March 3, 2021

Ep33: Rt Hon Amber Rudd 'Leading the way from Westminster to Paris'

From the core of British politics, Amber Rudd joins Michael Liebreich for a conversation. She is the former MP for Hastings and Rye representing the Conservative party, the Home Secretary for 2 years from 2016, and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions from 2018 to 2019.

Bio

Amber Rudd is currently the Chair of the International Advisory Group for Equinor, a major Norwegian energy company.

Amber Rudd is also an advisor for several firms in the security and communication space. She is also a trustee of the Climate Group, an international non-profit focusing on climate and energy.

Prior to this work, she was at the core of British politics. She was an MP for Hastings and Rye between 2010 and 2019. She held numerous ministerial posts: the Home Secretary between 2016-2018. She led the response to the tragic 2017 London Bridge terrorist attack. From 2015-2016, she was the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, representing the UK during the triumphant Paris COP in 2015. She also served as Minister for Women and Equalities.

Amber read History at Edinburgh University.


Further reading:

Climate change: COP26 head must be made full-time role to tackle global emergency, Amber Rudd says (December, 2020)

https://news.sky.com/story/climate-change-cop26-head-must-be-made-full-time-role-to-tackle-global-emergency-amber-rudd-says-12156315  

Amber Rudd: ‘The prime minister is clearly more comfortable with men’ (July, 2020)

https://www.ft.com/content/fce1e522-a82a-42e2-bf79-57d14bbe15ed  

Equinor

www.Equinor.com  

Under2 Coalition

https://www.theclimategroup.org/under2-coalition  

Teneo

https://www.teneo.com/uk/

Transcript

Click here for Edited Highlights

ML   

Cleaning Up is brought to you by the Liebreich Foundation and the Gilardini Foundation. My name is Michael Liebreich, and this is Cleaning Up. My guest today is Amber Rudd. She was a UK Conservative MP, member of the cabinet under both Theresa May and Boris Johnson. She held a number of ministerial briefs. Among them, she was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate between 2015 and 2016. And in that role, she proposed the shutting of all of the UK's coal fired power stations by 2025, and also led the UK team in the negotiations for the Paris Agreement. Please welcome Amber Rudd. So Amber, welcome to Cleaning Up. 

 

AR   

Thank you so much, Michael. Delighted to be here. 

 

ML   

So now I understand that you know the routine, you've even listened to one or two of the episodes, 

 

AR   

I've actually found them really useful for giving me a deep dive into certain sectors. So I started with one when you had Kirsty on nuclear. And I enjoyed listening to the one recently by Claire Perry, on what to expect from COP. So I think they're very helpful. And actually, I don't want to you know, start by being too complimentary, because we may disagree later on. But you're good at drawing out the things that aren't specialist too much so that everybody can understand. You know, because this business is so full of jargon. 

 

ML   

It is, very good. And I hope that because it is evening, we're both in Europe and the protocol is you're allowed to have a nice glass of something as we chat. 

 

AR   

I have a glass of something to hand it. I am very grateful for that, having been rather prim about January, and stupidly, having done it dry, I am now making up for lost time. 

 

ML   

Also, apparently not drinking in January is now called net zero January. 

 

AR   

<laugh> Just the one month was enough for me. 

 

ML   

I didn't manage to achieve net zero, not by a long way. But there you go. Well, actually, we could have dived in because you know, you said you enjoyed the episode with Kirsty Gogan, which I think was probably episode something like episode five or around that one of the early ones, on nuclear. But I suspect we'll come back to nuclear, but tell me what do you How are you keeping busy? Obviously, you and I are... you are the chair of the Equinor international advisory group. I am on it. I'm very proud to serve under your chairship. But how are you splitting your time? What are you doing these days? 

 

AR   

So that's such a nice question, Michael, for me to start with. When I left politics, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do. Having covered a few subjects in my political career, I decided that the one that I could contribute most to, and I was just most interested in, was energy. So I decided to look for roles in the energy transition. And I found some very interesting ones. So energy is the main thing I'm doing, I'm doing a little bit of work in the cyber security sector. Because again, it's so interesting. And as you and I know, there's plenty of overlap in terms of needing to make sure that energy companies are really cyber secure, and they can often be targeted. So I have a role in cybersecurity, I do an advisory role for one of the fantastic British innovation companies. <inaudible> 

 

ML   

Darktrace <inaudible>. 

