Climate Podcast: LIVE FROM COP27
UCL Minds 0:03
We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.
Unknown Speaker 0:12
Not many people have the brains and the power of UCL and
Unknown Speaker 0:17
we have to be really careful to avoid techno solution ism when we talk about AI for climate.
Unknown Speaker 0:25
Most people you talk to know that there is something going on in Sharm they have no idea what it is.
Unknown Speaker 0:33
Action is not about some data some number for us youth. It's about how will we live in the future.
Unknown Speaker 0:45
This is generation one from University College London, turning climate science and ideas into action.
Mark Maslin 0:52
Hello, and welcome to generation one. I am Mark Maslin, Professor of Earth System Science here at UCL. Today, I'm speaking to you from Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt from cop 27, the annual climate change conference. Over the course of the next half an hour, I'm going to be bringing you a series of interviews and clips from people I have met here, and I'll be asking them for their perspective on the conference and UCLA involvement. But first, I want to take a moment to remind you how you can get involved in the podcast, and also UCLA work and campaigns. We have a website ucl.ac.uk forward slash climate hyphen change. There you will find all kinds of news, research and practical information about how your choices can make a difference. We would obviously love it when you rate and subscribe to this podcast wherever you get your podcast from, not to mention to share it with your network. We're also on Instagram and Twitter hashtag UCL generation one where you can comment. We'd also love to get your emails with comments and suggestions for future topics. The address is podcast with an email@example.com. But now let's turn our attention to cop 27 and the issues that are being discussed here in Egypt.
UCL Minds 2:22
You're listening to UCL generation one, turning science and ideas into climate action.
Mark Maslin 2:33
The cops are really four meetings in one at the heart of the negotiations that we hear about. And then there are the climate Expo with all the countries and international organisations having pavilions within the blue zone. Joining this is the green zone with art and culture. Then outside there are business to business and NGO meetings. And then there is civil society and the protests, sadly lacking in Egypt
This is week two of cop 27 Iron I'm in the blue zone. So I apologise for the background noise as it is really busy with 1000s of delegates. I'm really pleased to be here with Professor Priti Parikh, Professor of infrastructure engineering and international development. Priti, can you tell us why you feel it is important for UCL to be at COP 27.
Priti Parikh 3:38
You know, Mark, UCL is pretty special. What we can do with our interdisciplinary lens is get experts from health environment, engineering, laws, climate geography in the same room to tackle the big challenge of climate change, like no other institution can. And I truly believe that to tackle climate change. And to bring action into this. We need all those experts in the same room, we need that expertise at COP 27 and various cop events. And this cop is going to be about implementation. And part of that is good science. What sometimes is lacking is good knowledge and good science to make those informed decisions to raise climate finance to develop those policies. So I think UCL can play a leading role in enabling good science for COP. I've always heard the phrase that actually, climate change is no longer about the science. It's actually about the infrastructure and how we change everything and how we build it.
Mark Maslin 4:37
What is the key things you hope to hear by the end of the week?
Priti Parikh 4:43
There have not been announcements, major announcements at week one of cop 27. So in week two, I'm hoping for major announcements, especially announcements around adaptation for climate change, where I would like to see targeted investment in infrastructure for marginalised in vulnerable communities, in a way those communities bear the double burden of poor infrastructure and suffering from the negative impact of climate change. And I truly believe that they deserve investment in infrastructure to enable them to better to tackle climate change.
Mark Maslin 5:18
That was Priti giving her perspective on UCL's involvement at cop 27. I'm now outside the blue zone, enjoying the last rays of winter Egyptian sun. And I'm here with Zach King, an amazing communicator, and the facilitator and the energy behind the climate crisis advisory group, a group of 16 international scientists, including myself, led by Sir David King, which gives advice to policymakers and the public all around the world. You're here at COP 27 As an observer organisation, bit like UCL people say, Why why are we here? What does it matter? Do we actually make a difference?
Zach King 6:09
I think it's a really good question. And I as I think it's one we all think about, when we're here ourselves, sometimes it feels like such a big thing with so many people, how do we make a difference? But I think we do, because I think what this is, is it's community. And it's about driving narrative. And I think that perhaps what UCL and CCG have in common is we have the ability to put our own lens over the issues that we think are most important. And that's quite a unique ability, and one where not many people have the brains and the power of UCL and likewise, perhaps CCG. So when we say something's important, and something matters, people do tend to listen. And so my view is it is really important for us to be here in person. Zack, you've been here already a week, I've just turned up what a cc ag been able to achieve. What is your messaging at this cop? I think for me, we've got two key things that we're talking about. One is a just transition. And I think I'm going to focus on that one for one second, because I think it's so.. once you spend a few days here that the main thing I think you'll see that people are talking about is loss and damage. And I think it brings in ideas like things like infinite loss, which not not many people are talking about, which I think is a critical part of this debate. And for me, again, that's the power of CCG to bring these new ideas into the mix and make sure that people know about them.
