Climate Change


Climate Podcast: Behind the scenes at COP26

We’re back for the second episode of Generation One: The Climate Podcast and this week we’re behind the scenes at COP26. Our hosts Matt Winning and Mark Maslin are recording live from COP26 in Glasgow, tune in to hear them chat with a whole host of guests and talk about everything from melting ice caps, to sinking islands, to the amount of coffee at the conference...


UCL Minds  0:02  
We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.

Jhenelle Williams  0:10  
Countries like Tuvalu and quite literally sinking, and it's very, very hard for countries like the UK or the US to conceptualise that

Robbie Mallet  0:20  
we're standing in the Methane pavilion right now.

Angelica Johansson  0:23  
I've noticed that this year has a lot more free coffee. That has always been a scarce resource that previous carts.

Robbie Mallet  0:30  
Yeah, and helping out with the Cryosphere pavilion.

Mark Maslin  0:35  
Go Bev! Come on.

Matt Winning  0:40  
This is the generation one podcast from University College London, turning science into action. Boys and gentlemen, welcome to the next episode of UCL generation one I am wearing. I am joined at COP 26 by Mark Manson, we're both year mark, this is your first day.

This is my first full day and I can tell that Matt's ready on day two, and he's already forgotten his own name. That's how amazingly busy and crazy cop is.

It's been quite full on this, however, describe it as far it's hard to describe to people until you arrive here It feels like I mean, I don't know if other people have been to the Edinburgh Fringe before, but it feels like that, but for climate people.

So I've done quite a few cops. But this one feels a bit different. I mean, the only way I can describe it is imagine that tension, you have a Cup final, and then just keep that going for two solid weeks when people are literally running around talking to people engaging with people. And they've got that sort of slightly wide eyed, scary look in their eyes. Because, again, I think at the bottom of everybody's heart, everybody knows this really matters.

It's interesting that you say it's like a cup final. I do like that analogy. It does feel like a cup final. I'd wonder if Cup finals would be better. You know, football, obviously, if we're talking about would be better if you know the teams were negotiating what the final score was going to be? Do you think it's because it's in the UK? Maybe that the UK media is more focused? Or do you think it's internationally?

I think it's very international. I mean, there's lots and lots of press from all around the world. And I think what really feels different about this cop is this is not a negotiation to get a starting agreement, we already have an agreement. What this is, is a negotiation about how do we operationalize. And that's something that we don't know how to do. But I think what people are missing is the discussions underneath because what we're actually trying to negotiate now is how do you decarbonize the whole world, in a fair and equitable way. And let's be really honest about it. 80% of the world's energy now is produced from fossil fuels. So we're talking about 30 years to completely reinvent our infrastructure, our energy production, and our society. And so now we've got the Paris Agreement, countries are looking each other go, yes, we really agree. This is brilliant, but we have no idea how we're going to do it. And actually, the Paris Agreement has set that scene and this call is really exciting, because it's about negotiating. What are the rules of engagement? What are the accountancy rules about who can claim what it's all the really boring, nitty gritty bureaucracy that's going to save our planet? Ultimately,

it's a good point. I think what the media often work for is some sort of big headline splash thing and what really, as is a lot of detail, and hopefully we'll try to bring you some of that detail over the next two weeks. I'm here for the first week marks here for the whole time. Hopefully, we'll bring you some other UCL people. Well, we're here as well as interviews with interesting people we meet along the way. We haven't seen any world leaders yet. But Ed Miliband has been very loud in the background at the moment. He's got his own podcast to do 

I waved at John Kerry. He didn't wait back.

didn't wait back at Mark. Well, that is a shame. I did already within think two minutes of being in I did see Greta Thunberg and Nicola Sturgeon having a photo opportunity with each other. So you know, we're rubbing shoulders with people here, but we're also sort of sat on the floor recording a podcast at the same time. So that's cop. We'll be back with some more speech soon over the next week. I mean, for you, it'll just be the next bit of the podcast, but for us, it'll be days later, probably.

UCL Minds  4:37  
In the time it takes to work the one kilometre length of the cop venue, you could play your part by pledging your climate action@ucl.ac.uk/climate-change

Matt Winning  4:52  
Good afternoon, I am here with UCL honorary Senior Research Fellow and head of energy supply at the IEA Dr. Christoph McGlade. And know that I've done your introduction. That's the end of the interview. There's no more time for anything else. Thank you very much for joining me yourself. 

