Inger Andersen is Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme.
From 2015 until 2019, Inger was the Director-General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Before that she worked at the World Bank for 15 years in roles such as Vice President of the Middle East and North Africa; Vice President for Sustainable Development and Head of the CGIAR Fund Council.
Prior to joining the World Bank, Inger worked at the UN, focusing mostly on drought and desertification issues.
Her career began in Sudan, where she worked as an English teacher and moved to development sector in 1985 to work at the Sudan Aid.
Inger holds a BA from the London Metropolitan University North and a MA in Development Economics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
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 Inger Andersen. She's an Under Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UNEP. That's the United Nations Environment Programme. And she's a former Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Please welcome Inger Andersen to Cleaning Up. So Inger, welcome to Cleaning Up.
Inger Andersen: Thank you. Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure.
ML: Now, you're in front of a UN Environment Programme backdrop there, but you could be anywhere in the world. Where are you in fact?
IA: I am in beautiful Nairobi. And if you listen intently now you can hear the birds sing outside because dusk is coming. And there's always this chorus bird song that comes right around this time. So, you know.
ML: Tremendous! So if it gets really loud, we'll pause for a second, so you can point it out to us. That's great. So, I am actually in Switzerland. It is half-term. So, we're out here in Switzerland, I'm just down the road from a place that you know well, which is the Lake Geneva area, because of your time at IUCN, correct?
IA: Exactly. I was head of IUCN for four and a half years and spent a lot of time in Geneva, but also a lot of time on the road, as you well know. And then in 2019, I moved to Nairobi, Kenya, which is where the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme is, we've been here since 1973. And it is actually the first ever UN headquarters in the Global South. Everybody has heard of New York or Geneva or Vienna, but who knew? Well, we've been here for 50 years come June.
ML: It is actually my favourite UN agency, I shouldn't have favorites. Of course all ones children should be loved equally. But the reason for that is apart from the work that you do, which we're going to talk about, it's also that when I was building New Energy Finance, I met the team that was working. It was the unit, the UNEP Finance Initiative, Eric Usher and so on, and they worked with me, they gave me the mandate to produce the global renewable investment summary. We did the first one, I think in 2006 or 2007, very early on. And it's still going today, there's the global overview is produced every year. And it's become something of a Bible for how much money is being invested in renewables worldwide, and in the Global South, of course, as well. So, UNEP holds a very fond place in my heart because I was building this company. And it was a little scrappy startup. And suddenly, I was working with the UN and it gave me enormous kudos, at least in my mind.
IA: Well, you know, and that work under the UNEP FI, under the unit Finance Initiative, since the early days, when you were involved, it is grown and grown and grown. And today, we have over 400 financial institutions signed up on under UNEP FI verify seeking to shift, not seeking, shifting their portfolio towards as the SDGs and towards obviously, net zero, and we've got the pension funds sign up, we've got investors, and of course, banks. So, it is quite extraordinary what UNEP, a relatively small UN organization has managed to do. And you were one of these early pioneers in this in this work.
ML: Well, I think and I think that UNEP FI that was as well, I think, you know, at this time, we're talking 2006 2007. Now, you've got things like GFANZ fans, you know, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, you've got all of these principles. Well, PRI goes back to about 2011. But this pre-dates that by a long time. It doesn't I mean, this was really the first time that we were trying to bring sort of environmental thinking and financial thinking together. And it was very early in the day.
IA: It was very early in the day and exciting parties that now you know with fantastic leaders, Mark Carney being one, but many others, I should say across the world, both on the sort of treasury side, but also on the CEO side as stepping into this space. And that's what many investors seek, right? They, especially pension funds, because you want to be able to cash your pension when you're 90. And if you're investing in stranded assets or stranding, it might not be so smart, but also the insurance industry for the same reason. And of course, investors, asset owners, so each of these Principles for Responsible Banking, Insurance, etc, the GFANZ and Net Zero Asset Owners Alliance, each of these that we've sort of created, are beginning to know, are creating that momentum,
ML: We also have to mention the TCFD. That's another big one. And it's funny, because you're right now you have these fantastic leaders, you have Mark Carney, whom you mentioned, and actually tried to work with his people to get him to come on to Cleaning Up at the moment. But then, you know, Larry Fink and everybody's reading his letters, and Larry's talking about climate, net zero, my former boss or acquirer Mike Bloomberg, as well. And funny how the world sort of pays attention when they speak in a way that in 2006, when little old Michael Liebreich and the UNEP FI spoke, I mean, we could lay so good groundwork, but we weren't quite as influential at least, you know, in those days as, as those people are today. But rather than spending too much time reminiscing, could you give a thumbnail of what UNEP does, because my audience tends to be… they're incredibly smart. But most of them are generalists. Some of them will know more about the history of UNEP, you know, certainly than me maybe even than you, but most of them are generalists. So, could you talk about what it is that you do? What's the range of things? And where are you in the world, your headquarters in Nairobi, but where else do you operate?
