Aug. 26, 2020

Ep6: Christiana Figueres 'To Paris and Beyond'

What does it take to turn a demoralised organisation around? How to convince 195 states to sign up to the Paris agreement? What does Christiana Figueres have to say about RCP8.5 and those still believing there will be no energy transition? Find out in Episode 6 of Cleaning Up.


What does it take to turn a demoralised organisation around? How to convince 195 states to sign up to the Paris agreement? What does Christiana Figueres have to say about RCP8.5 and those still believing there will be no energy transition? Find out in Episode 6 of Cleaning Up. 

Christiana Figueres was appointed Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in July 2010, six months after the failed COP15 in Copenhagen. During the next six years she worked to rebuild the global climate change negotiating process, leading to the 2015 Paris Agreement, widely recognized as a historical achievement. Christiana comes from the most prominent diplomatic/political family in Costa Rica. Her father, José Figueres Ferrer, was President of Costa Rica three times; her mother was an Ambassador and member of the Legislative Assembly; and her older brother José Figueres Olsen, was also President of Costa Rica. 

She is also a fellow podcaster: make sure to follow Outrage and Optimism! https://globaloptimism.com/podcast/

 Links:

 Christiana’s bio on Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christiana_Figueres 

Michael’s November 2011 Businessweek Column: “Ya Basta: Stop the UN Climate Charade” http://www.liebreich.com/214-2/ 

Michael’s December 2015 BloombergNEF blog: “We’ll always have Paris” 

https://about.bnef.com/blog/liebreich-well-always-have-paris/

 Outrage and Optimism https://globaloptimism.com/podcast/ 

The Future we Choose (on Amazon) 

https://www.amazon.com/Future-We-Choose-Climate-Crisis/dp/1838770828

 

About Cleaning Up

Once a week Michael Liebreich has a conversation (and a drink) with a leader in clean energy, mobility, climate finance or sustainable development.

Each episode covers the technical ground on some aspect of the low-carbon transition – but it also delves into the nature of leadership in the climate transition: whether to be optimistic or pessimistic; how to communicate in order to inspire change; personal credos; and so on.

And it should be fun – most of the guests are Michael’s friends.

Follow Cleaning Up on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MLCleaningUp

Follow Cleaning Up on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/cleaning-up-with-michael-liebreich

Follow Cleaning Up on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MLCleaningUp

Links to other Podcast Platforms: https://www.cleaningup.live/

 

Transcript

Michael Liebreich: My guest this week on “Cleaning Up” is Christiana Figueres. Christiana
was appointed as executive secretary of The UNFCCC, that's the UN framework
convention on climate change in 2010 after the failed cop negotiations in Copenhagen.
She rebuilt the organization, she led the negotiations which terminated in 2015 with the
historic Paris Agreement.


Christiana comes from probably the most prominent diplomatic and political family in
Costa Rica. Her father was president of Costa Rica three times, her brother was a
president of Costa Rica, her mother was an ambassador and a member of the legislative
assembly. She's an extraordinary person. She's become a good friend of mine during that
whole period, leading up to and including the climate negotiations, where I was privileged
to be able to provide her with some information, which may have helped in some tiny,
tiny way. She's now leading up an organization called "Global Optimism". She's on the
board of the World Resources Institute. She's written a book called "The Future We
Choose" and she has a new podcast, which she is going to tell you about in the course of
our conversation.


So, one other piece of information. Today, as we film this, it's actually my birthday, so I'm
going to get myself a beer. It's evening here in Europe, Christiana is in Costa Rica… but
it's evening here so I'll get myself a beer, and then we'll bring Christiana Figueres into the
conversation.


Good evening here in Europe, and you're in Costa Rica, is that right?


Christiana Figueres: Yes indeed, so good morning to me and Michael. I have to thank you
because you are one of the few people, English-speaking people, who pronounce my
name very beautifully and you always have done so, and I have always appreciated it but
I have never thanked you, and I certainly have never thanked you in public so here is my
gratitude.