 

AR   

Darktrace, exactly. Run by really inspiring woman called Poppy Gustafsson. So that's great. And it's a huge privilege to be part of that. But otherwise, I do energy advisory roles. And Equinor, which as you rightly say, you and I are both on the advisory board of is the main one that I do. And really the one that I find most interesting, because as you know, it is trying so hard to get it right, trying to embrace the energy transition while trying to protect the dividend that supports the Norwegian welfare state, etc. and seeing how it manages to do that, and having the pleasure of working with you and other people on the board who bring a really particular expertise. It's just so interesting. It's so interesting, and I hope it's going to be useful to Equinor, and useful to, well, the wider population and public as we try and help guide them through the energy transition. 

 

ML   

And for those who are watching or listening who may not know, Equinor is the former stat oil. It's the majority state owned oil and gas company in Norway. And it truly is fascinating because it's a it's a front row seat in the transition, there they are making most of their cash flow from oil and gas, but also really working hard to think about what does an energy company of the future look like and then having all these responsibilities to the Norwegian people, it's just such a... it is a fascinating and very challenging, intellectually challenging position, isn't it? 

 

AR   

It is exactly that. Because the energy transition itself is so complicated, because there are so many consequences to taking certain steps. But in Equinor, we have, as you say, a kind of a front row seat to try and help them work it out. And because of the nature of the culture, really of Norway, they're very transparent about it. You feel perhaps potentially unlike some other oil and gas companies, they're not trying to cover anything up. They're trying to be totally frank with us about the consequences of taking certain steps and the obligations they have to certain stakeholders. So it's really fascinating. I don't know, how long will you have you been on the board or the advisory board for Michael? 

 

ML   

So I'm just about to start year three, I think in spring, it will be my.. So I'm coming to the end of my second year. And I find with these things, it was the same when I was on the board of Transport for London, the first two years, it's actually quite hard, you know, you obviously you can contribute, but you don't have the kind of intuitive sense of the organization and some of the personalities and so on. And so I feel like I'm now really starting to kind of understand the lay of the land a bit. You of course, you probably pick it up more quickly than me. So what two years for me might be, you know, less than that for you. But you're filling some very big shoes, because your predecessor. Sir John Scarlett, who after a great, great career in intelligence services... When I arrived, I mean, it was like he was conducting an orchestra of all of us minor players, and I was contributing my bit on clean energy. But, you know, I do feel, just sort of getting to really understand what the dilemmas are. 

 

AR   

Yes, I mean, he was, I think he was a very good chair, as far as I can understand. Former head of MI6, who certainly knew how to exert his authority and get information, should we say. I mean, it's been particularly challenging for everybody in this environment with COVID. But I've tried to form relationships across Zoom and Microsoft Teams. And obviously, it's not as straightforward as going and seeing people face to face. But it gets easier over a period. But one of the consequences is that as we plan each of our meetings with Equinor, I try to make sure that everybody is engaged as possible. So instead of when you might go into a physical meeting, you have an agenda, and you follow it and everybody chips in, I really try hard to script it a bit. So that Michael Liebreich comes in now and explains ABC. And then somebody else responds, because otherwise we know what happens. We're also used to doing so much on Zoom. If you're not required, or particularly engaged, you can just zoom out. 

 

ML   

Yes, yeah. And it's...they just had a change in management. So there's a lot of variables. But it's also really fascinating, because I think if you look at the oil and gas, this is not you know, we can't talk out of school and say what we discuss in our, you know, private meetings with the Equinor international advisory group, but the certainly the European oil and gas companies, in a sense, they're finishing an era where it was good enough just to be better than the other, you know, the other players, I nearly said the other guys, but you know, and that's a separate discussion about gender we need to get onto. But you know, they could be just, in a sense, the tallest dwarf and that was fine. You just have to be better than the awful things that were going on elsewhere in the world. And now in the last year, no longer than that, suddenly, it's about 'hang on a second, we're getting serious about net zero'. And what does that mean? Does that mean we walk away from the core business? Does that mean we transition? But of course, the real question, if you walk away is, well, what happens if you walk away, but the consumers don't walk away? If there's still demand for oil and gas? And we've been all holy, and walked away from that business? What does that say? What does that do to our stakeholders? Be it the Norwegian people, be it the investors and so on? It's very challenging, isn't it? 