IA: So, um, in a sense, you know, when the world got together in 1972, saying, look, we have all these other agencies, but we do not have an agency for environment. That was at a time when, you know, we had acid rain in Norway and Scotland, where you had bubbling rivers in Europe. So, the impetus for establishing unit, I think it's fair enough to say was the pollution and the poverty dimension. But very early on, obviously, the sort of green dimension too. And so today, I would say that we are the environmental conscience of the world, it sounds a little bit arrogant, but you know, this is where member states meet, to talk about the state of our planet. We are therefore the global advocate for environmental matters. We work on these three dimensions, we speak about the triple planetary crisis, the triple crisis, environmental crisis, the climate crisis, which we've touched upon, briefly, the biodiversity and nature loss crisis, and the pollution and waste crisis. And all of these are driven by our unsustainable consumption and production. And so, understanding then, that we have to take action on these three things, on climate on nature, and all that belongs to it, and on our pollution and waste. This is how we can deliver a longer term sustainability. And through the years, lots of conventions have sort of come out of unit, the one that most people will know about is, of course, everybody heard that when the 80s, there's a hole in the ozone layer is going to cause cancer, this is a runaway climate dimension too and it's going to have all these negative impacts, and it's caused by all things, you know, gases we know. So CFC gases and others. And so, one of these conventions, therefore have been slowly phasing out these gases and thus repairing if you like, the ozone layer, but we also have the convention for biodiversity, the conventions for, for, for chemicals, the Rotterdam, Basil, and Stockholm conventions, the one that deals with mercury. So each of these are sort of woven into the tapestry of UNEP, these conventions that we host. And of course, people are very familiar with the climate convention, which is so big that it has its own identity and doesn't sit with us.
ML: That's the UNFCCC, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. So was that spawned out of work of UNEP?
IA: It was certainly part of the conversation within UNEP, but it has always had its own identity because of the concerns around it, whereas its sister convention that were also created in Rio in 1992, the Desertification Convention and the Biodiversity Convention started out as being part of the UNEP journey, and biodiversity still proudly hosted by us.
ML: I'm just feeling bad because now there's some others out there, there's the Ramsar wetlands, there's, there's some others that, you know, that are going to fall, you know, just because there's just too many to mention. And, and you'll, you're worried that you'll kick yourself afterwards. Or you'll get flack from one of your sort of member conventions or fellow conventions. But it is, well, unless there's any others that you think you should mention?
IA: Look, on the biodiversity side, people might will your listeners will know about the Biodiversity Convention. But long before that, in 1972, the world came together and said, look, we got to deal with that issue of transboundary species, species that move across boundaries and so there is a convention that deals with migratory species, and also with legal and illegal wildlife trade, the CITES convention, everybody will know that you can't trade the ivory, but then 92,000 species listed under that convention, which again, is hosted by us. Ramsar, by the way, is hosted by my old organization IUCN. And they're doing brilliant work on wetlands.
ML: Oh, okay. Now, I mean, it is worth maybe just a very short sort of diversion around the way the UN is structured, because I think lots of our lots of our audience won't really know that you have each of these UN agencies is set up by its own treaties. It's not like an organization, that organization say, alright, we got a problem over here, we're going to create a new division. This is not a corporation, is it?
IA: I mean, no, there was a UN resolution back in 1972 that established UNEP. Just like other agencies have been established, some prior to the UN, like ILO, the International Labor Organization established in 1910s. But others post the United Nations being created at any rate, we saw a UN resolution 1972 following the Stockholm conference as our reference, then the world's member states of the United Nations said, look, we got to deal with this. And we got to deal with it in a multilateral setting. And after some negotiations between India and Kenya, actually, Kenya put up its hand and said we would like to host and here we are. So no, it's not like, member states have to decide if they want another organization and once so decided, it rolls out accordingly.