ML: Well that's very kind of you and I think, you know to our viewers, I think we already
can see some of the skills, some of the diplomatic skills, that led to the success that 
Christiana’s success in getting the world to the Paris Climate Agreement. Where I want
to start is actually go back to sort of the day you walk through the door, in the office in
Bonn at the UNFCCC, this is the framework body that is supposed to help the world
negotiate its way through the climate challenge, and to a deal that bends the curve and
does all the good things about saving the world from climate change, but it has been a
traumatic few months, or actually longer than a few months of lack of delivery for the
UNFCCC culminating in 2009 with the Copenhagen COP meeting, and there was such
high expectations and it's generally regarded as a huge failure. So you walk in the door,
the organization presumably is quite demoralized, what did you do? How did you turn it
around?


CF: Well you know yes absolutely correct. The organization was very demoralized, or
rather let's be very specific: the colleagues who work at the organization were very
demoralized and rightfully so, because you know that is the group of people that devotes
their entire profession, their entire life to working on climate change. Now, since then
there are many others that also do that but at that time, in 2009, most people dabbled in
or were double dipping - they did climate and they did something else, but that was the
group of 500 people who were totally devoted to climate change, and to supporting
governments to get an agreement. So of course, they were completely demoralized;
trashcan would be the best description of where their morale was, because just six
months before that we had this absolute dramatic failure. There was a failure of process,
of politics, of content, of technology, everything of everything had failed across the
board, and I was there so I was a survivor of Copenhagen. I think because I was there, I
embodied the pain and the frustration that the world had, and I always say the global
mood on climate change was pathetic in 2010, when I took over the responsibility. So,
the first thing I knew that I had to do was to pick up the spirits of my colleagues. Because
without a highly motivated, highly efficient, highly effective organization at the helm,
there was no way we were ever going to change the course of those negotiations. So, for
one year, a whole year, my one priority, and probably priorities two and three as well,
was precisely to inject the necessary spirit and energy into the colleagues at the UN. I 
remember my first day I arrived and my deputy, Richard Kinley - fabulous guy, had
organized a huge meeting with all the colleagues of the secretariat, full staff meeting. He
had actually built a little platform for me to stand up on, since I'm not exactly the tallest
person around, and he basically said: “Well, welcome Christiana, you're the new
executive secretary, and so now give us your vision”. I stood up there on the platform
and I basically said two things: number one, I consider it an enormous privilege and in
fact a blessing that we are devoted to climate change at this point in history; and number
two I am not going to work with demoralized people because we will not do anything,
and so I asked everyone to take, I handed out little cards, you know, the four by four and
I think I gave three to each person and I said: “Write down what do I have to do, so that
you can come to work every day, with a smile on your face”. Then it took me hours and
days to organize all of these cards out on the floor of my office, and out of that we
created the smile project, which was a project to deal with so many pressure issues, that
team was dealing with. It took us almost three years to deliver the entire project, but, at
the end of it, we had a highly motivated, highly efficient, highly disciplined and very
hard-working team to whom I am eternally grateful.


ML: It's an incredible story and I suppose I was kind of aware of it, because you and I
spoke actually fairly early, I had written the most horrible things about the UNFCCC
process, so you know, you thank me for pronouncing your name correctly and you're so
nice because you should really hate me, if you were aware of the thing that I wrote. I'm
gonna quote from it in 2011. It's important for people to realize just how off track the
process was. I actually wrote what is needed at COP 17 in Durban, so that was still
during your smile project years – “COP 17 in Durban what is needed is a modern day
Oliver Cromwell, someone who had no time for drama or light entertainment, who will
stand up and say to the assembled negotiators and politicians - you have sat too long for
any good you've been doing lately, depart, I say and let us have done with you in the
name of the planet: go”. That's what I wrote in 2011, shortly before you actually reached
out to me, and I think you sort of framed it as asking my advice, I'm sure you didn't really
need it, but you turned me around. It's kind of I do have some kind of window into what
you were undertaking at that point.