Christoph McGlade  5:15  
Great to be here with you. Whoa, it's been so far. It's been very interesting. There's been I think, lots of interesting, concrete things people have announced committed committed to Yeah. We're standing in the methane pavilion right now.

Matt Winning  5:29  
Yes. Methane been a big announcement so far.

Christoph McGlade  5:33  
So it's 100 countries have signed up. And that number was increasing by the hour, just prior to the announcement of the pledge. 

Matt Winning  5:41  

Christoph McGlade  5:42  
So very good to see they've all signed up. 

Matt Winning  5:44  

Christoph McGlade  5:45  
Obviously, somebody to do something about the emissions now. Yeah. Signing up as one thing. Doing something is another. Yeah. But yeah, that's very positive progress. We we saw the announcement on coal yesterday as well. Yeah. And obviously, there's also been a number of announcements on new countries reaching net zero.

Matt Winning  6:02  
So there's been a lot of announcements so far. And the I have done some quick analysis on these announcements and come up with where this might take us in the future.

Christoph McGlade  6:11  
If you just take what everyone has said. They were doing. Yeah, up to that date. 

Matt Winning  6:15  
If you take everyone after word after word, 

Christoph McGlade  6:16  
it's a very big F. Yes. And it's a big assumption, but let us see what it means. Yeah, prior to COC, we estimated up that led to attempt to raise about 2.1 degrees right. With the methane pledge with the net zero pledges. You know, India's now in announced something Brazil's announced something Russia, putting them all together. Now we're at 1.8. It might be the case that now, climate Congress has become pretty boring. It's all about technologically How do we do this? You know, what's the sorts of things we could think about, but it's all about implementation, rather than the ambition to target to there, and now it's about actually doing itdoing it. 

Matt Winning  6:53  
Okay. Well, thanks very much for stopping by and chatting at the meitheamh pavilion.

Good afternoon, it is Wednesday, the third of November, and we are at COP 26. Still, I'm Dr. Matt Winning. And I'm here with UCL delegate and PhD student, Robbie Mallet. Hi, Robbie. Hello. How are you?

Robbie Mallet  7:20  
Yeah, I'm good. I'm slowly getting used to the atmosphere and the timetable. Having fun.

Matt Winning  7:25  
Yep. Glad to hear it. How? What are you? Can you tell me what you've been doing so far?

Robbie Mallet  7:29  
Yeah, I'm helping out with the cryosphere pavilion. So cop 26 basically happens in this giant hangar full of full of booths. And one of the booths or pavilions is dedicated to the cryosphere. So all the world's ice and the way it's melting,

Matt Winning  7:42  
you're like, trying to get a guest, politicians policymakers to talk about ice, is that correct?

Robbie Mallet  7:50  
Yeah. So politicians are naturally elected by countries so care a lot about what happens in their countries, and also what happens in other people's countries. But the Arctic and Antarctic often fall outside national boundaries. So it's very easy to forget about the cryosphere and the ice that's so important to the world's climate

Matt Winning  8:07  
there's been already some sort of deal on reducing methane emissions. Is that relevant to the Arctic?

Robbie Mallet  8:16  
Yeah, methane is formed within a category called short lived climate forces. And the Arctic is very sensitive to those. So there are other ones like CFCs, black carbon, other industrial pollutants that we really care about. So we're pretty pleased about the methane deal. But the big prize and the one that we're all thinking about is carbon dioxide reduction.

Matt Winning  8:36  
Right? Okay. Can you tell me Robbie, what it is that you in your PhD actually look at.

Robbie Mallet  8:42  
So I spend my time looking at sea ice from space using satellites that are put up by NASA and the European Space Agency. And in particular, I look at how the sea ice is thinning. And for a long time, we've been looking at how the area of the CIS has been decreasing. But now we're really starting to focus on how it's also decreasing in thickness from often several metres to 10s of centimetres. And that's really important because the area of the sea ice has halved over the last 50 or so years. But the thickness is also hard. So we're at 25% of total now.

Matt Winning  9:11  
that is actually really interesting. I hadn't quite realised that you're often I've heard of, you know, the sea ice extent reducing and you think, oh, yeah, sort of shrinking from the outside in. I guess it's a bit like someone balding around the side, but not noticing how much their hair is actually standing on top. You got a look at the whole picture, the whole head here

Robbie Mallet  9:32  
exactly, this ball about the whole head of hair. And that's a really, really nice analogy. It really plays on the male anxiety. So I think I'm gonna steal that one.

Matt Winning  9:40  
Excellent. Thank you very much for your time, Robbie. Enjoy the rest of COP.