 

AR   

It is very challenging. And the sort of the people who lobby a company like Equinor, to go further and faster on oil, on reducing oil and gas are aware of that. And I think that we have to make the case all the time. If we're going to go more slowly on reducing oil and gas than the campaigners would like, we have to continually explain why we're doing it. I think the fact that the civil society is so engaged now in a way it wasn't five years ago, in what oil and gas companies do, the speed at which they move, makes it easier in a way because there's nowhere to hide. You have to be absolutely frank about what you're plans are, and to a certain extent, and that means that Equinor has to, particularly under new management, as you say, really think through what its announcements are going to be over the next few months, so that it can really stick to them over the next few years. A lot of oil and gas companies are making really ambitious statements, more than people necessarily expect. I think that perhaps rather like some governments who make very ambitious statements, living up to them, is going to be rather different to actually making them. 

 

ML   

I agree. And I think that's one of the pleasures working with a culturally very Norwegian organization, because you really get the sense, at least, I really get the sense that they don't want to say anything that they can't live up to. And that's very different from some other cultures where you know, you make the statement, and you know, you're only going to be a CEO for five years, and who cares, doesn't really matter. And so they're taking it very seriously, aren't they? 

 

AR   

They are, and it's very much a national asset, Equinor, the old Statoil, as you rightly said. And everybody in Norway has an opinion on them, in the same way that everyone in the UK has an opinion on the BBC. So they have a lot to live up to everybody feels engaged, which puts additional pressure on them, I feel 

 

ML   

In terms of that sort of net zero 2050, here's one of the things that I worry about. I worry that in Europe, and hopefully now, we've seen the back of a very difficult, you know, troubled period, now, hopefully the US, Europe, Japan, South Korea, there'll be a bunch of countries that really genuinely, you know, engaging in the transition, particularly when it comes to the oil and gas companies that the European ones, and the North American ones will end up, you know, being really committed and working and, you know, being on track for net zero. But if the markets aren't there, if the demand stays strong, all that will happen is you'll end up with a bunch of, you know, non-Northern European, non-US companies saying, well, fine, we will just meet that demand. And by the way, they come from countries, in many cases, which have no alternatives, there is no other source of wealth other than oil and gas. So you'll end up with just, you know, the developed world abdicating or I don't know, resiling from that industry, which will then be simply served by others. And that's a big worry, I think 

 

AR   

It is a big worry. But where we as the side of the world that is trying to move away have investments working and policy to help alternatives to be produced. You know, we all know about hydrogen, and I know you have particular views on that, but the scale of investment coming in, is going to make hydrogen competitive in some areas at some pace. So in a way, I feel that the sort of the other side of the coin of what you've been describing will want to participate in that for fear of being left behind. And the other thing is that countries like, well, we already know the EU is discussing it, and the UK is looking at it, once you have a carbon border tax, everything changes, because you then start to have a meeting potentially, of equal pricing for products that have the carbon inside them. So I think that the buying power, as you were saying earlier, will start to move the price, and therefore the need to have as much carbon involved in products at least. 

 

ML   

Yeah, I just, yeah, I hear you. And I hope that's right. And certainly, you know, carbon border adjustments, and we talked about that with James Cameron on episode, I'm gonna say 25. I think it was first episode this year. And indeed, with Angela Francis also. So I've been a bit, I wouldn't say a fan. But I've been resigned to the fact that there's a role they have to play, I do just worry that we'll end up with this sort of two speed global economy, that we will be all virtuous, both on the supply side, the demand side, we'll have our carbon border adjustments, but the big parts of the developing world will both produce and consume the cheapest way, you know, and that will be still a polluting or an emissions.  

 

AR   

And that is part of the whole challenge, is it not? It's very reasonable ask from non-industrialized countries to say 'you caused this, now we're going to industrialize whatever's left of the carbon budget, we'll have it thanks. And we'll grow our middle class'. It's up to us in the industrialized world, to help them do that in a way which we hope doesn't pollute. But there is basically I think, there is a leap of faith going on here as well, which is to try to get the rest of the world to say we are all in this together. And you're going to feel the consequences as much as we are. But beyond that there is also, Michael, you've been one of the early people saying this is there is a huge financial opportunity. Don't get left behind. 