CF: No, I was sincere Michael actually about asking for your advice, as well as many other
people because, to be totally honest… I mean I knew that we needed to regenerate the
team - that was you know our number one priority. Then, how do you construct or
reconstruct a negotiating process, that takes everyone into account, that is transparent,
that is credible, and that delivers what the planet needed and what science was
demanding? I had no idea, frankly, no one had any idea, no one is the operative word in
that sentence - because no single person could have told you what to do. It was totally a
work of collecting wisdom and empowering collective leadership that led to the outcome.


ML: And that's very brave to say, that you didn't know at the time what was kind of going
to emerge as a process. I'm always struck by the words of Steve Jobs, who says that you
can only join the dots looking backwards. Of course looking backwards, it's absolutely
obvious what you did, you turned it from a top-down sort of
government-to-government, state to state process. We'll all negotiate one huge carbon
budget, we'll allocate it to each country, and spend 50 years implementing it, which was
sort of the Copenhagen model - very top down, and you simply turned it into a
bottom-up process where there were everybody could sort of do their bit, whether they
were a nation, or a city, or a region, or an individual, or a corporate, or anybody. It's so
blindingly obvious, but you're now saying that you didn't know that at the time.


CF: No, that really emerged out of conversations with many people, what emerged was
the wisdom of not confronting self-interest with planetary need. Because if those two
things are confronted with each other, you know which one wins. When you align
enlightened self-interest, whether it be a nation, a city or a corporation, a financial
institution, whether you know whoever it is but if you shine a light for them to be able to
understand and identify what their enlightened self-interest is, and then you look for the
alignment with the planetary needs, and with what science is demanding, now you have a
very powerful motor behind your dinghy! Because we all operate out of self-interest and 
so if you can align those two things, that actually is a much more promising space in
which to work. The issue however is, because there's always a shadow side. The shadow
side was of course that the collectivity of interest, which eventually were expressed in,
what we call, the nationally determined contributions, which is every country's
contribution to the global need; what they could promise and they could commit to in
2015 was definitely not going to be enough to meet the reductions that were needed at
the global level. That was the delta that we struggled with for quite a while, because we
were committed to this bottom up and alignment of self-interest with global need. We
were totally committed to that as a concept, but we were also painfully aware that from
a science point of view it was not enough. So that's when the second piece came in the
second piece of the logic, of the Paris agreement to say: okay, fine, in that case let us
allow for a process that increases ambition periodically (and then we decided every five
years or the government's decided every five years), where by every five years
governments come together and figure out what have they done, and how has
technology advanced, and you are the expert in knowing how that it has advanced, how
has finance advanced - you are the expert in that, and how policy has advanced and
again, Michael - you're the expert on that. But if you know those things advanced, then
countries can take on bolder commitments every five years. That in technical terms is
called the ratchet mechanism, because it ratchets up every five years, and what it
ultimately does is get to a global economy, that is at net zero by 2050, which is in
accordance with science.


ML: I think this is the brilliance. You're absolutely right, there's the sort of the bottom up,
there's the voluntary commitment but then there's the ratchet. Actually I wrote
something, I think it was back in 2007, so even before Copenhagen, saying that from a
sort of game theory perspective this idea of turning all into one negotiation was
completely wrong - because that turns it into this famous prisoner's dilemma: you get
one negotiation and if your country simply holds fast during the negotiation, and it's
called defecting in game theory terminology, then you're sort of saw this. I mean, I hate
to name names, but you know we saw this in that process with countries like Australia,
who could have done so much more, but just sat out the negotiations at that point, and
you know, turning it into the what the ratchet does is it turns it into a repeated game.
You know it's a game we're going to play every five years and it completely changes the
dynamic of the game. There's no point defecting because you know that you could be
punished next time for defecting and so there's kind of an incentive for good behavior.
So it’s sort of completely resonated with me from the perspective of you know the game
theory, as well as you know the policy and so on and of course, the fact that my
constituency mainly as I observed all this, was the business community and the investor
community. They absolutely are only interested in bottom-up sort of voluntary activity;
you can't force somebody to invest in something - that's a bad deal. And so you know I
just you know it was an extraordinary turnaround and I'm still not sure if many of the
particularly the younger viewers of this video, or listeners to the podcast will realize just
how sort of untraditional your approach was, compared to really 20 whatever it was 20
years prior to that point.