Mark Maslin 7:38
So Zack, you've mentioned infinite loss. For me, this is probably one of the most important concepts that's come out in the last couple of years. Can you tell our listeners what infinite loss is and why it's so important.
Zach King 7:51
I can give what I see the story as because that's what I am I talk about communication and think about these narratives. And for me, there's something really important here, which is we're talking about loss and damage today. Of we know this, much of the global south is rightly asking for these things. But what we're not thinking about is what happens if the tipping point in the Arctic goes beyond where we are today. What happens if weather systems fundamentally change and whole countries are lost, whole parts of the world have changed? What's the what's the monetary figure that we're going to be able to put on those things? It's, well, it's you can't put a finger on it. And therefore, we need to we need to get to grips with these things today. And I think the most important thing about that is that we understand what 1.56 sits in that game and we continue to battle hard for that. Not target but worst case scenarios what we should be considering it as.
Mark Maslin 8:45
Zack it's always a pleasure to work with you and always a pleasure to hear you talk. Thank you so much and good luck with the rest of COP.
UCL Minds 8:56
You're listening to UCL generation one, turning science and ideas into climate action.
Mark Maslin 9:04
That was Zack giving his views on why observers like us are essential to the cop process. On day two of COP I caught up with Sims Witherspoon outside the cop Media Centre in the glorious sunshine. Sims is a part time UCL master student on our climate change MSc and her day job is working for Deep Mind. I asked Sims why she felt it was important for her and business to be at cop.
Sims Witherspoon 9:36
I think it's important to be at caught because of the opportunities for the multilateral conversations. You know, I often say when we're working with, you know, machine learning researchers, we cannot solve the challenges driving climate change on our own as technologists. We have to work with domain experts. I don't think domain experts can solve it on their own without collaboration. We need to understand regulatory constraints, which means we also need to be working with policymakers. And we need to be getting out into the communities that we're building for in order to understand what the challenges are and how they would use and deploy or not use or not deploy certain technologies. And I think that events like cop give the opportunity to speak across these domains. And across these expertise areas, there are policymakers here, they're members of civil society here, there are academics like yourself, scientists, and you know, folks from business and technologist and I just think it's a really wonderful opportunity for us all to chat and problem solve together.
Mark Maslin 10:40
For our listeners, can I ask you? Why AI? What can AI contribute to our struggles and our fight against climate change?
Sims Witherspoon 10:51
It's a really great question. You know, I think that AI is a really powerful tool for understanding data, it can ingest more data than you know, humans can. And so it's a really useful tool for our domain, domain experts or scientists, and even for civil society. The ways that aI think can help with the climate crisis are to help us understand the problem, you know, you see applications in nowcasting, or in forecasting for renewable energy to understand how much power will be available for the grid at any one time you see, century scale climate models using AI and ML. So that's all kind of climate science and understanding the problem. There's also the opportunity to optimise current systems using AI. Because you know, we can't just start from scratch day one, we really have to optimise the systems that we're currently using while we transition into newer and better technologies, which kind of leads to the third major bucket, which is accelerating breakthrough science, things like fusion, that that we need to also solve in order to have, you know, a nearly inexhaustible access to carbon free energy. And so I really see AI as useful across climate science, mitigation, adaptation, and you know, repairing loss and damage. But in the same breath, I also like to say that we have to be really careful to avoid techno solution ism, when we talk about AI for climate. AI is not a silver bullet to any of these challenges. It is not a solution on its own, we have to work with domain experts to understand where we're applying these technologies and work with regulators to responsibly deploy them. And I think it's important that we understand where we should be using AI and also where simpler tools will do the job. So since I've been asking everybody that I'm interviewing, why is important that they are here. But I'd like to split that out with you to ask, why business why should business be here, along with academics and policymakers think it's important that businesses are here to leverage capitalists incentive structures in order to scale these these opportunities and to make sure that we are progressing, you know, economically in a sustainable way as well. I think that all of these players have a really important role to play and we all need to work together in order to achieve the solutions that we want to build.
Mark Maslin 13:21
That is a brilliant answer Sims and I wish you luck with your panels that you're going to be on this week, and wish you luck with your masters take care Sims.
