, and then next government comes in your stoppers. And that would make it very expensive, very slow, and very uncertain. So you want to win to win five or six elections in a row, in a sense, for climate, in my mind. And, and therefore, you come to the realization that every place matters, and every person matters, you know, we need a wide consensus, we need this to be not a divisive issue politically, as best we can avoid. Now, that then leads you to a form of politics, as I said, which is, when you listen to people, you ask people for help, rather than telling them what to do. You admit uncertainty, it's like, we don't know how some of the technology is going to evolve. We all we've all learnt over the years, like, if I was to say, you know, 15, 20 years ago, EVs would go the way they've gone, we wouldn't we didn't know I mean, we had no idea. But we didn't know the battery prices were going to come down the way to do we didn't know solar was going to come down and price the warehouse. We didn't know offshore wind, even five, six years ago, we weren't so clear that offshore wind is going to be so transformative in terms of its potential. And, but that level admission of kind of, we have to learn as we're going and learn by doing and, and I think the politics overall work best when it isn't the politics of we’re the righteous ones, you're the you're the non-progressive, whatever you want to put it. I just think that that's not the politics make this happen. It does need a truly liberal political perspective, which is respectful of other views. And I know that's so obvious, but it's kind of first-base, I think in terms of what we need to do, and in making this leap we need to make, and then the story that you can start to tell is a story that's more widely adapted. And it's a story that brings you to a slightly different place. It's not as technocratic, it's slightly more human, it's slightly more hitting the heart, not just the heads. So you'd be from a conservative tradition, I'd be from a green liberal, left to center tradition. Remember, it was Roger Scruton, that English philosopher, whatever his kind of thing about we speak about home, you know, as a common home and, and I don't see that that is doesn't apply. I don't see why love of the home belongs to any one political tradition.


ML: That's probably Edmund Burke, I suspect.


ER: Well he's another Dubliner he probably had a pint or two of Guinness when he was working that out.


ML: I would go even further though, and I would claim I would claim primacy for my brand of politics. And the reason is, I think the center right is the swing constituency here. I don't say primacy in terms of superiority of thought. I don't have that arrogance. But primacy in terms of a sort of acid test for what works. And the reason I say this is, here's how here's how I segment the political spectrum, I think you've got, you know, the, I don't want to call it the hard right, but the very, very libertarian right is going to just react against any intervention of any government in any way and then they're just going to be almost impossible to win over to any sort of concerted action, governmental role, etc. And there's some culture wars reasons why, you know, there's a piece of the spectrum over there that we have to sort of, almost do without. Over on the green, you call it the green liberal left, let's call it the green left, the sort of the far end on that side, they're kind of on board because they want this problem solve the environmental the climate problems, they're not the problem, in a sense. The challenges, as you say, you have to keep winning elections. So you sort of have to have a 65% support level. Because if you start with 51%, you just win an election of 51%, you start doing this stuff, it's difficult, it's complicated, there are losers, you're very quickly going to dip below the majority, and you're going to get into trouble. So, you need to kind of start, it's a bit like, if you want to as a democracy, if you want to wage a war, you better start with a two thirds support, not just a 51% support. And you start with 65%. Now, the difficult bit and say it's not the people on the left who want to deal with it, although environmentalist, the difficult bear is the center-right? Because broadly, they want to do the right thing. But they're going to require certain conditions, it has to be market, it has to work with the grain of markets. It must not stifle innovation. It's got to respect you know, individual rights and communities and families and so on. And so, you know, I sort of feel like that's the most difficult constituency to win over. That's what I've been engaged in for the last kind of 15 years.