CF: Michael you know again, let's remember that this didn't come out of my little brain,
right? This was the result of many conversations, with many negotiators, with many
experts such as yourself. It really wasn't, and that's the I think the beauty and the
strength of the Paris Agreement, that it really is the result of collective wisdom. If it had
come out of any person's little brain, it would be very brittle, and not have the shelf life
that the Paris Agreement does. The Paris Agreement will be with us for decades until
we're at zero net by 2050 at the latest, I'm actually thinking that we will be there
sooner, but it is the fact that it was based on bottom up and on collective wisdom, on you
know… The way I think about the Paris Agreement as a magnum tapestry, where there
were many, many threads that came together and that were woven in both directions,
and each thread particular color that is only visible to that thread. But once you weave it
together you see the emerging figure in the emerging design that is there; but without all
of those little threads that go in there you would never have the design.


ML: Well, look, I think you're being too modest. I think that you played a much bigger 
role than you're making out there, but you know, that is how you got it done: by giving
credit, by sharing credit around and so on. I think that you know if we're going to use the
analogy of the thread, I think a few days ago was handloom day around the world to
celebrate this textile technology that is that brought wealth and jobs, and actually
clothed us for so long. If there's one person who was actually manning, moving the strap
loom during that process, I'm afraid it was you, you have to admit that.


CF: Well it was quite a few, I mean just in the secretariat, the executive team there was a
fantastic team and all decisions were always collectively taken - so there you are.
Anyway, the point is, Michael, that you know what needed to be done was done and we
did it in a timely fashion and that's I think the important part of it.


ML: But we've talked about the shifting from the top down to bottom up, we talked
about the ratchet, but really when you say, well, you know what needed to be done was
done, actually more than that was done. Because you got this extraordinary statement in,
about staying well below two degrees, holding the increasing global average temperature
to well below 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels, and pursuing efforts to
limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. I mean that was
an extraordinary achievement to get that wording in there, and I know it surprised some
participants. I want to read to you an email that I got from probably a very good friend of
both of ours. Laurence Tubiana, who was the French climate ambassador and led the
negotiations or held that role for France during that process and she emailed to me when
I congratulated her, she said: “Thank you I can't believe it. I prepared myself to be happy,
but disappointed as logic of short-term interest prevails, and finally it did not happen
talking about compromise. And it was far beyond my expectations”. Was it beyond your
expectations or did you know that you could land that extraordinary ambition of one and
a half degrees in the text of the document?


CF: No, we didn't know that we could, but we knew that we had to. It's a difference
there. We knew that we had to because we fully well understood, that according to 
science two degrees is abominably insufficient. The term you always work with at the UN
is creative ambiguity; it is the term that we use to work with words. So below 2 was the
creative ambiguity outcome of a very tough conversation about whether it was two
degrees or below two degrees. Obviously, those countries that are most vulnerable to
start with the Pacific and the Caribbean islands wanted something that was much closer
to 1.5 degrees because they know their survival depends on that, but the larger nations
wanted something that was closer to 2 degrees or 2 degrees in fact. And so the first
compromise that was reached over this long process was that term “well below two
degrees”. Because that gives the two degrees as a reference point, as the anchor, but the
well below as let's say the comfort language for the small islands. That was landed but
then, then the islands again came forward and said “well below” is just not going to be
good enough for us, because we are disappearing. The sea level is rising, it is rising right
now, it's not within 50 years and we cannot sign on to something that is our death. We
cannot do it, so they came forward, fortunately, and they pressed for 1.5. But since the
well below 2 had already been landed, we had to put a comma there and write draft
another text that would give the islands some comfort. So the political balance that was
reached is that, if you will, the hard maximum temperature is the “well below”, that's the
hard aspiration, and then there's a comma, and then there's a soft aspiration - that says
pursuing efforts to 1.5. So, the fact that there was a difference between a hard and soft
aspiration allowed those that wanted the two degree to swallow it and gave some
comfort to the islands who wanted 1.5. That's not the end of the story, because the
other very important part was accepting a 1.5 degree maximum target, that was not a
hard target but a soft one, but as part of that package to accept that was the request to
have the IPCC do a scientific report on the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees.
Because there were many negotiators who said, oh you know no big deal, there's not
that much of a difference between two degrees and 1.5. The islands knew there is a huge
difference” like survival, so they can't just stand up and say that. The entire UNFCCC is
science based, science driven, science responsive and so there had to be a scientific
study that would examine the difference between those two temperatures. Now, in the
beginning, when we brought the IPCC in, when we were considering this text we brought 
in the IPCC, and we said, guys you know governments are about to request and a study
from you that would have you quantify the difference between 1.5 and 2. Impossible.
We don't have enough information, nobody has really looked at that how many years are
we going to have, well just a few years to do that no completely impossible. Well, in the
end, they acquiesced, and you know kudos to the IPCC, they produced in October of
2018, truly within three years, the most groundbreaking, detailed study they have ever
produced. Totally for me the most important study they have ever brought on the table
on the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees. Kudos to the IPCC for that and it was an
extraordinary, extraordinarily difficult piece of work, but it has told us that there is a
world of difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees.