 

ML   

There is, there is. No, I'm just pushing because you know, it is something that I don't have my head around fully, you know if Saudi Arabia sits on this huge amount of oil. Or, you know, it could be, you know, Colombia with coal or any other example. And you have India or you have Malaysia or Indonesia and they all need the oil, maybe not, you know, maybe not Colombian coal, but how do you kind of, you know, other than saying, you know, come on, we're all in this together. Now, how do we do... what mechanisms are at our disposal to influence those countries so that so that they are, you know, trying to leapfrog to cleaner solutions, but also potentially leave it in the ground, which we need. 

 

AR   

Yeah, well, by only by providing alternatives, some of which aren't there. But I was listening to Bill Gates talking about his book earlier today on the news. And not surprisingly, he thinks it's all about tech. Tech has done an extraordinary gift in a way because of the advances that it's made over the past 10 years in various renewables, if it carries on like that we have cake cause to be optimistic, but there is an unknown, I do agree with you there. 

 

ML   

Tech. I'm a big believer in tech and innovation and the experience curve. Amongst all the various portfolios that you've held, foreign secretary is not one of them. But what do you do then if the tech renders the exports from Nigeria, Bahrain, Angola, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, etc., uncompetitive? Don't you have some stability and geopolitical challenges? 

 

AR   

You do, you do. I mean, that I'm sure will be on the agenda for COP this year, which is why the Foreign Office has to play such an active part. All these things have to be taken into consideration, particularly in the Middle East, particularly, we know, it's so dependent on hydrocarbons. 

 

ML   

Indeed, and that is a fantastic segue to talking about COPs. And I'd love to start with the big one, Paris. That was ,you were the negotiator in the runup and during Paris. Can I ask you what is your most abiding memory of the Paris process and agreements? 

 

AR   

Well, I think the moment we were all in the amphitheater for the final day and each country was there with its two representatives. Fabius was there at the high table with Christiana Figueres, how to pronounce her surname? 

 

ML   

Figueres. 

 

AR   

Yes, thank you, wasn't that hard. And François Hollande, they were all there. And the gavel was raised. And just before it came down, the man from Nicaragua said 'no'. And generally, Fabius was going to ignore anybody who said no, but it was difficult to ignore him. It was a rather large man shouting rather loudly. So everything was paused for a moment. And I said, what's going on? And apparently, the man from Nicaragua, representative didn't agree with such a capitalist approach to climate change reduction. And so the phone was passed around, the rumor was that the Pope was on the phone, and was put in touch with him. Al Gore was passing the phone across the rest of us were paused. And then he sat down. And we tried again, and it went through. So that was a kind of fairly dramatic end to the two weeks of negotiations. 

 

ML   

Gosh, that's almost like the scene from 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'. Does anybody object and just hope cross your fingers? <inaudible> 

 

 

But it was quite an event, those two weeks, quite a learning curve. There was a lot of hanging around. There was a lot of sort of huddles as you know, people trying to negotiate one with the other. But in retrospect, I can see that quite a lot of it was agreed beforehand. But the great thing is that Fabius didn't let people know that. So everybody felt engaged. 

 

 

ML   

How, how involved had you been personally in the beforehand, in the negotiations? 

 

AR   

Well, when I was made Secretary of State for Energy by David Cameron in 2015, after he won, we won, a majority, slightly unexpected majority. Because before that, I'd been junior minister under Ed Davey, and Ed Davey had done a lot of work. And I have to say, I felt a bit sorry for him because this was his big moment, coming into COP in Paris, and he'd spent a lot of time and effort but as is this the way of things he was ejected. Ejected, not just from ministerial office, but from being an MP. So I have to give him credit for doing a lot of the preparation. But when David Cameron made me Secretary of State  he said, 'keep the bills down and get me a deal in Paris', of course as was both know those two things became quite tricky, but I became, it was the single most important thing I was focusing on when I took office in 15.  

 

ML   

So on this show, we've had Christiana Figueres. We've had Rachel Kyte who was not a negotiator but was very involved, World Bank Climate Representative. We've had Claire, you called Claire Perry. She's now Claire O'Neill, but one of your successors as Minister of Energy. And they've talked about this thing called the climate sisterhood. And did you get a sense that was, you know, because there was so many kind of powerful women involved in that negotiation? Did you get a sense that that...were you aware that there was this kind of climate sisterhood? Or am I kind of overinterpreting and being far too woke for my own good? 