It is exciting to see how different technologies such as AI could help deal with climate change. Next, I caught up with another one of my climate change master students. Annie Risner in the blue zone. Annie lived in Sharm El-Sheik for two years and has been staying with locals trying to find out how cop has affected them. I asked why she was at COP and what she'd found out about the effect of cop on the locals. I've been travelling around South Sinai mostly outside of Sharm. There's a lot of villages, a lot of places up and down the coast.
Annie Risner 14:14
Most people you talk to know that there is something going on in Sharm. They have no idea what it is. All they know is that there's a lot of new buildings that a lot of important people are coming here that they shouldn't move around too much because there's police and army everywhere. And yeah, for the majority of people, it's just something very far away from their daily lives and something that they have not been included in in any way shape or form.
Mark Maslin 14:44
So are the people here actually excluded? Are they being prevented from coming to Sharm? Is there any changes in their sort of like rights because in the actual cop 27 We're hearing diverse voices but we're not hearing any of the locals. What's, what's your feeling about that?
Annie Risner 15:06
I mean, Sinai is a very specific place, historically. And now you have a indigenous population here, who have lived here, when it was also part of Israel have lived here now that it's part of Egypt, they are totally disconnected from the rest of Egypt mainly and have been for decades. When you asked, you know, I've asked people in the last week, what do you want? What would you want to come out of? Court? What would you want? If you could go and speak to people? What would you want, and people kind of laugh at me, and they're like, that's so disconnected from our reality. You know, we don't have people, they can't enter the army, they can't have any public voice. They're a persecuted ethnic minority in Egypt. Most people don't have schooling, you can't get paperwork. So there's been land clearances all over the last two years or so I have five or six friends, I came back and their houses have gone. Because they can't get the paperwork here. You can't, you know, as a, as a local person here. You can't get the paperwork to get a house, you can't get a driving licence, you are fully at the mercy of the Egyptian government, and you have no kind of power of voice. So cop is really unimportant for them in terms of okay, well, day to day, I don't have any voice. I don't have anything to say. So why would I now during this time?
Mark Maslin 16:30
What was your thoughts about actually having COP meetings? In this sort of place? Basically, somebody has called it Las Vegas by the sea? What how would you sum it up really succinctly about how odd This is to have cop here?
Annie Risner 16:51
Yeah, it's, it's totally absurd, and quite crazy. I mean, it's, it's a city where, I mean, there's very few people here to start with, there's very few local people who live in charm. It's an old tourist town that's been dead for a very long time, that's been empty for a very long time. You know, you're in the back waters of Egypt. And you're kind of in an area where people are very disconnected from Cairo, disconnected from what's going on, and it kind of feels like they've created, you know, they've done it purposefully, that they've come here to Sharm, because they can control it, they can isolate it, they can, you know, have this little tiny paradise in the middle of nowhere, where they know that they have full control over what goes on. What you have is, for me a very absurd situation when you have something like cop, and all these people coming and a real lack of people, you know, standing up and saying, are we supporting what is going on here by being here? Right? Why aren't we speaking up? Why aren't we saying if we're going to come and be a part of coop, if we're going to come and have these negotiations? Why are we not, you know, stating the obvious, which is, you know, Egypt as a dictatorship, and people are struggling to survive.
Mark Maslin 18:12
Annie, you said to me before we started this podcast, that you could actually feel the fear outside of cop 27.
Annie Risner 18:25
I think the so from what I've gathered, it's not just been COP, it's been the last kind of build up to cop over the last year or two. And the increased military presence, the increased army presence, and a kind of general feeling that things are different, that there is more control, and that they are everywhere and nowhere. So people have this feeling that you cannot trust the people around you. You cannot speak on the phone, maybe you cannot send a message because you don't know whether they're watching or not. And misinformation and a lack of being able to, you know, look things up on the internet, do basic things means that, you know, rumours and fear kind of spreads. You know, nobody knows what's going on in Cairo. Nobody knows what's going on in Alexandria, and that makes kind of grows this fear, and also allows, I mean, what I felt is, you know, I, I used to be able to travel around with my friends, and we would go places, and that doesn't feel possible anymore. People are very scared to be seen with me, very scared to be seen with the European, you know, and there used to be, you know, there was always kind of a very high military presence, but there was a feeling that you could fight it in some way. And that has gone now people just want to be as far away and as undercover as possible. A lot of people have moved from the towns to the desert. They've gone to villages, and they just don't feel safe to be in town in, you know, under the eye of the military,
UCL Minds 20:04
you're listening to UCL generation one, turning science and ideas into climate action.