ML: I want to talk about that report because it was a seminal report, I mean, in many
ways you know what we see now, in terms of the public engagement a lot of people give
the credits to Greta Thunberg. But, of course, Greta Thunberg is brandishing the 1.5
degree report October 2018 of the IPCC. There are also some other, how can I put it,
less glorious moments of the IPCC's output, which I've you know personally done battle
with this kind of the RCP 8.5, the insistence on positioning these extreme scenarios, as
base cases and as business as usual. But before we get into that, I want to say a couple of
things. First of all, normally what we do, we rushed into this because you've got limited
time. Normally what we do is have a drink, or at least it depends on time zone. So, I've
got my drink here next time you're talking just to apologize in advance I'm going to crack
my beer, because it is late here and that is the spirit of “Cleaning up”.


CF: Be waiting for me up there that I could go and get.


ML: Okay, very good. The other thing is, I don't know if you know, today is actually my
birthday. So, that's one of the reasons I'm determined to get my beer because it is my
birthday.


CF: You are a Leo!


ML: I am indeed a Leo. Of course, here's the funny thing about being a Leo, is I think all
that stuff is utter and complete nonsense, it's rubbish. But I am a completely typical Leo.


CF: Well, here is my little confession. It was my birthday last Friday, and I'm also a Leo,
and I also think it's rubbish, until I catch myself doing real things.


ML: Yeah, exactly. Been there, done that. Absolutely, I know exactly that feeling. So…


CF: That's wonderful a fellow Leo. I love it. Well happy birthday to you.


ML: Thank you very much. Thanks, that's very kind and with that I will crack my beer. I
want to come back to the question of 1.5 and 2 degrees, and also the more extreme
scenarios, the 8.5 scenarios, because just you know these get very technical, very quickly
and I always think it's helpful, particularly if our audience isn't that technical, to sort of
translate it into what has to happen. So, as I look at it, if we're gonna do 1.5 degrees,
essentially the global economy has to be decarbonized, has to be net zero by 2050. If it
takes longer than that, 2075, 2080, 2090, then we could be on track for two degrees; but
if we're not decarbonized by around, then we'll be north of two degrees. And then just to
complete the picture, where we are currently headed according the UNEP, the United
Nations Environment Program, right? It's a very good report about the gap, and they say
we're at about three degrees, maybe a bit over three degrees. I'm more optimistic than
for instance the IEA with their scenario, so I think we're probably on about three, maybe
2.7, but of course there's uncertainty it could be as high as four or four and a half
degrees, even within that envelope. But then you get these very extreme scenarios and
the one that's becoming famous, is RCP 8.5 which is based on massive growth in coal
use, leading to five to seven degrees of climate change by 2100, which most people, who
are kind of in some way expert, think is actually it's gone from being unlikely to being
frankly downright implausible. And yet it underpins so much climate communications, so
we've got this huge range from where we're headed, which is about three plus or minus 
half a degree, probably, where we want to be which is under two and one and a half,
because of the huge difference, but just most of the communications is about these sort
of five degrees to seven degrees - extreme scenarios and, I mean, I suppose I'm gonna
frame it now as a question with that preamble saying: well, how do you know you're an
optimist, right? Your business is global optimism, you won through by being optimistic.
The smile project and yet so much communication is about how bad it's going to be, and
how terrible, and how, I mean not to put too fine a point on it, how screwed we are?
How do we get out of that and on to a more motivating and more positive, sort of arc,
which you know that will help us to deal with this problem?