 

AR   

No, I would say that there are, there were, not so sure there are this time, more women involved in this senior conference, at a senior level than you normally see in international conferences. I expect it's still less, substantially less than half. But it was notable that there were some very senior woman, as you say, like Christiana, like Laurence Tubiana, I was representing the UK, so there was more than you would normally see. And women tend to get on with women, there is a kind of much more of an easy relationship, in the same way that a lot of senior men prefer the company, not for the company, but <inaudible> have an ease getting on with men, what we need, of course, it's 50/50, or something close to that. But it's good to see that in climate change that are more senior women than one might expect. Just on the negotiations for the UK, the most important person was not me, the most important person was Pete Betts, who was the lead negotiator for the UK and for the EU. And the fact that he was able to do both made it very good for the UK because it meant we were able to really influence and help to shape the EU position as well. So that made it extra important really, 

 

 

ML   

And he would have been the counterpart in the US or somebody like Todd Stern presumably, the chief civil servant negotiator. 

 

AR   

Yes. And Todd was also in a way, he was also the ministerial front, because he was appointed by Obama. But yes, a combination of the two, really. But Pete was the man who was absolutely steeped in it all, he's been to a lot of these conferences and really knew what was happening. So he was a huge asset to us. 

 

ML   

So we're hoping to get Todd Stern onto one of these programs. So Todd, if you're watching this, you know you have to say yes, and come on Cleaning Up 

 

AR   

For a lot of corporate announcements, as well as additional country announcements. But I think I hope it gets crystallized into something a bit clearer. Something like carbon taxes, carbon adjustment taxes, other elements to commit to, something on airline fuels, potentially something on agriculture, but there needs to be a headline grabbing ask, which they think they can deliver, if they play their cards right. And I think it's missing that at the moment. 

 

ML   

Yeah, I think there is this piece about, okay, take your net zero pledge and turn it into a formal NDC. You know, lodge the appropriate document. But you're right, that does sound a little bit sort of a functionaries dream, because once their pledge is there, the public is like, okay, that's done. 

 

AR   

Yes, exactly. So it may not be quite enough to get the razzmatazz that we had in Paris, of look what we've achieved, there's a fantastic momentum, now we move on. But it may be though, you know, just on one side, on the other side, that this year is such an extraordinary year. And it seems very unlikely to me that the COP is going to take place as the big circus event it was in Paris, with, you know, 30,000 people, huge amounts of stages, various events going, it's obviously going to have to take place on a much reduced basis. So maybe the ambition should be somewhat reduced on that as well, which is something more formal, such as what you've just described, lodging, <inaudible>, planning and having some transparency around it. I think... I don't know, I'm not really convinced myself having said that, because I think the civil society want more, I think there's a building up of a head of steam, that people will want more, and the protesters can get quite angry, nothing wrong with that. But I think that part of the process here must be to show that governments and businesses are taking action. 

 

ML   

That's right. And I think, my guess is, first of all, I hope it does take place with a bit of the razzmatazz might not be 30,000, but I really, you know, I hope, because we all hope that COVID pandemic will be, you know, maybe drawing to a close is optimistic, but because obviously, you know, we've got this vaccinations. We're now sort of understanding just how humongous the task of vaccination is around the world, you know, billion, seven, you know, 5-6-7 billion people will need to be vaccinated and then maybe revaccinated. But I am hoping that at least we will be able to travel, we will be able to meet because face to face, looking people in the eyes matters. I do have some razzmatazz, my theory is that it will mark the point where we move from pledges to how are you going to do that delivery? 

 

AR   

Yeah, I think that's true. Because I mean, you know, so much has changed in the past five years, which is, could we get an agreement? Yes. So it's not can we do it, now it's how we do it. And so what you're highlighting is that it's got to be more transparent about how people are doing it. And one of the things that the UK stands out for is having it in law, so that not only the commitment to net zero by 2050, but the Climate Change Act of 2008, which means that the government gets challenged the whole time on its carbon budgets. Phew, the amount of times I stood in the House of Commons trying to explain why we were indeed meeting our carbon budgets. But I mean, it's a bit challenging with this last one, come budget six doesn't look like the committee on climate change is quite convinced that we're doing enough yet. 

 

ML   

No, I think we're a little bit soft on four and five, I was on the Strategic Advisory Group for Carbon Budget Six. So I'm very convinced that six is robust. 

 

AR   

Well, there was a government's trying to say, well, we have overshot on two and three, so we can add those into the next one, which was a little dicey, I think. 