Robbie Mallet  9:43  
Yeah, you too. Thank you.

UCL Minds  9:44  
You're listening to generation one at the cop 26 Climate Conference.

Matt Winning  9:53  
I am in the action hub at COP 26 I mean, it sounds more exciting than as there's better factional but not like nobody's fighting each other. And I am with Angelica Johansson, who's a PhD student at UCL, and she is working at the UN f triple C, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to get that, right. Yes. She that's our PhD. So you, this is your being here. This is part of your PhD. Is that right?

Angelica Johansson  10:22  
Yeah. So I'm following following the loss and damage negotiations. It's a basically a mitigation of adaptation. And there's this new thing called loss and damage. So I'm studying that.

Matt Winning  10:33  
So awesome. Damage, if I'm correct, when you're the expert here wasn't damaged is basically when you can't mitigate, or you can't adapt to climate change. And essentially, you're, you have to just go who this this is going to be lost to climate change.

Angelica Johansson  10:48  
Yeah, so it's some, some would argue it's a third pillar of the UN f triple C, architecture. And it's kind of beyond what we can adapt to. But lots of damages a concept is really broad. And in it, it's covering mitigation, adaptation, risk, risk management, and and everything beyond that a patient. So it's a interesting and very broad Political study.

Matt Winning  11:14  
Okay, so what have you been up to? So far? Well, you've been here, we're in day three,

Angelica Johansson  11:20  
D three, Wednesday, what have I been up to? I have been so because the negotiations haven't been open to observers. Because of the high level three things, I haven't really been able to follow the negotiation. So I have been spending a lot of time in the observer space, trying to understand how people move in the space and which involves hanging around.

Matt Winning  11:42  
You know, your job's essentially, hanging around? Yeah, touching people. Yeah. And then writing a book that was pretty sweet. Sounds like a nice thing to do a PhD? Or is it different from other cops?

Angelica Johansson  11:56  
Not really, it's the weird thing with cops. They're all different. They're also like really the same. So I haven't been in the green zone yet. I've only been in the kind of Blue Zone area, and the pavilions are here, the action hub, which I'm not really sure what we are doing here, but there is cameras and people sitting working.

Matt Winning  12:17  
There's a lot of media as well, people sitting in chairs, some on the floor.

Angelica Johansson  12:20  
I've noticed that this year has a lot more free coffee. That has always been a scarce resource that previous cops, right, yeah, but what I've noticed at this coffee is that chairs tend to be scarce.

Matt Winning  12:31  
So there's coffee available, but not much of a place if you want to rest rest your feet essentially. Yeah, that's good. Good. Okay. Well, should we leave it there? Is youth D, cop 26. And Mark is here with me once again.

Hi, guys. Yep, I made it back into cop.

Yes, getting in and out has been a lot of fun.

Well, it's not really getting in and out of COP itself. Because if you if you time it right, the crowds, and all the queues are much less. But actually today, it was actually getting to the centre because there are incredible protests going outside. Always, what amazes me is the amount of energy I mean, this is a protest that actually stretches for over a mile, just standing and the amount of noise and celebration there is incredible. And I was saying to Matt, actually, I walked into the Conference Centre for the first time I went all a calm, quiet place, which I can't believe I said that about cop. In my youth, the protests were angry. bricks were being thrown all the time, you know that there was a real angst and I would say underlying, sort of like violence of protests in the 80s. Whereas now actually, it has a much more festival activity. You know, it has a real sort of like, optimism, it they they know that once they gain control of the country or countries, they're going to change things. And so it's it's a really different atmosphere.

Yeah. And you're going to try and speak today with one of your younger masters students is here.

Oh, so one of my fantastic masters students. Jhenelle is brilliant. She's from Jamaica. And she's so cool that she's actually in the Jamaican delegation. So she has much better access than either now i She has a platinum card into the negotiation. So I'm going to be sneaking a chat with her sort of to see what insight she has from the frontlines. Great.

I mean, this is probably a good point to cut to that interview.

So I'm hearing cop 26 and it is day five. I'm here with Jhenelle Williams, who's one of our incredible masters students at UCL and she is also part of the Jamaican delegation. So You know, how have you been finding cop 26?

Jhenelle Williams  15:03  
Well, this is my first cop. It's been a very interesting experience so far, especially being one of the youth arms of the Jamaican delegation. So it's very interesting to listen to some of the conversations and see how it feeds into some of the things that we'll be basically implementing back home.