CF: Well, a very good question that I ask myself every day, actually. Now, let's start with
acknowledging that we are definitely in a transition, a very difficult transition between a
heavily carbonized economy and a decarbonized economy. That's good, it's good news,
that we're in a transition, if we weren't transitioning, we would really be in deep trouble.
Now all transitions are messy – by definition, and all transitions have data points, easily
available to anyone, that belong to the previous reality, the status quo reality, as well as
data points that belong to the future reality, because that's what a transition is all about.
And so, for me, this is all about a choice. Do you choose, I mean, you can ask me or you
can ask Michael Liebreich, who actually knows more about this than any other human
being: give me the top five data points that prove that we are going to continue to burn
coal. And you can give me those data points. Then I will ask you, give me the five data
points that prove that we're actually in an energy transition toward renewables, and you
can give me those five data points. Now, my choice is: I don't deny the data points that
would convince some people that we’re staying in a reality, which for me is already a past
reality. I don't deny that that is true, but I choose to focus on the other data points, I
choose to focus on the data points and the references of the evidence that we're actually
moving forward. And it is a choice, Michael, okay, it is a choice. It is a choice, that we
make every day. Do you want to fill your mind with all the bad news because there's
plenty of that? Or do you want to be more strategic and go out there, and look for the
good news? I choose to be more strategic without denying the bad and look for the good 
news. Why? Because I want my energy to push those elements of transformation
forward and I invite everyone listening to this to do the same! Because there is a huge,
huge power that is developed by our choosing a reality and that's why our book is called
“The Future We Choose”, because we are choosing the future, and the more we
consciously and intentionally choose a good future, a future that is stable, that is healthy,
that is productive, that has more jobs… then we're closer to making that a reality. The
opposite is also true.


ML: It's what I'm going to have to try to remember, these wise words next time I get an
argument on twitter. Because the promise I chose to found New Energy Finance and to
focus on the technologies of transformation, and I agree there is a transformation and I
spend most of my time trying to either kind of commentate on it, maybe even to
accelerate it by providing information. But you know, when I look at what some of the
people are saying, you say that you know there are facts that would show that we're
going to burn all this coal. I think we're beyond that. You know, when you look at some
of those scenarios that are based on a seven to ten times growth in coal use, when you
look at a scenario RCP 8.5 is based on not going to electric vehicles, but going to coal to
liquids. I mean, it's just deeply embedded in that scenario and I can't just say, well, you
know, you can focus on that if you want, because you know what's happening is, we are
being bombarded with these stories. Over New Year my daughter Alfie, whom you know,
came to me and said: “Daddy, I'm very upset, because all of the penguins are going to be
extinct by 2100”, and I said that's terrible but wait a minute. And sure enough, you know,
we dug into the science, and it's based on a scenario of an energy pathway, that is totally
and utterly ridiculous and people are trying to traumatize my daughter with that scenario.
So, I just find it very hard to be as calm as you.


CF: No, no, no, and traumatize adults also. Now, the fun thing about this, Michael, is that
you don't really have to, let me say, a psychological discussion on this. I mean, if you want
to, you can, but the economics are on our side, right? And that to me is really the
watershed. When we know that two-thirds of the coal plants in the United States simply 
are not competitive anymore against renewables, and you can go up and down the line,
right? I mean, coal in India is completely non-competitive against solar and once we get
to that point, the same thing is true now with electrification of vehicles, and we just pass
the million mark, just two days ago one million private charging stations installed around
the world for electric vehicles. I mean, it's very exciting, why? Because they are becoming
much more competitive, more interesting, more reliable, et cetera, et cetera. So, all of the
hard-nosed arguments, which are cost, operation, reliability, all of that is on our side. Yes,
we can have a psychological discussion about this, but, once you overlay the economic
realities, then you know which future is going to win out. Now, those that choose to stick
their hole, they stick their head in the ground and deny that all that is happening, I mean,
at some point, Michael, I don't know how you deal with these people, but I just sort of
bless them and let them go. Because they're never going to change their mind.