 

ML   

To which my response is, well, they were probably a little bit too easy, given that, you know, how easily the coal fell off the system. And we really need to do some pretty heavy lifting, because it's going to be... certainly going to get very hard. We've now moved from 80% to 100%. Net zero. I want to just ask you one thing, looking back, you've now got five years hindsight on Paris, one of the criticisms was, it's not binding, you know, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the old men, you know, I think of them as being like, I'm not quite sure I can't remember the names in, in.... 

 

AR   

Yes, yes, the two men in the balcony. 

 

ML   

Two men in the balcony! Never happy, always grumbling. Global Warming Policy Foundation everything's all wrong. And they say, oh, it's all completely pointless, because it's not binding. And now we see, five years of hindsight, what is your response to them now? 

 

AR   

I remember asking <inaudible> at the time and discussing it with various counterparts, including Todd?. And the answer is, first of all, the Americans would never have got anything binding through. So it's a case of do not make the perfect the enemy of the good. So you've got to deal with what you can. And anyway, you get people to commit, hopefully they can move to binding, like the EU is moving to binding. So it makes a big difference that much better to have binding. But if you can't get it, the next best thing is a commitment. Nobody's going to invade another country, because they're not making their Paris climate change commitments. So before you push too much for having it in law, you've got to think about what the consequences are if people break the law. So it's got to be supported by your own civil society. And here in the UK, it very much is. And the difference is in the UK, too, which is why I think one of the reasons we've been able to get it into law is because politically, it's supported by all political parties. That makes such a difference in countries where you've got some political parties that don't support it, very difficult to put it into law. So looking back on Paris, I don't think that was the problem. I think there were problems with Paris. But ultimately, it did achieve something pretty significant. And I was particularly pleased because the UK led on trying to become more ambitious. So the one half degree high ambition coalition was very much something the UK wanted, not just the two degrees. And I think that we've proved to be right on that. And that's beginning to get more airing as well. 

 

ML   

Can I ask you, look at the UK, not just over the last five years since Paris, but really since 2010? We've just been this extraordinary, and in my view, quite unexpected global leader. Was it unexpected for you? 

 

AR   

Yeah, I mean, this has been absolutely fantastic there, hasn't it? The fact that the UK got so many things, right, in terms of trying to support renewable energy and trying to take emissions off the grid. And I think that one of the reasons for that is the electricity market reforms in 2015. Creating this, both the capacity market and the contracts for difference. So creating a capitalist market structure for trying to support new policies which they could bid into for government support. I think we moved very well to deliver on that. I don't think we're the only ones though, who created you know, these opportunities, we can thank the Germans for what they did in terms of support for solar, which is extraordinary. We know that the price of solar has come down by 10 times over 10 years. So I think that other countries have done pretty extraordinary things. But the UK can be rightly proud for the legislation and the structure to support renewable energy. We've still got, as you and I know, a lot to do. But the UK has done well. 

 

ML   

It really has. And I very much hope it continues to and I will do what I can. I'm now on the Board of Trade. So I have a tiny, little role, official role in its future trajectory. It just does feel a little bit, I wouldn't say lucky, because a lot of people work very, very hard. But it was certainly very hard to predict, I would not have predicted <inaudible> I didn't predict it. 

 

AR   

I think the big, the big driver for change and for excellence is always leadership. So David Cameron was very serious about trying to do the right thing, to green the economy. And Boris Johnson now is very committed to it as well. So when people say to me, do you expect it to be a success this year in Glasgow? The answer is yes, I do. And I do partly because of what you pointed out earlier, which is there's been substantial commitments already, the momentum is moving that way. But also, if the host country's Prime Minister is really committed to this, we stand a very good chance, and we're getting great leadership from him on this issue. 

 

ML   

Well, okay, now, you use the word first, you said Brexit. So now we get to talk about Brexit? 

 

AR   

Did I use it? I don't know, it just slipped out somehow. 

 

ML   

We were never going to be able to avoid it completely. Because in the middle of all this, the UK is also leaving the EU. And I remember, I can't remember exactly how many of them, but the great and the good during that period, wrote a letter, it was just a very iconic sort of moment in the Brexit discussion, the great and the good of the environmental movement, saying this will be a catastrophe for the environment. All right-thinking environmentalists must vote to remain. But they haven't really been proven right. I'm delighted because I wrote a piece for The Guardian saying, well, no,  you make your decisions upon lots of reasons. But this is not a good one. 