ML: Okay, so a couple of takeaways so far. One is that there's a lot of conventions. Either you run them, or they're sort of sister organizations. But there is a fierce amount of work going on. The second takeaway is climate, biodiversity in nature and pollution. And just briefly were, how are you set up around the world? How many offices have you bought? How many people have you got? How much do you spend?
IA: So we have about what latest count 45 offices, and our headquarters here, a big presence in five regional locations, in each of the sort of regions of the world, as well as significant presence in Geneva and Paris. Our total budget, including what we call regular UN budget, plus voluntary contribution, plus projectized is around a billion just under a year. And that rolls and much of that we mobilize on a year to year basis. Our core budget is sort of the skeleton staff and the rest are funded by these additional resources. We have very generous donors who, based on their based on what is called voluntary indicative contribution, say if we give this much to the UN, we're willing to give a percentage equivalent of point something equivalent to UNEP. So, this is how we live. But we also live by our smarts we have many partnerships with people who are not part of the UN, but who want to work with us, universities, academic institutions, scientific organizations, etc. Because, yeah, the blue flag behind me is kind of something that they also would like to get involved in. And obviously we don't pretend to have all the science that we need to do our work.
ML: Well, I wanted to get on to the role of science in your work because there is also a sliver of my audience and a sliver of the public who thinks that all of this is just campaigning, it's a political agenda. They, you know, some of them the crazy and they go off and they talk about agenda 21 that we're all somehow supposed to have tattooed on our, you know, somewhere unmentionable, and that this is, you know, this is not the case this is this is science work in action, is it not?
IA: I mean look. So, climate science, you know, we are proud hosts of the IPCC, the panel of scientists that comes out with the definitive best knowledge that we can have. And of course, we’re also the proud host of IPBES, which is sort of the twin to IPCC that deals with biodiversity and nature related ecosystem science. And we also host something we call the International Resources Panel, and Chemical Panel. So, each of this you have scientists from across the world, essentially bringing that science together and say, what is the best that we know today about this particular issue of climate, nature, chemicals, pollution, waste, resources, etc. And that then becomes part and a very clear foundation for our work. So, we work on science and published quite a lot in that field. But we work in what we call the science policy interface, right? Because science just stands. And today's yesterday, science gets better tomorrow when new science comes along. But when we have science that stands and this is the best we know, today, we need policies and laws that can help countries actually have the sound policies to you know, get vaccinated, or have safer roads, or find better ways of using energy or not trading this particular chemical.
ML: Protect the mangroves, or, or whatever it is.
IA: Science has told us that this is a smart thing to do. Ban this chemical, because unborn children are born mis-formed, whatever it is that the science has told us, is a pretty good thing to deal with that in a law in a regulatory setting. So that science policy interface is what we work in, obviously, bringing the best science and then supporting countries with environmental laws on any of the above and much, much more. And so much of the sort of legislative framework that you see in national settings, especially in the developing world, we have a huge law department that deals with environmental law, and has been enabled and supported, obviously drafted at the national level and adopted to national circumstances, but with the elements of UNEP’s environmental law programme which has been active for over 30 years, in many countries, supporting countries, and right now, because many of the laws and on the books, it's hard for judges to actually educate because, you know, they were educated before environmental science became a thing. And anyway, they've educated the law. So we have a programme that works with judicial dimensions with judges, so that they can better understand elements of toxicity, and I'm in danger of an extinction and, and risks and on the biological side, as well as on climate related issues.
ML: Well, that's right. And maybe we'll get back to a couple of those questions around how the science goes through the IPCC and informs policy. That'd be a very interesting topic to follow. And also, this point about how do you adjudicate there is, of course, the growing science of attribution of damage to climate change, which is inevitably finding its way into the law courts. So maybe we will, we'll come to that. But I want to, I don't want to dive in instantly into just aspects of your work on climate, I want you to have the chance to give the overview because you've played a very active role at COP 26. And you published some very important reports in the run up. And in a sense, you've been the keeper of the score, right? You produce these things called the Gap Reports. There's the Emissions Gap Report, how much are we emitting versus how much we're allowed to. There's the production Gap Report, how much fossil fuels are countries producing and planning to produce versus how much they ought to. And then very interestingly, the Adaptation Gap Report and adaptation hasn't come up on Cleaning Up very much. And I think it generally sort of tends to be a bit shortchanged in the discussion around climate. So perhaps, you know, talk about your work on climate change, and where do those three reports say it and what did they say?