Mark Maslin 20:14
From what Annie has observed and heard, it seems the local population of Sharm El-Sheik is being oppressed and marginalised. This raises issues about where cops should be hosted in the future. I caught up with Simon Hoba outside the Egyptian pavilion, which is all gold and marble and huge, which is in a great contrast to the smaller pavilions around it made of wood and sustainable material. Simon is a youth activist and a member of plants for Planet Foundation, and he's local Fridays for future group in Germany. I asked Simon why he thought it was important that young people were a cop.
Simon Hoba 21:02
I am here because youth needs voice at these conferences. We see it every day when leaders so called leaders come up with new promises, new pledges, new targets for 2050 or 2040. But actually, we see that there's a lack of action and we the youth, for us, action is not about some data, some number for us youth, it's about how will we live in the future for us youth, and especially for the people from the Global South. It's about how we live our present, how are we able to grow food in the future. So there is so much more to come with that than just, you know, some number like 1.5 degrees, but I'm also here to hold leaders accountable for what they have pledged in recent cops. It's called cop 27. And we're still have not seen an implement implementation cop happening. So this must be the place where leaders stop talking and start acting.
Mark Maslin 22:10
Can I ask what are the organization's you're representing so I know you're representing plant for Planet Foundation and of course your big mover in five days for the future?
Simon Hoba 22:21
Yes, so I'm accredited by a plant for the planet which is an organisation that plants trees around the world is involved in reforestation projects. But I'm also here to represent Friday's for future. I am one of a few you, German youth activists that are here and we together with all activists from around the world build a huge movement that comes together. And Friday's for future especially became big when Greta Thornburg started her protesting in front of the Swedish parliament in 2018. And since then we we organise youth strikes, school strikes as well, in which I have taken part and now organise in my hometown and dressed and so we try to make people aware of the problem so that they know if Friday's for future is around town with 100,000 people like in September 2021. In Berlin, for example, where I took part, which was crazy. People know about that. And people ask, why are they here? They are here because of the climate crisis. They are here because we have a huge problem that has not the attention it deserves. And this problem is something that we need to finally face. And yeah, that's why I'm here trying to trying to raise awareness with Friday's for future and also hold leaders accountable.
Mark Maslin 23:56
What was the journey? What suddenly sparked you into this motivation? What suddenly got you going from being a quiet teenager to being a climate rebel?
Simon Hoba 24:08
So when I was in the UK for some part of my student life for three months, and then I came back and I realised, wow, there is not much going on at the moment, especially in the UK, nobody really talked about climate change. So so then I decided I had to get involved at some point. And shortly after that, I found the Fridays for future local group and dress in my hometown. And I decided that I wanted to join them and raise awareness because in my hometown, it's maybe hard to understand for some but there are many conservative people so we don't have the easiest environment if you know what I mean. But we still manage to organise we still manage to get out people we still manage to bring out 1000s of people if we decide to organise so and then one more point was I started knowing more about the climate crisis. And I think that's something that we need to get more people to do once they know about the climate crisis to actually start acting on the climate crisis to actually become climate activists because we don't need one climate activists in Dresden we don't need one climate activists in Sharm el Sheikh No, that's that's pretty much worthless, right? We need 1000s of people from every corner of the world, to join in, to become climate activists to organise demonstrations to organise in schools and universities, be it at the workplace, be it somewhere else, we need everyone to join in. And the message that this movement was sending was one of hope was one of we can actually change something. And that's just something that I've found to be pretty inspiring and powerful. And also something that on bad days gives me the only hope that we can still get this done.
Mark Maslin 26:07
Simon, I think you've given us all hope. Thank you so much for letting me interview at COP 27.
Simon provides us with the perfect end to the interviews, the idea that we have business, we have observers we have UCL and we have youth activists for here at COP hope is always there with the young, bringing that energy, the indigenous people making sure that we don't forget about nature. However, the dark side of cop 27 is of course, the oppression of the locals because of the appearance of this jamboree called cop at Sharm El-Sheik.
That's it for this special cop 27th episode of generation one from UCL turning climate science and ideas into action. Thank you very much to all my amazing guests, Priti, Zach, Sims, Annie and Simon. All who have been at shamer shake at COP 27 doing their bit. Don't forget to leave a comment and rate us wherever you get your podcasts. Next week my co host Helen Czerski will be hosting discussion back in London to review what has happened here and what was finally negotiated. And also, what can we look forward to at the next COP cop 28 in Dubai. Until then for me, Mark Maslin. Goodbye for now.