 

AR   

Michael, I think it's important not to keep too many scoreboards on whether Brexit was a good idea or a bad idea. I listened to your excellent interview with Zac Goldsmith and tried not to switch off when you started congratulating yourselves, both of you on being Brexiters, for the opportunities it gave to agriculture, because it's not going to be helpful to any of us. So I think that I will try not to point out the downsides of Brexit and I will rely on the good manners of the winners, not to <inaudible> too much about what they see as the advantages. So I hope it will make any difference, in terms of negotiations I would say that, that we had a fantastic ringside seat in Paris and we influenced the largest bloc, that from environmental, it's... from an energy point of view and the environment we've lost that. However, on the plus side, we're hosting this thing. And Boris can see the great opportunity to define global Britain. Starts with hosting the G7 and hosting COP26. And being the place where these innovations and these deals take place. I hope it won't slow it down, I can see the advantages and disadvantages. And I hope that there's not too much scorekeeping for too long. 

 

ML   

So I can endorse that message because my view was not that it would be fabulous for the environment, that wasn't part of my thinking at all. My thinking on the environment was actually it's probably a wash in the sense that there are things that are going to do anyway. And you know, generally, you know, well-meaning people they can optimize within whatever structure you give them, you give them this structure, given that structure, I was just pushing back against the idea that we were going to become the dirty man of Europe, as we were back in the 19. You know, sort of in the early 70s before getting into the EU, 

 

AR   

You're right. I mean (...) we were before and so there were things like the clean water, seaside, beaches, all that. I mean, my father is not around anymore, sadly. But I remember him saying, you know, it was joining the EU that made us clean up all our beaches. But having done that, there's no reason to think that we will go back from that, I agree. 

 

ML   

And of course, you can also couch it in some academic terms around the Kuznets curve, you know, this curve where countries get wealthier, and they pollute their environment, as we all did smog in London, Chinese pollution, and then we get to a certain level of wealth and you start to sort things out. And there's no reason to go backwards on that curve just because of some, you know, whatever, you know, international agreements you're in or not in. 

 

 

AR   

I mean, I think if I were looking for the benefits of Brexit, and I struggled, I would look to agriculture, I was gonna look to fishing, but that ain't going so well. So... But I did find your conversation with Zac, on that point, reasonably convincing, so I carried on listening for a bit longer. 

 

ML   

Let's talk about innovation though, because that was much more my reasoning, as a supporter of Brexit, was to do with, you know, what we need to avoid, or to minimize the impact of climate change, but also right across the whole range of planetary boundaries, we need what I call massively distributed innovation, innovation in every aspect of our production, on the supply side, consumption, the way we regulate, you know, for things to stay the same as the saying goes from Lampedusa, everything has got to change. And so one thing we need to ensure is that whatever economic system we've got, is the most innovative possible. Now, obviously, it has to be directed innovation, it can't just be stupid innovation, in terms of, you know, there's innovation that will ram us against the planetary boundaries, but directed innovation that sorts out aviation and shipping and steel and cement and glass and, you know, every aspect, agriculture, every aspect of our lives. And that's where I just feel that the, how can I put... I don't want to turn this into a great relitigation of Brexit, but I worry about the EU's sort of natural friendliness towards innovation. 

 

AR   

Right, I mean, in a way, a big organization can't be as nimble as a smaller one. But the scientists will tell you, they need to collaborate closely, and most of them will regret not being able to do that as effectively having left. So again, I just think there is both sides of the ledger. But we're living with the results. And so I now want to try and help it, you know, I talk very little about Brexit, because I just want to make a success for this country  like most people. 

 

ML   

I have always said that, whether we're in and trying to figure out how to optimize in that regime, or whether we're out and trying to sort of figure out how to work with our European neighbors. We're not going to be European just because we're out. 

 

AR   

<inaudible> our friends in Norway, I mean, they are very successful Europeans, even though they're not in the EU. So that's an interesting model for us to admire, I think. 

 

 

 

ML   

And clearly the energy sector is one where there's been an enormous amount of whether it's technological transfer, or just trade across the borders. 

 

AR   

But they have been very close to the EU as well. I mean, I recall in Paris, I was surprised: the scale of their delegation and influence, I think they've managed to carve themselves out a very interesting, influential position. 