ER: It's very interesting. And I keep coming back to this thing about constitution liberal democracy, because in our eyes, we have a written constitution. The protection of rights is fundamental. And it is a fundamental cornerstone of everything we do, because it is it does, it's recognizing the importance of the human being and a lot of us and inalienable rights. And now, but having said that, can I give you another perspective as to how, where the story will go and work? And I've got a quote George Monbiot, the great hero of my center-left tradition. Among others, made this up very simple, obvious observation. I heard at a Chatham House speech he gave somewhere once but I'm, I'm old enough. I'm 57, Michael, unfortunately, to remember to seeing change in the global story, political story in my lifetime, from the before the time I was born, after the Second World War, the late 50s, early 60s. The story that was the common narrative was a social democratic one. And whether that was Eisenhower, Truman, or whether it was Wilson or Attlee, or any of the kind of our advocates, you know, it was, it was a common consensus that the state will protect you by providing education, health, social welfare and other systems. And yes, there is a market but that underlying belief that, you know, those fundamental protections and rights was the job of the state. Social democracy democratic system. I'm old enough to remember literally could almost feel a turn in the late 70s. For a whole variety of complex reasons, you could write several books about the fate and that story in that model was kind of on the wane, rubbish was piling up in the streets of London and in the states and on offer complex range of reasons it was no longer credible, and elsewhere. And the story then became a market-based story. It was called literally the Washington Consensus, and everyone bought into us, including, even though Blair and Clinton and others, they did have a Third Way. But it was still, maybe history be the judge in this but we're still very much market orientation in terms the market will deliver a lot of those needs although we will manage the market and use the market to deliver the same needs and health, education, employment, all our basic needs. Again, each of those stories maybe lasted for about 30, 40 years. I think something happened in 2008, 2009, 2010 financial crash, and not just because of the financial crash, but because of the underlying unsustainability particularly ecologically but also socially, I think that that kind of market knows best story our reliance on the market to such an extent, lost its credibility. Now, it's not sure what… no one's sure yet what the new story is, I think in the last decade, since That kind of question around us. There's been a variety of often popularist sometimes autocratic, and other systems that are kind of presenting as alternative stories. I don't think any of them have really caught hold. But I think, what is the new story? I don't think. Yeah, I mean, the market will have a role, the market will innovation and independence and freedom, which is included in the constitutional freedoms we do have are important, but I don't think it's going towards a market orientation solution, not on its own certainly. I think it will be ecological, it will be networked. And it will be, I hope, it will be a nature of sort of consensus politics around the ecological transformation we need to make using the market in various ways, but also relying on government, you do need government. I mean, I can see it now you need government to help design and grids, telecommunications, electricity grids. Market doesn't really think well, in terms of what's the 40, 50 year horizon for, for sharing power, and the way we're going to have to do and I can think of loads of other examples like public transport system. So when you know this in terms of Transport for London, that, you know, is market really going to deliver a design of a metro system for a city, probably not, you do need a central… I could go on as examples. Now it's not, it's not coming back, just the social democratic system where market knows everything, sorry government has everything. And one of the reasons is as well as I think, because of this terrorist element, it does have the ecological environmental imperative within it. And that it's a more distributed system and go back to the same to start with Jeremy Rifkin on these digital communications and lean energy and transport revolutions. The nature of those wherever revolutions are nodal distributed, the nature of the power systems are less hierarchical, the nature of the communication systems are more interconnected. And that's why think ecological and even nature the transport systems are coming. It's more place orientations. 15 minutes city, it's more it's not just more travel is good all the time. It's rethinking how that works. And I think whoever understands the nature of those distributed more network type political systems, as well as technological developments is the one. I would say this because I’m a Green, a Green philosophy, I guess. But I do think it's, it is the story of our time, because if we don't make that switch, we will see such significant changes that will make any system management reading.


ML: Oh, my goodness, there's so much there to unpack. We're gonna be here all night, we need to be careful. Because you've now invoked the name Jeremy Rifkin twice. And I must say I'm sort of gob smacked at that, because I regard the guy is pretty much a buffoon. I'll be completely honest. You know, when I look at his, you know, he had this now hydrogen is now back in vogue. And he had his, you know, hydrogen economy book. And it was an the subtitle of that book, I'm trying to remember the exact words. But it was basically the worldwide energy web, we were all going to be making our own hydrogen and using our own hydrogen, it was going to redistribute power. And it was going to be some kind of essentially a kind of leftist anarchist Nirvana, of course, completely laughable as well as, by the way, his other book about how the Euro was going to take over as the reserve currency of the world. I mean, absurd stuff, frankly, ridiculous. And I heard him speak about thermodynamics. And it was just baffle gab, it was just talking really fast about thermodynamics. And if it took anybody in, it was certainly anybody with a real background in thermodynamics. So anyway, end of…