IA: No, exactly. I mean, you mentioned this sort of trilogy of gap reports, emissions, adaptation, and production. And what we tried to do in every COP, and frankly most for it is really push. And yes, it is a scorecard is a report card. How are we doing world? We said we were going to do this, what are we actually doing? And so if we start out with the emissions gap report, which you know, we always release immediately prior or shortly before the COP this year, we were pleased, again, to have it released together with the Secretary General. So that said, you know, lots of things, but just that we had, what so what, so we took the NDCs, these national determined contributions, these promissory notes that countries have put into Glasgow, saying, this is what we're going to do, we agreed in Paris, we're going to come back five years later, with our promises. So, these indices, we took them and we sort of looked at, okay, if we want to hit 1.5 degree, what should we have done? And what are we promising these NDCs. And what we could see is that, with these NDCs, we had shaven off seven and a half percentage point of our emissions. And if we wanted to hit 1.5, we should have shaving off with the projected futures, of course, 55% reduction.
ML: This is but this is by 2030, or by when?
IA: By 2100, right? So, we need to have projections by to get by one to 1.5, we need to look at an aspire to and deliver a 55% reduction. And so far, we're
ML: Just sorry, if you can clarify for my audience, apologize for interrupting 55% reduction, I thought we need to get to net zero. That's not that's 100% reduction,
IA: Sorry 2050. Of course, 2050 by 2050, I just thank you for clarifying.
So let me just restate that. So, we should, we must see that the totality of the reductions by 2050, were at 55%. So that we would be put on a trajectory at 1.5 by 2100. So that was the story I should have said. And we then had shaven off at this point in Glasgow, seven and a half percent during the during the actual COP, some updated pledges were made. So, we landed at an 8%. But it's an immaterial difference, that really is negligible. The issue here is then I mean, I can promise on January 1 that I will run a marathon in December. But what do I do with between February and December? And this is a conversation that the world needs to have. So, if we said we were going to do these things, and we and we have sort of saying yes, yes, yes but in 2040, we're going to do even more. But we need to see the action year on year from now on through. It's especially in this decade up to 2030. So that we can actually begin to level off. So long story short on the Emissions Gap Report, but it sort of looks at where are we at this moment in time? And are we on track? And the answer is no, we are not on track with the NDCs, we can then sort of broaden it out because there are other promises and we can add a few pluses. And then we look a little bit better. But it's all academic, because actually what we need to see is a phasing out now and a phasing in of renewables now. And that's then when we step into the other report that you mentioned, the production Gap Report, this report just takes the 15 largest oil gas and coal producers who are together responsible for 75% of our global fossil fuel production.
ML: At the country level this is?
IA: No not companies, countries, this is US and Russia and Canada and so on and so forth, Indonesia and China and all those countries 15 totality that have a total that produce a total of the 75% of all hydrocarbons, all fossil fuel production. So, when we take that and we say okay, the published plans of these countries and therefore, the companies behind the countries, when we take by country with a whole bunch of companies, what is it then that they are planning to do and how consistent or inconsistent is that with 1.5 degrees and here, if we wanted to learn at 1.5 and 2100, we would have need to have seen obviously a reduction but rather what we saw in this report was 240% more coal, then what production projected than what is consistent with 1.5, 57% more oil and 71% more gas than what is consistent. And that, of course, even though we saw a slight decrease in coal, right, it's not enough to get us to where we want to get. So that's sort of what the production gap report says.
ML: So what we've got then is the countries are saying, like, we agree with the targets. And we promised that in some sort of out years, we will do all sorts of things, and we'll hit the targets. But meanwhile, they're planning to increase their, or at least certainly produce too much fossil fuel. And then presumably, some of them are saying, oh, but it's not for us, we'll be exporting it, we will be very virtuous. You know, I'm not looking at Norway, but I'm, you know, there are other countries also, even Canada, and others say, well, we are we will ourselves be on track for net zero, but there are others. And, and so we'll be exporting. Is that a fair summary of what you’ve found?