ML: I'm dealing with two kinds of people, though, in my role because I deal with the
people like that, who say “no, no this is all nonsense and it's not gonna happen”, but I also
do people who actually are kind of climate hawks but want to pretend we're in a worse
situation than we are. We're in a perfectly bad situation, we're not going for two degrees,
which is awful as you say, we're going for three degrees right now. The reality is to
pretend that we're doing something worse because they've seen extinction rebellion,
they've seen the agenda, you know, sort of resonate. And so, then they attack me when I
say well look, can we please focus on the problem we've got. We don't need scary
stories, we just need to be sufficiently concerned and, as you say, then we need to sort
of acknowledge that there are other solutions and let's move towards those solutions. I
mean, I'd love to hear more on that, but I'm just concerned time and if I might, I want to
get you on to one other topic before we run out of time. That is, when I look at the Paris
Agreement and I look at the run-up to the Paris Agreement to me… and I'm not making
this up, I really see it as a a women's agreement, it was women that played the key roles
at so many stages, up to and including that deal, yourself of course. But then, there was
Anne Hidalgo, who was mayor of Paris during the negotiations, played a key role. There
was Connie Hedegaard, who was the EU climate commissioner until 2014, shortly before 
the deal. There was Laurence Tubiana, we've already mentioned, who was the French
negotiator, there was Amber Rudd, who was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate in
the UK, and then of course, you know, cascading down through the climate world and
through clean energy, there are so many leaders and then, right at the last minute,
Laurent Fabius came in and signed this thing, right? And that's how I see it. If you could
comment on it, am I right that this thing was driven by women leaders, sort of after the
men failed, or is that just too glib, am I just being sort of too woke for my own good
there?


CF: Not fair, it's unfair, Michael. It's unfair because, honestly, just because you mentioned
Fabius… he did a brilliant job. I have seldom witnessed and been a part of such
enlightened political acumen as his. Very impressive, very impressive, the way he could
read the politics, the way he could guide the politics - from the back sometimes, from the
front, are really truly, truly impressive. We would not have the Paris Agreement without
that political acumen, so, you know let us not minimize the role of abuse and also, it's not
minimize the role of men. Yes, there were many women, and you named a few, there are
many, many others. Rachel Kyte, me and you know…


ML: Rachel was our second guest on “Cleaning Up”, Rachel's also a great friend.


CF: Well, but here's the thing, Michael: why do we name the people, why do we name
the women, right? Because it happens to be unusual, that there are women in any space,
at any, let's say, influential level. That should not be the case! We should have 50%
women, 50% men, making it completely impossible, or at least unnecessary to put names
on the list. The fact that we can put names on the list, and the list is incomplete, means
that we don't have 50 and 50 yet, right? Honestly, I really think that we did a good job in
bringing more women into that negotiation, but we are not there yet. Because
everything, every single decision, every single boardroom table, every single negotiation,
every single event needs to be 50 and 50. Absolutely! Because that is the only way that
we're actually going to be able to harvest the full potential of society. There are 50 
percent of us, or 51% women and 49% men and, so, let's call it 50-50. So, we should
have 50-50. Input and be able to gather the whole potential of society and not rely on
the 50% male input, that has definitely been able to attract most of the education, and
most of the professional development opportunities over thousands of years - this is not
just now. We have to catch up on the women's side, so that we can, given, the scale and
the complexity of challenges that we have ahead of us. We need full potential being
harvested and being deployed, and if we continue to only harvest and deploy 50%, which
are the males, we're not gonna cut it. We're not going to be able to solve this. So, we
have to be able to harvest and deploy a hundred percent of our social, economic, and
brain potential.