 

ML   

For sure, for sure. And that actually is a very good lead-in to the final little topic that I'd like to cover. Because this is something that, you know, we've talked about at Equinor International Advisory Group meetings, which is, I don't know, you could put it under the heading of the just transition. Because of course, we have to do all of this to avoid the planetary boundaries, to make the changes to our industry that will avoid the worst impacts of climate change. But we have to do it, whilst continuing the economic and social progress of the developing world, bringing, you know, women into the workforce, etc., etc. And within the developed world, without resulting in mass unemployment, and just imposing environmental costs on the broad swathe of society that (...) does not have the resilience to absorb extra costs, don't we? 

 

AR   

Yes. And we have to be aware that if we get it wrong, there will be a backlash. So we have to think about our own communities, which is why I think that the whole concept of citizens' assemblies is very compelling. And we have to think about in terms of climate justice, what is fair and right and for that we need money. And I do recall, again, at Paris that one of the key decisions was how much money the non-industrialized countries were going to get in order to industrialize in a way that uses as little coal as possible. So we need as much money as the West can try to pull together in order to help them do that. Because of course, they want to save their people from poverty, and trying to get them to do it in a way that is as least carbon emitting as possible. And we need to work hard in the UK as every country does, to make sure that they bring everybody with them. And as I say, I think climate assembly has been really interesting. And I think that as people, I'm afraid, hold politicians in not the highest of esteem, shall we say, I think getting people involved themselves in the type of climate assemblies is an effective way of making sure people feel this has been done with their consent.  

 

ML   

Okay, but you've been a Secretary of Work and Pensions as well. And that sounds great. Okay, tick, I agree. But how do you take that message to the parts of the developed world of advanced economies that have been losing out for the last few decades, which I think we all acknowledge there have been segments of the population, parts of the country that have really, really been suffering. And now you want to say, oh, join a climate assembly, you've lost your job, but be part of the climate assembly, there must be more to it than that 

 

AR   

Completely separate. You know, the fact that there are areas of this country that have been left behind has little to do with the energy transition policy, it's all to do with the policies that the government makes. And we've got to distinguish between that, in the same way that I would say that part of this countries where inequality has increased, it's also not to do with the EU, it's to do with policy decisions made by politicians. And we need to make sure that politicians are held to better account for that. And if they don't make the right decisions and help communities, they will be booted out. That's the age-old system. But in terms of costs for the energy transition, I would have policies that impose as little as possible, if anything, on the lowest paid, we already have policies that DWP manages some of them, where people get additional support for their energy supplies, if they are on very low incomes, and we need to make sure that continues to protect them. 

 

ML   

Okay, let me push you on this just to close though, you know, if you've got white van woman, and she's running a business, and you're gonna say, right, you can't buy secondhand Ford Transit for 8,000 quid, you've got to buy an electric Ford Transit. By the way, there aren't any secondhand, so you're gonna have to buy a new one, and it's 35,000 quid. And by the way, also (...) we can't have you having... your gas boiler, has you know, has blown up, and you now need to replace it with a heat pump. And that's going to cost you 12 grand, what do you say to that person? 

 

AR   

You cannot possibly have that as policy. If you want to buy an electric car at the moment, there are substantial government grants available, not just for the car, and substantial tax policies to help you pay for that car. If, for instance, you're running a small business, there's all sorts of policies in place that will make sure that the people who are on the lower incomes can get support for it. So I would make sure that if we were going to move to you can only buy a more expensive car, as you've suggested a white van in that situation, then you've got to have it supported with some government policies to offset some of those costs. There's, there's no way you can just have the costs of transition going on the whole country, you've got to have segmented so that you make it progressive.  

 

 

 

ML   

Very good, listen Amber, we could do another whole 35 minutes on taxation and making sure that the national transition is just I have no doubt with the 35 minutes, we could do a lot more than that. And I'd love to, but it won't be on this occasion, because we're sadly coming... We're out of time. But I think it's fair to say to be continued. And I'd like to thank you for joining me here tonight on Cleaning Up. 

 

AR   

Thank you, Michael. Well, if people learn half as much from listening to this one, as I've learned from your previous episodes, I'll be perfectly happy.  

 

ML   

You're very kind. Thank you very much Amber. So that was Amber Rudd, UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, who also led the UK negotiating team up to and through the Paris Agreement. My guest next week on Cleaning Up is Kristian Ruby. Kristian is the Secretary General of Eurelectric, which represents over 3,500 companies in the European power sector in 32 countries. So please join me next week, this time for conversation with Kristian Ruby on Cleaning Up.