IA: That is a fair summary. There is a to do item for those economies. And if we take it into the G20, just the G20. Leaving aside other countries, then the G20. is responsible for emissions aew about 76% of all global emissions. And then yes, there are historical different, different historical trails of emissions, right with the wealthier countries, obviously, having a much longer trail, and with the sense in some countries of the injustice that, you know, yes, you got to being wealthy by amongst others using your hydrocarbon. And yet, you're not putting money on the table in terms of climate finance, nor are you putting incentives and sitting you're also telling us not to use our hydrocarbon. So there has to be a conversation around this. But and that's, of course, part of what the financing conversation is all about climate finance, but the production gap tells that story. And then the last report that you mentioned, speaks to adaptation gap, and it's much, much harder to work with. Because, you know, so here, essentially, we look at all right, if we wanted to finance fully the adaptation that we need to withstand the climate increase, that we can see, then we would need to see much greater investment. So what is the investment gap? We invested just under 80 billion in 2019. From climate finance, right, and we need to see much, much, much higher per year investments on climate adaptation, around 300 billion or so we would expect will need to be invested if we are heading at 1.5 or above, and it could very well hit the 500 billion per year. Now, we promised back in Copenhagen, in Copenhagen declaration back in 2009 COP15, that by 2020, there shall be $20 billion on the table every year for climate finance
IA: what did I say 120? But I know what you meant, yes, I meant definitely 100 billion by 2020, I get my 2020 model in here, as the sun is sitting in beautiful Nairobi. So at any rate, we said 100 billion by 2020. And as you know, we had just these 70 billion in 2019. So we really have to now deliver what we promised so long ago.
On that, I mean, I, I don't I wouldn't call it pushing back. But I could push back a bit and say, you know, we got to 80 bn, 79 point something billion in 2018 and 2019. And then of course, COVID hit. So you know, there was this huge amount of, you know, outrage about missing the 100 billion. But first of all, we got 80% of the way there, it's not 100. It's not to say we don't have to hit the 100. But also in the teeth of a pandemic. I'm more forgiving of this. That doesn't mean that I don't think it should get to the 100 and go beyond. But I worry about it. The reason why I worry is because I'm on the UK Board of Trade, and I see $20 trillion of trade. And I see the role that that trade could play in climate action both in making it cheaper to import solar panels, batteries, smart metres, whatever, etc. But also to make countries wealthier, so they can become full partners in this rather than recipients of aid conditional on dealing with climate or whatever. And so I see an enormous I see a sort of almost a ritualistic focus on the last bit of commitment from 20. What was it to 2009? Yeah, but not seeing it in the in the round of where resources really could be collected and applied to this.
IA: Correct. But then we have to, now you mentioned COVID, take that into account, right. So, this $13 trillion to $15 trillion stimulus packages that the West gave to themselves, which we understand to keep the economy's going. So much of that money was an opportunity missed, because it did not, it could have gone into actually aiding these companies in the middle of the pandemic, I grant you that shift and I'm talking companies in the wealthier world. But you're absolutely right, the incentives and how we can use trade and global tools such as trade, and trade instruments to drive a much better and much smarter climate regime is interesting, unfortunately, and you will know that sitting on the Board of Trade, the trade negotiators go into a trade negotiation largely with an adversarial and not with a how can we ensure that we produce the solar panel in this place? Or how can we ensure that so it is more of a protective stance many of these trade negotiators take. So climate folks need to get into trade and trade needs to get into climate. That's the part that we haven't quite managed to solve yet. I'm optimistic with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the head of WTO.
ML: And I'm also tried to find a way to get her on to this show, we haven't had a number of trade experts, James Cameron, whom I'm sure you know. And Angela Francis, fantastic experts on trade. And also Tony Abbott, which is very interesting conversation, because, you know, he approaches it as somebody who fundamentally is pro trade, but sees a lot of the attempts to kind of bring in climate and environment as a sort of an attempt to slow down globalization and actually ultimately impoverish people, I think is how he would see it. And, and I can kind of see both sides of that discussion. So that was a fascinating conversation. But coming back to climate, can I ask you with the benefit of everything that you see? Are we winning? Are we making progress? I guess that's a related question. And are we winning?