ER: I just said what maybe to appeal to your conservative heart. He also wrote about productivity and how that's…


ML: The marginal I think that he wrote about the sort of the marginal cost economy where he's probably I mean, I'll be honest, once again, he's probably kind of put his finger on an interesting piece of the Zeitgeist and then drawn almost diametrically the wrong conclusions, but maybe I should get him on to cleaning up and he can defend himself because…


ER: Can I say one last thing? There's another friend we have in common Morgan Bazilian. Morgan was might even know Morgan is now in the pain. As you know what he was on this. He was talking to one of these shows, podcasts, but Morgan was my energy advisor for those years 2007, 2008, 2009 before he went on to other higher office.


ML: Morgan brought us together Morgan is the reason we know each other. H


ER: Morgan's office me was right beside my office, the ministerial office and you get as Minister for Energy you cannot have people coming in looking to breach the second law of thermodynamics and Morgan like us everything was a physicist. And I saw it from early stage he wrote the second law term of tournament acts up on the wall, massive equation big a great amount of gobbledygook to me a commerce students. But it was a brilliant entry to the office, because he couldn't live within the second law of thermodynamics. Sorry, right? It was Yeah,


ML: The Second Law of Thermodynamics, my version of it is for laypeople is very, very simple. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. But there's also, you promised to quote, George Monbiot, I don't know if that the thing you then said was all a quote from him or whether you…


ER: It was just an idea that I kind of, he expressed once about that, what's the story of our time?


ML: But I mean, it but that that sets another hair running because George and again, I would love to have him on this show. He has essentially decided that capitalism or any variant of it, whether it's Tony Blair, another, I mean, actually, Tony Blair kicked off this season of Cleaning Up, whether it's the Third Way or frankly, the Fourth Way or the Fifth Way, George's decided that enterprise is fundamentally at odds with the environment. I'm paraphrasing here, but if you'd like to, you know, if he wants to disagree, he's welcome to come on the show and disagree. And I think that's what's interesting about you know, you use this word liberal, you said green left, okay. Yes, your green Yes, your left but you also use the word liberals now, in Switzerland, where I am at the moment, there's a Green Liberal Party. Right? You lead what is a fairly liberal Green Party. But the UK Green Party is a hard left Trotskyite party, if you actually look at its policies. And around the world, there are these different sort of shades of green party from ones that I can say, well, broadly speaking within the same, you know, political fabric, and you know, you and I can have fabulous discussions, we would easily work together in government or in business or anywhere. But there are some folks who are hardline degrowth, anti-capitalist. And I would say that's almost more important to them, the crushing of capitalism, seems to be more important to some of them than actually improving the environment or solving climate change.


ER: I don't agree, I wouldn't. But I have the green political philosophy, starting all over the world at the same time, roughly in the late 70s, early 80s. It found its political form. It existed prior to that and in a variety of formats. It came out with the anti-war feminists, gay rights movements, they are our parents as it were. But it did find form minutes do it very interesting. Christine Milne, one of the founders of the Tasmanian Green Party, which was one of the first was probably the first green party. And I met her recently and we were chatting, and we agreed, I think some of the roots and I think all our Green Parties share these common roots were on four principles of… First is recognizing the scale and the urgency in the parish of addressing ecological crisis in biodiversity as well as climate and pollution. And that is a core central principle in terms of informed our politics. Secondly, though, that it's recognising that social justice and ecological justice have to go hand in hand. And yes, that is changing the capitalist system is our view. Thirdly, though, that it is both pacifist that comes from that CND movement. As I said, it comes from a and I think pacifism, in my mind, in the world of politics extends what I was saying earlier about how you respect to the person, you know how you don't… we don't engage in this sort of derogatory politics or down in dismissing the other and as best we can. Listen, don't always achieve that, but a as a principal, I think that is where our green politics comes from. And then lastly, that it actually does believe in democratic it trusts people that believes in decision making at the lowest effective level, it believes in participation it believes in, in democratic institutions and systems. So that's where we come from. I think there are those core principles and it's very interesting. I had the great privilege of meeting Petra Kelly… I'm long enough involved with the greens. She the Tasmanian greens influence Sydney where there was it was very it was very true and protection of local environmental data plans are they've campaigns they're the 70s or the 80s. Were the rain green bands to protest for protecting local parks. Petra Kelly hadn't happened to be there and she came back to Germany with this idea, we call it the Green Party, rather than the ecological Party, which is where we'd start, a lot of our parts were called ecological parties first, and that name kind of stuck and spread, and so on. And I see my, our English and Welsh and Scottish and colleagues having the same roots. And it's a common philosophy, and it exists in every country, in developing and developed and emerging and small island states and others. It is, it is a distinct political philosophy. And I don't think I think those four principles in my mind are the four cornerstones of where we stand.