Matt Winning  15:21  
So why have they included you in the delegation? Because I think it's fantastic that they're embracing youth and sort of like dynamicism. And obviously, some of the best students at UCL. But what are they hoping to gain?

Jhenelle Williams  15:38  
I think the Jamaican delegation wanted to include you so that we can not only learn about, you know, what the government has in mind, and from a national scale and a global scale, but also to include us because we're going to be the next generation being involved in future cop. So if you start as young we understand the process, we understand, you know, where we are involved as a small and then it makes it better when we actually step into those shoes later on.

Matt Winning  16:05  
But is amazingly forward thinking. So have you seen anything that's been really exciting at COP there any revelations you can have from the inner sanctum,

Jhenelle Williams  16:17  
the inner sanctum. So I've been basically attending a lot of events geared towards mitigation adaptation. And as far as the small island development states are concerned loss and damage, which is actually one of the biggest conversations happening here, for small islands. So AOC has had a meeting yesterday, and a couple days before as well. And what they've been discussing is the necessity for an additional stream of funding geared towards loss and damage. They think about small islands. Shore mitigation is something that we are actually working on. Adaptation is also necessary, but so is lost and damaged. Right now, there is no specific and funding sheet for that. And it's something that they've been advocating for something that is flexible, accessible, and something that they can utilise going forward to address their climate crisis.

Matt Winning  17:08  
So why do you think that there is a need for a different funding stream? So we were talking earlier, and you were saying that there are some things that loss and damage doesn't cover what what sort of things are we thinking about here?

Jhenelle Williams  17:20  
Well, it wouldn't be beyond loss and damage, it would include loss and damage, so that funding will cover not just reclamation of land, and protection of citizens. But you're also thinking about relocation outside of the Caribbean, you have countries like Tuvalu that are literally I'm quite literally sinking. And it's very, very hard for countries like the UK or the US to conceptualise that. And so this is something that ELSS and small and development states are literally pushing for.

Matt Winning  17:50  
I also wanted to ask you've had some deep insights into what's going on in the Article Six negotiations. So for our listeners who may not know all of the UN protocols, so Article Six is the bit whereby countries work out how to account for carbon going in and going out of the system. And basically making sure there's no double accounting. So you've been sitting in on those negotiations. And you've had some really quite profound insights.

Jhenelle Williams  18:21  
So being in those negotiations, I've actually been quite interesting simply because while I appreciate that different countries, different regions have their own interests and things that they would like to change or edit in the current version of the article, they seem more focused on where they differ more than more than where they are aligned. And I think that might cause some kind of you know, hinderance as to how we move forward. I would like to think that they want to focus on the things that they agree on, so at least they can move to the stage of implementation, rather than sort of nitpick on where we may or may not agree if that makes sense. So brilliant. Thank

Matt Winning  18:58  
you so much, Janelle.

UCL Minds  19:02  
You're listening to generation one at the cop 26 Climate Conference.

Matt Winning  19:10  
Okay, it is energy day cop 26. And I am with Professor Jim Watson, who is the director of the Institute for Sustainable resources at UCL, Jim. Hello.

Jim Watson  19:23  
Hi. Hi. Nice to be here.

Matt Winning  19:25  
What are you doing here?

Jim Watson  19:26  
Yeah, so we're working with a number of universities on partners in low and middle income countries. Okay. The idea of this is to basically develop tools and methods and do research with partners in those countries to help them invest in low carbon energy and transport infrastructure.

Matt Winning  19:41  
How's that? How's the project going so far?

Jim Watson  19:43  
Well, it's been a flying start. We've only been going since January. And it's been rather frenetic particularly because of having a copy. The time it is so one thing I've been heavily involved in is basically commissioning a set of I think we've done about 40 policy briefings for the Cabinet Office in the UK Government. commissioned with a call from researchers in low and middle income countries that 1000 word summaries, everything ranging from how do you use interconnectors in Indonesia to help expand the use of renewable energy all the way through to project in Zambia, I happen to be involved in talking to stakeholders about how you align the recovery from COVID with climate policy. So as a range of briefings, they are now being fed into various offices and discussions around the world. But we had a session yesterday presenting a selected highlights of those and getting reactions to them. So that's been a very, it's just an example of the kind of speed of which we've moved, they'll eventually come out as academic papers to, but as we all know, that takes a hell of a long year.