IA: We're too slow. But yes, you know, we're tracking and increasing, you know, we’re tracking an increase investment in renewables, we're seeing the price of renewable being very competitive. We are slowly moving incentives, but not fast enough from fossil fuels. We are seeing these NDCs making the promises, but now we need to see the actions. We're seeing the banking, and we talked about the finance sector stepping in, and we are seeing shareholders sort of vote for the future, not for the past. So that's good. But you know, this was COP26. And, and because we skipped the year is actually 27 years. You know, I was I was in early COPs, right, wearing different hats and single digit COPs if you like. And in that time, I was one of the voices very opposed to even the adaptation as a sort of thing, right? Because why would we adapt when we knew perfectly well, back in the early 90s, that we needed to mitigate? So we've let this slip away from us in ways where it has just gone too slow. I realized that that's the way of the world that, you know, the prevailing interests are those that will often dominate to other prevailing interests sort of overtake them. So yes, we are moving ahead. But this is a minute to midnight, and we have to see real leadership, especially amongst these the G20 countries, and especially, of course, amongst the highest emitters and the wealthiest countries and take climate across. You’ve mentioned trade, but take it into everything. So that we understand that it is an existential issue and not one that we can dilly dally around anymore.
ML: Let me let me play devil's advocate there. And I could paint a picture that's much more optimistic. Because at the end of the day, we are now at or around peak emissions, right? We've got this kind of drumbeat in the media and amongst the activists saying that emissions are just soaring, soaring, soaring, simply not true. The data shows that actually emissions overall have been approximately flat for the last decade, energy but also from the natural world.
IA: But that's not the answer.
ML: That's not net zero, but it's not in the public discourse. And, you know, there's we've now all glommed on to one and a half degrees, and one and a half degrees, you know, would be clearly better from an environmental perspective. But it involves tradeoffs. If we invest in one and a half degrees, that means surely we build fewer schools, we build less infrastructure developing.
IA: Well, I have to disagree with you there. I'm sorry. Because first of all, yes, even if our emissions are not, you know, on a steep increase, this is not like the other the older emissions have just gone away, right, we need to think about what is the total emissions that we can pump into the atmosphere, and then we will tip across it right, and we pump about 50 to 55 GT of CO2 per year, if we want to stay at 1.5 degrees, we have a carbon budget between 400 to 500 Giga tonnes left, that gives us eight years to reach that net zero, sorry, the 55%, so that we consistently broken the back of this, if we do not do that, then we will by the end of this decade have bypassed for sure the 1.5. And then it would be much, much harder to climb down. And of course, the irreversible impacts would have happened. So yes, emissions may not be on a steep incline. But that is not the thing to celebrate. The thing to understand is that how much we have pumped into the atmosphere, and therefore it's already hanging out there giving us that projected temperature increase. And under 1.5 you know, it depends, I mean, who we've just been through COVID, we've had unbelievable costs on the public <inaudible> we couldn't imagine. And this money we found by borrowing from the future, of course. But what do we understand that by bypassing 1.5 the kind of situations we're seeing now with forest fires, inundations, high winds, all of that stuff, and the most vulnerable people having to move some of the area's becoming unlivable, that that would be sort of a constant. That's a question, right? And I think we may not fully have understood what a 1.5 degree or 2 degree world really looks like. And of course, you know, the big delta cities, from Bangladesh to Nigeria, would be severely impacted, and would send other people on the move and misery and conflict that will follow thereafter. So, we need to see it in that whole setting. So, I'm pushing gently against this one, I'm afraid.
ML: Look, it's a fascinating discussion because also you focus very much on the NDCs, the nationally determined contributions. And those are the sort of legal documents, the dossiers that the countries, the companies, you know, lodged with the convention in Paris are now five, actually six years because of COVID later in Glasgow, those NDCs now add up to something around the latest that I think is 2.7 or I think it's 2.4. The NDCs after Glasgow, but there are also all of these net zero pledges, which would then bring that number down to 1.8 degrees. That's, you know, 1.8 is not far from 1.5. Setting aside, of course, they have to be delivered, we've already said they have to be delivered. But you know, I say if I wanted to be optimistic, I would say well, you know, if you actually look at the commitments that countries have made, generally, they have fulfilled them, because technology has gone faster focus by CEOs by ministers has been applied, and countries have met their commitments. So, I mean, do you not have to be sort of fairly churlish to suggest that we are not going to get at least somewhere close to that 1.8?