ML: And I think, where, I would diverge, I would, first of all, I would challenge the extent to which those four principles are really adhered to, you know, throughout all of the different Green Parties around the world. But that's, you know, that's by the by, I think where I would diverge is around the centrality of innovation and enterprise. I mean, the climate challenge is so substantial, that there is not a single area of human activity, human economic activity, but even personal activity, that is going to remain unchanged. If you really believe net zero, then first of all, everything has to change. And it's like de delampedusa, the great, you know, from Gottardo, the quotation from The Leopard, ‘for things to remain the same, everything has to change,’ and really everything transportation systems, digital, every piece of infrastructure, energy, food systems, where we go on holiday, how we get there, everything has to change. And that level of innovation doesn't spring from small cooperatives. Let's put it that way. You know, we have a system, which is incredibly good at delivering innovation. And it is a mesh of R&D paid for perhaps centrally by government, but all of the application, all of the high quality products and services that get to market, the best machine in the universe, I can't prove that but the best machine on the planet for delivering that is enterprise and business. And so then you've got these, you know, your four principles, which all sound marvelous, and they're definitely attractive, but they don't deliver massive technological and system innovation, do they?


ER: I'm gonna throw the kitchen sink at this now. And you're opening up all sorts of big ideas, but it this is the part and cornerstone of the story that I think, of my story. I'm a businessman, I was an entrepreneur before I went into politics, I set up two or three businesses, I have an instinct of entrepreneurial itch that I can hardly stop scratching. I started commerce in UCD in Dublin. I always remember the first class in economics the first year. The question was, what's the first assumption? People are profit maximizers, I remember 10 years, whatever the micro decision, every decision has run, its profit maximisation, I remember taking the time, but it's like you take more and bigger than that. And I give another inspiration. And this is personal for me. But it brings you beyond that as the instinct towards what drives innovation, our enterprise and so on. For me, to see laudato si, Pope Francis's encyclical is a huge inspiration, it reflects my exposed personal perspective on the world. And I say that because it's willing to speak about love of our common home and almost a love of the awareness and consciousness of where we are, and what is threatened and the need to protect it. And, yes, you have to make a profit if you're in a business to survive. And yes, business and economic systems are very efficient at creating the structures by which you can develop new services and products and so on. But actually, I think, in that large outer laudato si’ way, the love of creation and the care for us and the community and the environmental factors that it has to be connected to humankind. It's not just a love of we are within nature, we're not separate to nature. And it's almost that philosophical, you could say spiritual connection, with nature and us within nature is what I think can inspire a lot now of what needs to be done. Market systems and business systems, economic systems can help regulate that or serve it. But I do think I go back to that 19 year old young man I almost in that class studying economics, I kind of thought no, it's bigger than this. There's more than this. And I agree with case Kate Raworth on that. I think her book on economics is really good in fundamentally changing the education system and the narrow concept of economics has been told today's economics is management of the home. And it starts with love of the home and being willing to think in that sort of way, I think, changes how economics will work for the better.