Matt Winning  20:40  
Yeah. And I guess cops were good for that, too, sort of, it gives people a deadline, and also means that things perhaps that would become more when the academic you know, peer reviewed things, actually, you start presenting it because people are interested in what's happening. Now,

Jim Watson  20:57  
that's absolutely true. It's a bit of an experiment, because you know, I've done I've been involved in processes like this before, when the paper comes out. And then you do a short version for to read in English as it were. But, but actually, we're doing it the other way around, we're getting the the short version out quickly, we have to do internal peer review, because you have to be satisfied. It's based on real data and research and good results. But then the longer paper that is going to take, you know, well into next year, with the normal timescales of journals. But I think if something the UK Government were keen on, they wanted the kind of kudos of a good evidence base by academics, they wanted the inclusivity. So they wanted researchers from low and middle income countries to be involved. But of course, as you said, they've got that time pressure of wanting the evidence quickly for the dialogues they're conducting with these countries in the run up to cop and actually, I learned yesterday, they're going to carry those on for at least another five years beyond cop as well. So which is really nice to hear. The cup isn't the kind of end of the process, you're actually going to continue with the longer beyond that.

Matt Winning  21:55  
Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me this afternoon. Yeah, I was a pleasure. As Jeff and I are going to go off and try and listen to some people talk about phasing out call. Oh, yeah. So

Unknown Speaker  22:05  
big announcement today, and I'm looking forward to hearing more detail behind the headlines, right? Yes. What do they really mean? 

Matt Winning  22:10  
Yeah, we're academics. We like the detail like detail. Thanks very much, Jim.

Mark Maslin  22:14  
Okay. Come on. Come on. We're at Hamilton, it is a cold blustery night here in Glasgow, or I should say just outside Glasgow and Hamilton.

Matt Winning  22:33  
Yes. Yes. For under the floodlights. There's a bit of a crow. Yeah. And this is in aid of climate change.

Yeah, it is. All of this. The women's game is going on at the moment. And there's some dirty tackles going in there to see. But no, this is all about raising awareness of climate change, particularly young people worrying about sort of climate change, and that it's really causing some climate anxiety

to support young people mental health charity, and raising awareness about climate change.

And we've got sensible, we've got the leader of the Labour Party, Anna suar, who's playing on my team. Yes. But we also got Douglas Ross to make sure there's a bit of a balance, but he's the referee for the game, so I reckon there'll be some dodgy yellow cards going on. Yeah, yeah.

Gary Faulds here getting your conform to the match. I'm just at the McDonald's me at the top because the tops are teeny. I don't know, either. So don't worry. I had the Mcdonalds first as well.  

You've had the full shebang. 

Gary Faulds  23:44  
I'll make changes. I'm making changes. We should really go and warm up but it's kind of warm off here. 

UCL Minds  24:05  
Generation One cop 26.

Matt Winning  24:10  
This is Mark Maslin reporting from the heart of cop 26. We are now halfway through week two and the frantic pace of week one has died down and you can see the tiredness coming into people's limbs as they're walking around the actual cop. Now, in week long, we had some great announcements on deforestation, defunding coal, and reducing methane by 30% by 2030. But the interesting thing is that week two has started off with some really interesting announcements as well. For example, Africa announced that they were going to have power to support for mitigation and adaptation. So that's really important, because that's $25 billion. that will be given equally to mitigation, reducing the carbon footprint of industry and the countries but also equally given to adaptation to support and protect the people, there was a billion dollars promised for new facility to develop drought resistant maize, if that could happen that could feed another 200 million people as climate change bites. So what's going to happen over the next two days, is there going to be huge amounts of negotiation to try and get those top line agreements in place, so they can be a big announcement at the end of cop 26. These we hope will include the aspiration of all countries to actually go on the decarbonisation pathway, which allow us to hit net zero by 2050. We hope that that 100 billion dollars that has been promised will actually occur. And we're also hoping that all the accountancy rules about who can claim different parts of carbon emissions or carbon sinks will actually be sorted out, so we actually have the rulebook to basically make Paris work. Next week's podcast will be hosted by our very own Helen Chesky. And she'll be asking the big question, what was actually agreed at COP 26? And will it make a difference to climate change? Will we stick to the climate targets of the Paris Agreement?

That's it from this episode of generation one from University College London, turning climate science into action. If you'd like to ask a question or suggest a guest or weavers a voice note and an email that you would like to hear, then you can do that at podcasts@ucl.ac.uk. Otherwise, for more information about UCL his work in the climate space, and where our staff and students as well as our researchers are doing to make sure that we don't just talk the talk but actually walk the walk to a more sustainable future, head over to UCL generation one website, or use the hashtag UCL generation one