IA: Now, look, I mean, my job is to push, right? I am not going right now, it adds up to what it adds up to and the consequences are, I mean, yesterday, we launched the IPCC session of working group two that is going to come out with the second report that deals with adaptation and resilience, right. So that will come out, I think, later this early March. And so, we had the physics, if you like, in the working group one in October when we launched that. So look, I mean, there are consequences to the trajectory that we take. I am very, very pleased to see the prices of renewables dropping the investments of the banks happening the activists on the street pushing and governments leaning in. And the fact that voters are in most many countries, especially sort of countries that have where there is a discourse around climate taken, they've taken climate into the voting booth, right? Which is, which is really, we really good because that is at the end, how we will get some of these shifts happening at the policy level. So, all of this is good, and we need more of it. That's all I'm saying. And we need to go faster. That's what we need to do.
ML: Right. And I agree. I'm in a sort of strange position, because I agree with that. But also, I'm quite deep in the weeds as anybody who follows me on Twitter, of what the IPCC scenarios actually say. And it's an extraordinary thing because most of the science that gets covered in the mainstream press and all of the science that is relied on by Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion, and the Sunrise Movement, it all originates with a scenario in the IPCC ensemble called RCP. 8.5 It's this extreme scenario, and the fact is that we are tracking RCP 4.5, which is one of the mitigation scenarios and in fact, if you look at a lot of the literature, it says we have to deal with climate change because RCP 8.5 is so disastrous. Let's please push hard to get onto 4.5. All right, and I go out there and I say 4.5 is where we are now. It's disastrous. It's very bad. We need to get below that. But I do I suppose I can't miss this opportunity. While I've got you and IPCC is part of UNEP, you've said. Why does the IPCC continue to center its research as it does unequivocally on RCP 8.5. And to leave us in a sense flying blind because what we really need is lots of granularity about the area sort of we're on 4.5 and improving for all the reasons you've just mentioned. We need so much more granularity about how to improve from where we are not how to avoid some disaster scenario, which we're frankly not on track for.
IA: Well, I think I mean, this is again, where we need to look at the production gap report and look at some of the facts that are out there right and look at what these many, many promises of net zero will translate into because so far, that is not a given. So, as you well know, because you look at this in great detail, the percentage of likelihood of the scenarios are provided. Now, the IPCC is an intergovernmental organization…
ML: Inger, I have to come in the IPCC does not put likelihoods on the scenario. They have, they've started to trend that way a little bit, but they have resisted fiercely saying RCP 8.5 is improbable to the point of total implausibility. You won't find that in the documentation, and it frustrates me, I'd be honest, it's obvious it frustrates me because, again, and again, you have people talking about catastrophe scenarios and climate breakdown, which is not where we're headed.
IA: They speak to the probability and that's very important. And I think that is where they give the sort of percentage likelihood. And I think that that matters significantly. I think at this point, IPCC is a conglomeration of 193 member states, the best scientists that can be offered from these member states. And I really would not like to go into why they decided to do what they do, because I think that there you have thousands of scientists from institutions across the world, I cannot agree with you to question their science. I'm sorry. I think that their IPCC is work stands. And no one no one has a serious scientist and published anything that would that would put to question that so then we're going to have to agree to disagree, I'm afraid.
ML: But I don't question the science in the sense that, you know, if you assume, right, that the emissions go to so if you assume that the coal industry grows by a factor of 10, then their science is completely robust. It tells you exactly what will happen. But I'm an energy expert and I interact with energy experts, not one of those energy experts thinks that RCP 8.5 is remotely plausible. Not one.
IA: I’d like you to invite the IPCC Chair to your show!