ML: Kate Raworth is another person I must get on this show. I mean, this is the doughnut economics. She does a brilliant job, I thought of listing or, or, or explaining the different types of activity, the types of value that are created, that are not captured in the current economy, so carers in the home, the value of society and so I thought that was absolutely brilliant. The problem I have with the doughnut is it basically says, We don't trash the planet, and don't leave anybody behind. And it gives absolutely zero information on what to do in between. absolutely zero, if you're talking about quality of education. If you talk about health care for middle class people who are not dying in childbirth or from infectious diseases, it's basically silent. And so, I think it's deeply flawed.


ER: I suppose that's where politics comes in politics is the poor mcginnises who have to form and effect a cabinet as akin to a jury. It's our system of pulling together by democratic choice people who try and answer some of those questions. I don't just politics, judicial systems, media systems are various come back to this conversation we're having about liberal modern democracies, there are various structures in society to work together to try and answer the question. Academic academia is another one. civil society is another one like the NGO sector and so on. There are various sectors in our society that set themselves up to try and deliver that more technocratic kind of response of what we actually want to do. How are we actually going to deliver the systems we need power systems, the food systems, the transport systems, the social welfare systems we need? And that's so the migration. I mean, there are meetings today every day is in is in answering those some of the technocratic questions, how are we actually going to do?



I mean, to me, this is the best articulation of why democracies are absolutely the right vehicle to deal with these problems, right? Because within the democracy, you'll have a bunch of people stridently arguing for the protection of the environment or climate action. And you'll also have a bunch of people stridently arguing for data protection and the rights of the individual. And then you have a bunch of people who are trying to bring this all together. I think that's fantastic. I've got to be completely honest, I cannot imagine a better system than that. It's not the fastest. But my goodness, it's the most comprehensive.


ER: It's similar to a jury system make you wonder, why would it just 12 random people picked out of now they are random, not selected by random that nature, but it's similar the way I am. Back to what I said one of those four principles, I say green politics, it is trust in people. It's trusting people to select who they want to be in that room, in that Cabinet Room deciding, it's not that you decide everything, but you are given certain responsibility to make certain decisions in COVID, or in everything. And yeah, I tend to agree with you, I have faith in the human common, warts and all mistakes will be made. And the great benefit is if they really are made, and if their hope is that you can kick them out.


ML: Right. So there's a sort of self-correcting this I think, Professor David Deutsch talks about the self-correcting capacity of democracies, I must say, as a guide going forwards I do prefer laudato si to doughnut economics because it allowed me to say renewable energy in Latin. I can't remember what it is now. But I was that I was fascinated. I just want to change gear very slightly because I don't want to run out of time. I want to talk about COP 26. And maybe come down a little bit to Earth here. From the from the laudato si realms and the philosophical rounds that we've been in. Talk about COP 26. We've got… What is it now? About four months, three or four months left? How does it look? Are you optimistic? Have we got is everything remaining still to be done? What are you looking for? What's a good outcome? What is your sense?


ER: I’ll know more next week my climate. We're missing the European Council meeting next week. Mr. Sharma that the UK president of the conference is going to present to us and share his and the UK government's thinking I'll be honest, I don't think I'm here we are in mid-July and into 2021, I'd have to say it's not looking great at the moment, we need to really scale up ambition and action. It's not quite the same environment that I found since moving to Paris 2015. And I think a lot of it is around international diplomacy, and it's mixed up with the whole vaccine diplomacy. So you know, the justice issue around the developing world versus the developed and how we how we treat each other is connected to this, it's also connected to what's going on with China, US, Europe is that there's a big geopolitical kind of issues at play. So it's not optimal at the moment.


ML: Sure, I look at it and I say, you know, the genius of Paris, and we had Christiana Figueres also came on this show, and she talked about that ratchet mechanism every five years, you ratchet. So surely, we don't have to have all answers to everything coming out of COP 26 in Glasgow, what we need to have is a ratchet that is significantly tighter, significantly more ambition than we had in 2015 in Paris, and we've you know, all of these countries, pledging net zero, and then delivering their nationally determined contributions to back that up. Isn't that enough to just kind of declare victory for Glasgow.