ML: I couldn't agree more. I think you know, I'm on the boards of a couple of
organizations, that try to achieve that, and I think certainly today we also need to
acknowledge that the same goes for minorities. It's not totally…


CF: Thank you for that!


ML: Yeah, that's something working within the UN, you see a lot more inclusion on
minorities but the moment you step away, the moment I've worked with the UN, and
then in the energy industry, the moment you step away from the UN corridors, it starts
to get very, not just very male, but also very white. And that has to be acknowledged and
dealt with. Rachel and I talked about that quite a bit on our session. Look, I probably only
got a couple of minutes more of your time. I know that you're busy and you had to run to
something. There's just one final question. I want to ask you we've got COP 26 coming
up in Glasgow. It was of course put off because of the COVID situation, which in my
view was a blessing, because it gave much more time for a new prime minister, Boris
Johnson, to get his arms around the issues and the challenges, and frankly to up his
game, so that we could deliver something very meaningful. The preparations are
underway there, if you had any messages to any of the stakeholders going into COP 26,
there's unfinished business still from Paris. The article six about sharing voluntary 
arrangements between countries, offsets between countries and so on, finance is still a
very open issue. If you had any messages, what would it be for the stakeholders going
into COP 26 in Glasgow next year?


CF: I think I can boil it down to a very simple message: wake up to the possibilities. We
have been talking about the burden of addressing climate change for long enough. We
understand that there is a shared responsibility here. We have not delved in with the
equal depth, with equal enthusiasm into the opportunities. The fact that we can create a
completely different world, that is safer, that has more jobs, that is more stable, that is
more productive, that produces more food, that has, you know, much smarter
transportation, that makes better use of our time, that has a better urban scape for living,
for people who live in urban areas on and on and on and on. I mean how exciting is that.
We have the most exciting possibility of any generation of human beings ever alive. No
generation, and it includes several generations, all of us adults right now and there are
several generations, we have never ever, ever had the technology, the capital and the
knowledge of the policy to make such a huge impact and such a positive impact. It is like
the nature is raining opportunities on us, raining opportunities, and we have to be able to
catch those opportunities and make them real. Because otherwise it's going to really turn
on us. So, wake up to the opportunities and get excited about a world that is so much
better!


ML: Christiana, just very briefly. You've got a new podcast, it's called “Outrage and
Optimism”. Tell us what it does and why all of the audience of this podcast should
immediately go over and find your podcast and subscribe to it?
CF: Yes. Well, after listening to Michael's podcast I definitely recommend you go over
and listen to “Outrage and Optimism”. We've been on the air for over a year, have
incredibly wonderful people there as guests and we operate out of the premise, that we
need to be outraged, but what we have not done yet, and optimistic about what we still
can do. So listen and enjoy.


ML: Christiana, it's always incredibly fun and incredibly. It's fun it's informational and it's
inspiring talking to you, it's absolutely perfect way to spend an hour on my birthday.
Thank you so, so much for joining me. If now all we need to do for COP 26 is take those
words of yours and turn it into a program that everybody 190 whatever countries can
come and sign. You've done it once, who knows, we may need you to come back and do
it again. But meanwhile…


CF: There are many people are doing a great job, but Michael thank you very much. I
appreciate the opportunity for a conversation on your birthday, what an honor for me.


ML: No, the honor is absolutely mine and I hope once this pandemic is over, we'll get a
chance to do this in person; either in London or maybe in Costa Rica.


CF: Yay, much better! Thank you!


ML: Thank you, good evening, good night. So that was Christiana Figueres, and for those
of you who are not familiar with her style, and her way of doing business, perhaps you
can understand why it was, that she was able to push the world, 190 countries to sign
the historic Paris Agreement in 2015. Our guest next week is someone no less
extraordinary than Christiana Figures, but in a very different way. He flew around the
world in a balloon with a co-pilot. They were the first people to do so. As if that wasn't
enough, he then flew around the world in an electric airplane, again with a co-pilot. He
comes from a family of adventurers, his father and his grandfather both went higher than
anybody had ever done before, and also deeper in the ocean than anybody had ever
done before. I hope you'll join me next week for a conversation with Bertrand Piccard.
Thank you.