ML: I had him on and he agreed. I had Jim Skea. I had the co-chair of working group three of the IPCC. And I pushed him as you can imagine quite hard and he accepted that for RCP 8.5 to happen, you would need to essentially promote vast increase in the use of coal. He's you know he, it's clear right now. that. And yet this this is the central scenario that appears now. And it's, you know, it's not it's not the science, it's not the kind of what happens if it's why focus the debate on a scenario that is so extreme, and I'll tell you why I want to move on from it. Because what I worry about is that it distracts attention from pollution, plastics, biosecurity, lots of other things. But we're sort of overly focusing on these catastrophes
IA: That's in your world, but it's not in the other world of policymakers, I'm sorry, when we speak with ministers of finance, when we understand what the pollution cost is to the general economy, when we see what the asthma and air pollution is shaving off the health, and therefore working days, when we look at some of those dimensions, in both in terms with ministers of economy, and ministers of finance, you are seeing an amazing support now, that is lining up precisely to address for example, you mentioned plastic pollution, we have seen in the last 20 years, the air pollution just drastically dropped. Right. Why? Because it was seen that it has significant health impacts on human health. So no, maybe because you are very much in the energy world. And this is a no it is not sucking the air out of the of the room. I think that in fact, what has happened is that overall environmental awareness, in part by climate has significantly increased. And I think that there's an understanding of intergenerational justice, economic cost of failure to take care of things. Biodiversity is more difficult, I will give you that. Because you know, you lose a butterfly or you lose an orchid, what does it matter? I think it's when you're seeing in these countries where, for example, pollinators have disappeared, insects have disappeared, you have to do mechanical pollination, all of a sudden, there's a real cost to that in your agricultural productivity or where you erase your tropical forests. And therefore the rainfall changes or climate is accelerated, or soils eroded then. But I will give you that ministers, it upsets us longer to get the nature crisis on the agenda. But even there, it's interesting to see that there is an awareness. And and you know, every person of my age in my 60s, will know that, you know, when we were kids, and we were driving, there were insects on our screen. And now there are none. And I mean, that is within one generation where we have lost so I think even there, but no, it's not sucking out the air of the room at all, I would insist on that.
ML: And I've seen the kind of the zeitgeist change on all of these issues. So forgive me for pushing you. But it's something I was working on air quality, before I got on the board of Transport for London, 2010 2011. And it was a lost issue. It wasn't it was not a big issue. And now of course, it's absolutely a critical issue in London and elsewhere. I want to finish if I may, because I know that you have a hard stop. One of the other very important issues where the weather has changed, the Zeitgeist has changed, but probably not far enough, is around gender and inclusion. And I know that that's something that you have worked on both sort of the topics of gender and climate, gender and the environment, but also within your own organization. Where do we stand on that? How are we doing? You know, we, we sort of, we've lived through the MeToo movement and Black Lives Matter. And everybody thought it was this great dawn, and that finally these problems would be kind of resolved. But then we also see sort of backsliding, and some of these terrible stories continue. So where are we?
So I mean, look, I mean, in the part of world where I happen to be sitting now, Africa first of all, is women are likely to carry the brunt of climate change, biodiversity loss. They are the often those providing nutrition for the family collecting the water, sitting in and cooking on an indoor store with firewood, and therefore breathing in very dirty air. So I mean, we still have a long way to go. I think that what we've seen on the global stage is women have more and more taken the microphone not wait, wait for it to be given to them, which of course is really good. And we are seeing more and more women ministers and women leaders and women CEOs that kind of get that being pregnant and in a climate changing world may not be the smartest thing or being pregnant and, and care or caring for a family. Not that the men don't care, but you're actually physically carrying these babies. So I think that there is a greater awareness around this now, have we arrived? No, but we will never really arrive, we need to make sure that we just work on inclusion work on when it comes to youth intergenerational justice understand, you know, hidden bias, whether it's on race and environment and, and environmental racism and environmental injustice, or whether it's on the gender dimension, I think they're slowly we were making some progress. And I think, you know, there are many women who have gone before me and really been the pioneers in this field. And, I mean, you go back to Rachel Carson, you know, there are some giants, Indira Gandhi, some of these giants that stood and spoke for, for nature, Indira Gandhi, for pollution, and Silent Spring. And so I think that it is a journey, but it's still a trajectory that we are on.
Well, we have some modern day giant women leaders of incredible stature in this climate space, and I'm very lucky that I've had some of them here on Cleaning Up. So, we had Christiana Figueres. We had Rachel Kyte. There's too many to mention, frankly, and so I won't try and enumerate them all. They're in the they're on the website and the episode after episode.
IA: We’re a club. We know each other very well.
ML: Catherine McKenna called it the sister the climate sisterhood, and we had Amber Rudd, we had Claire O'Neill, we've had so many and it's a real privilege. And without question, you are one of that climate sisterhood and also the biodiversity and the pollution, sisterhood. Inger, it's been a huge pleasure. Thank you so much.
IA:Thank you so much. Thank you very much. Bye, bye now.
ML: So that was Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, the United Nations Environment Programme. My guest next week is Emily Shuckburgh. She's a climate scientist, a mathematician and a science communicator. She's also Director of Cambridge University's climate change initiative. Please join me at this time next week for conversation with Emily Shuckburgh. Cleaning Up is brought to you by the Liebreich Foundation and the Gilardini Foundation.