ER: I think you're right about the strike the Paris Climate Agreement, remember, when in Paris when it was delivered, I remember one of our own Irish negotiators saying as long as it's not shortened, it isn't. It is a kind of it's a legal text or structure for that ratcheting as much as anything else. And it's a really good text. Christina and others deserve huge credits. But there are certain like the things of advanced allow, unfortunately, carbon in the atmosphere is advanced. The understanding of the of the benefit of that trying to keep below 1.5 and the urgency of that has advanced, there has been I mean, a significant step up in in ambition in a variety of different countries. Others would argue, Kevin Anderson and others, that it's nowhere near sufficient, ambitious enough graduate, Greta Thunberg would argue correctly, but it's certainly way more advanced than anything I can remember in terms of ambition, so that ratcheting is occurring. But is it actually delivering the emissions reductions on the scale speed we need yet? I don't think so. And is there a political diplomatic environment where we can come out, and it's not just Glasgow, it's going on to the next. I think African COP is the one after I particularly areas like land use, a whole variety of different areas where I'd be particularly interested in is there a sense of international cooperation and, and delivery of new protocols to really double down on what's in the Paris Climate Agreement? And I'm just slightly nervous, not yet. It's not impossible. I think a lot of it would be around content, like the likes of the European Union, helping create that environment, working with the UK presidency, Italian presidency. So it's not like it's not an impossible situation we're in. But it's just, it needs a fair bit of work. And my sense is that the diplomatic environment is not where it needs to be. And that can and could change and should change the next three months. But it's not certain.


ML: I suppose, you know, we may be holding it to different standards, because, you know, certainly Paris was all about two degrees. And then there was this incredible sort of bonus, where the wording was to get as close, I can't remember the exact wording, but it was to get to one and a half degrees to work towards one and a half degrees of warming, if possible. And I suppose I've given up on one and a half degrees. If I'm completely honest, emotionally, I think that we're at 1.1, 1.2, you look at the lags in the system, I look at it as a as an economist, I look at it as a political scientist. I think that we've blown through one and a half degrees. If we're going to get there, it's by sucking carbon out of the atmosphere in the second half of the century. It's not going to be by mitigation actions in the next few decades. So I'm still kind of being quite a… I'm a Paris fundamentalist looking at two degrees. And I think going in, you know, coming out of Paris, the commitments and the action and the trends were about three degrees. And since then, I've seen more technological developments. And I've seen a tightening of ambitions and net zero pledges, which are only pledges right now. So, I'm looking at going, you know, we're probably going to be a if I had to, you know, give one number right now, I would say we're probably on track for about two and a half degrees with some uncertainties, etc. But you know, that's a win compared to Paris, and it's going in the right direction. So why are you so, you know, and it may be that you're holding, maybe you're really committed to the one and a half degrees, maybe you're the real fundamentalist going for one and a half degrees? And inevitably you're going to be disappointed, because we're not going to deliver that we're never going to get there.


ER: Yeah, I am, that I come from a green perspective. And I think two or three things. One of the success in Paris, I think, because the smaller nations, Leicester countries came with this, they were the ones who really push the getting to 1.5 degrees in Paris and got it into the text. And actually, the science backed them up in a sense in the later 2018 IPCC studies showing that actually, that's the right thing to do, we do need that scale of ambition, the risk of those tipping points, which will only know we've crossed when we crossed is real, and therefore, caution, and staying below that are giving us a percentage chance of staying below that tipping points been crossed isn't absolutely appropriate approach. And now, they what's also true, you said there, and I think has come back to research around that none of us expected, the reduction in price of solar energy to occur at the pace it has, or you could pick them the whole number of other technological changes, and want to come back as well. Some of that work we did around when I was, you know, that period in the middle part of the last decade, when we were thinking about what's the story here, one of the kind of simple truths that we came to in the thinking was difficult to stop going from unsustainable A to unsustainable B, you have to have a better alternative C. You have to have, it has to be a better economy, it has to be more productive, it has to be more efficient, it has to be better results. And I forever but the issue, but look, how quickly, or can we reduce the emissions and so on or can we stay below 1.5 or get to it. And what gives me certain hope is increasingly when I look at the energy system, transport system, and communications, digital systems that I tend to work in, is that this going green, and particularly using the nature based solutions, that improve your local environment to improve your the that sense of place that lived out a sense of what's my place, like the increasing understanding that this going green, that the actions that you take, which would bring mitigation, it isn't just for the sake of mitigation, it is actually for the sake of improving your place, it's for the sake of a better economy, that this is actually going to be a better system. And, and I think that might give us some acceleration, if the understanding of that, and the delivery of that better economy can be really demonstrably shown and understood, I think that is increasing. It's not just new ways you're going for a Green Deal, when it's not just because it's good for the climate. It's a realization where we can't rely on a world where we import all the materials and then maintain our wealth, we will actually be a better economy. And it's the same for China or America or Africa. It's this is a better system. And that gives me some hope that we might be able to achieve target.


ML: But you know, no pressure. But to a certain extent, we've heard it all before, right? Because we heard the Lisbon agenda, which was Europe was going to be the most dynamic digital economy in the world by 2010. That was set in 2000. By 2005, it was absolutely clear that it wasn't happening. And then we saw what I would call the kind of wave one and you could almost call it the sort of the Connie Hedegaard leadership wave of European leadership with Germany's splurging, you know, hundreds of billions of euros, 10s of billions per year, on very high cost solutions, which ended up with it, you know, and it was, funnily enough it was, it was the UK with its kind of haphazard approach that ended up leading the G20. I mean, don't you need to deliver real manifest kind of results leadership, not rhetorical leadership, not legislative leadership, but results in terms of you know, better lives, lower emissions, better air quality, etc, etc, for citizens, either across Europe or at least in some large countries? You know, and isn't that the only thing that's really going to then get the China's the India's that Indonesia is the Malaysia is that you know, etc. Have the world to say, that's what we want to do.


ER: It's true. And I would say it's interesting, if you look at our income coming from a very much from the Green Party perspective, if I look at my other sister Green Parties who are doing well, at the moment in Germany, or in Belgium or in various countries, that still, you know, we're not the majority, but we're growing. And if you look at what's the cornerstone of what's the foundation of that success, I think it has to be shown in that we will deliver practical solutions that improve your daily quality of life, and security, and I think that is happening, that there are people in terms of when we create a better local environment for active travel that say, or partially delivering housing solutions that are really good planning and create this sense of beautiful place to live in our when we, when we do create new economies that gives workplace you know, just transition type and climate. That is the only way path to political success and not only party political success, but that is, that's the best path to political success. Now, who would be good at this and who will deliver it, you’ll have to wait and see, but I don't disagree with you that it has to be rooted in people's lived experience, it can't be just a promise of something, it has to be the delivery of that, as they will deliver it for themselves. It's not like you're… it does have a participant of element to it. So that's I think, where a lot of green politics is at the moment is delivering practical changes that improve people's quality of life. And in the process, we address the wider climate and biodiversity crisis.


ML: Well, that's a great answer. And I think that, you know, we will be watching carefully, because certainly the experience so far, where there have been green councils in the in the UK, it's not obvious, and you know, what we see what would the danger is that every time it doesn't work, it's like, oh, but we weren't green enough. And we have to double down and be even more, you know, even more participatory, of even more community meetings even more place based, blah, blah, blah, but not an actually, meanwhile, I'll be honest, some of the best run councils in the UK are actually the conservative run ones. So that's my party-political broadcast, since you're, you're promoting the greens, I'm going to I'm going to I'm going to…


ER: I can't help you, it's your job. It's not my job. It’s an occupational hazard.


ML: We're running out of time. And I got one other topic, which I do want to raise is a very important one. It's very serious one. We both agreed that democracies are the best hope and the best way to deal with this? Not authoritarian regimes. But we do have a challenge, very specific challenge in this climate transition, which is, what should our response be, to an increasingly authoritarian China? Because there are sort of three strategies that we have to deploy, we have to cooperate, we have to compete, because otherwise, you know, we're going to lose the jobs and the value that in our economies, but do we not also have to confront where there are really egregious human rights issues? How do we how do we square that circle?


ER: Michael, you're asking hard questions. That's a good question. I think we stand up for international organizations. Ireland tends… we're very small country in the world. We're on the Security Council. Now we were they're elected by smaller other smaller countries. And they don't cop out or be cowardly in it. But that's where you… rules-based systems where you where you're trying to reach cooperation is where we do it. I'm just slightly nervous about, I can raise all sorts of concerns. But I'm slightly nervous. If I'm start going back to that fundamental point I made about the nature of politics, if I meant to depict the other in a way that you're the bad guy, we’re the good guys. Wow. It's just it's slightly these me concerned. And yes, we need security. And yes, we need to stand up for the rule of law and rights, in the human rights, the UN Charter of human rights, the European Union charter of human rights. I think that's where I would go to answer that question in terms of… but do it in a way where it's still diplomatic and respectful for others. I don't I just think I'm just slightly nervous or this word of goodies, there the badies just under other colleagues of mine, who have increasing concerns in this regard? And so I don't I'm not hateful to those but I just my instinct, and maybe it's my character is my own person. My perspective is I would prefer to use international legal systems to address concerns I have rather than going beyond that.



And I think that it was a slightly unfair answer given how, you know, we've had this lovely informal chat with a nice Guinness at you’re end and a pint of beer at my end.


ER: I can’t stop speaking after a pint of Guinness.


ML: But I think that's absolutely right. You know, we have to the starting position has to be respect. And then we can work from there without I would probably from my political tradition, I would say with our allies, rather than necessarily with international institutions, which in some cases have failed badly. But it there are there are no easy answers, that's for absolutely sure.


ER: No, what we do, listen, we come from our constitutional tradition is based on a very, very closely connected to us constitutional, which is in turn influenced by UK, and not to mention our own connections with the I mean, here I am in government buildings, which was built by the UK built by the English before… we came back our independence. But in that we also inherited a UK civil servants civil service. And all these systems are talked about rule of law, independence of judiciary, independence of media. So, in truth, that's where that's our tradition. That's our motto, we have an Irish twist to it. I'm proud of our own twist, I think we've been one of the most stable, democratic constitutional republic is a republics. The tradition I come from every citizen is equal in absolutely in our constitutional tradition. But it's one that because maybe we are slightly small and not just small. But it is, it was always an international tradition, as well. And we were colonized we were. And that does change somewhat how you how you see the world, we, we come from a slightly different, I think, a slightly strange perspective, because of that history and tradition, that's when I'm comfortable.


ML: There's no doubt that all eyes are on Europe at the moment with the Green Deal and the fit for 55 package. And, and it's kind of high ambition. And there's no doubt that within the EU, Ireland is a fantastic sort of test case. And in a way the size is perfect because you can be nimble, you've got the creativity, you've got lots of advantages there. So definitely one to watch. We are pretty much out of time, which I think is good news. And I'll tell you why. Because first of all, it leaves us lots of things to talk about over when both of us can be drinking Guinness or nice lager here in Switzerland, if you get out here to London. And also it's good news because we managed to get through the whole conversation without talking about Brexit, which has to be a plus. Like a thank you for your time and good spirit in opening up all of these conversations so many and have such great interest. I'm sure that our audience will have absolutely loved it.


ER: My pleasure, look forward to seeing you in person. God bless and look after yourself.


ML: Likewise, and hopefully if we don't meet before COP 26 in Glasgow, we will meet there, I've got a few plans and I'd like to involve you in them. So that was Eamon Ryan, leader of the Irish Green Party minister in the current government for Environment, Climate and Communications, as well as Transport Minister. My guest next week on Cleaning Up is Laurence Tubiana. She's the CEO of the European Climate Foundation. And in the run up to the Paris Agreements, she was France's Special Ambassador on climate change and a representative to those talks of which she was one of the key architects. Please join me this time next week for a conversation with Laurence Tubiana.