Climate Change


Climate Podcast: Must cutting CO2 cost more for those with less?

Welcome back to the finale of series one of Generation One, this week Dr Matt Winning is chatting about finance and tackling the question: Must cutting CO2 cost more for those with less?

This week he is joined by Heather McKay, sustainable finance policy advisor at E3G, an independent climate change think tank, and Ashish Ghadiali, filmmaker and activist-in-residence at the Sarah Parker Remond Centre.

Listen now to hear them discuss how finance is necessary to make action happen, how the UK is aiming to be a green finance leader and how we have to start by looking at systemic change.


UCL Minds  0:01   

We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it. Look at 


Heather McKay  0:09   

Greta Greta entire campaign started as a little girl sitting outside a government institution protesting about climate change. And now we see kids across the world standing up and calling for action. 


Ashish Ghadiali  0:22   

Now this pandemic is the first great example of what ecological breakdown looks like feels like. 


Heather McKay  0:28   

I absolutely hate private jets. I don't understand why anyone has them and why anyone uses. 


Matt Winning  0:37   

We'll come back to Generation One, the podcast from University College London. I'm Matt winning, and today we're recording the final episode of season one. I'm joined by my co host Mark Maslin. Today, unfortunately here on Cerci are other co hosts is busy, who's over at the BBC filming something fancy, I imagine. So she can't be with us today. But I am joined by Mark. Hi, Mark. 


Mark Maslin  1:00   

Hi, Matt. How are you? 


Matt Winning  1:01   

I'm good. It's lovely to have these little conversations with you. 


Mark Maslin  1:04   

I think it's nice that people realise that you and I can actually chew the cud on some of the deepest and darkest things about climate change, because of course, you're doing finance today, which I always get reminded by people saying, follow the money. So this is this is your area of expertise. 


Matt Winning  1:24   

As I'm an economist, which most people detest, that we're not the sexy part of the climate change conversation. Talking about well, what is the impact going to be in the economy? And you know, some people like that, mostly people from government or other people are like, not really, you know, this is this just gets me down, or it's to kind of money oriented, I guess it depends on whether you have money or not. 


Mark Maslin  1:49   

But I also think that people don't realise how many economists that are in the world, and where they are, I mean, if you go into any government department, there's a load of economist in there, always basically supporting the other civil servants to say, this is how much it's going to cost. This is how much we're gonna make, you know, so I think people misunderstand a, what economists do and be how many of you there are, 


Matt Winning  2:15   

there are, I still find, you know, people talking about derivatives and equities and other stuff. And I switch off almost instantly, when that kind of comes up in conversation. But it's incredibly important, as you said, 


Mark Maslin  2:29   

Well, I'm amazed because I think cop 26 was the first time that money was front and centre. I mean, if you think about it, Mark Carney got a group of 450 banks and insurers together, who basically cover $130 trillion. I mean, that's one and a half times the sort of GDP of the world to tackle climate change. 


Matt Winning  2:56   

You're you've hit the nail on the head there, which is great saving up to stuff, which I think are lots of companies are doing and the financial sector appears to be doing now. It's then actually putting plans in place, you know, solid, concrete plans of what's going to happen that really needs to be spelled out a bit more, which is exactly what you're seeing. 


Mark Maslin  3:15   

But you've got some great guests on today, haven't you? We do we 


Matt Winning  3:19   

do. We have to talk about finance. But we've got two incredible guests. First, I'm talking to Heather McKay, who is a policy advisor at E3G. And then after that, I'm going to be speaking with Ash Ghadiali, who is a filmmaker and activist who organises the climate justice collective, Wretched of the earth. 


Mark Maslin  3:39   

I have to save a lot of time for Ash, because earlier in 2021, he launched the 1.5 degree charter, that chart and I hope he will talk about it was really showing this sort of clear need for climate justice, and proper financing. 


Matt Winning  3:59   

So it has been absolutely wonderful doing these podcast episodes. We're on Episode Six, the final episode of this first series, please give us a second series. And if you do want to listen to all episodes, they are basically just Google Generation One, the climate podcasts, UCL and you will get their mark, what have been your highways of these different episodes is we've covered quite a lot of ground. 


Mark Maslin  4:26   

If you think about it, we've covered a huge range in just six episodes. We've had Matt Disney brilliantly talking about how he monitors trees so we can know how much carbon they store. We've got Juliet Russell, one of my ex students who's now head of sustainability at Stella McCartney, talking about the need for regulation to actually make the fashion industry move to a more sustainable footing to help save the planet. 


Matt Winning  4:55   

I think that was incredibly well summarised there mark. So hopefully what do one more of these. But it's been a pleasure working with you. It's been it's been good fun. 


Mark Maslin  5:04   

It has been great fun. Okay. Well, thanks 


Matt Winning  5:06   

very much Mark. 


UCL Minds  5:07   

You're listening to UCL generation one, turning science and ideas into climate action. 


Matt Winning  5:15   

First up, today, we are chatting with Heather McKay, who is a policy advisor at e 3g, climate change think tank, and is also more importantly, fellow Scot. Hi, Heather. 


Heather McKay  5:28   

How you doing? Hi, Matt. I'm good. I'm very glad you got my last name right as well. 


Matt Winning  5:32   

We could probably have a good hour long chat just about being someone Scottish or living in London and how people think that you're Irish all the time. But we'll skip that for another podcast, I guess. So very quickly. Did you go to cop 26? I did I what what was your sort of takeaway from from the two weeks, 


Heather McKay  5:53   

I think a couple of a couple of key things came out of cop 26. Firstly, that finance really is no on a central stage when it comes to international conversations around climate change. And zooming into what actually means there's two aspects. I mean, firstly, that finance is the essential bridge between nice pledges and nice words on climate action, and actually doing it and actually delivering it. So we need to make sure that money is flowing to the project across the world where needs to be flowing. And cop, frankly, didn't really deliver on that front. On the on the other piece, we also want to make sure that when investors are when businesses are thinking about climate change, and they're making pledges on net zero, they're actually doing so with integrity. And so I think that credibility and integrity question and how we build regulation, how we build financial architecture to support that was also a central theme of COP. And in that dimension, we've made a huge amount of progress. 


Matt Winning  6:47   

Those aspects that you said there that are there has been some progress, what sort of things are we are we seeing a bit of progress and in terms of that side of things, 


Heather McKay  6:57   

we saw a number of announcements around building credibility into private sector and investor Net Zero commitments. So the Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the UK, came out in a speech and lent two major things. Firstly, the creation of a netzero financial centre in the UK. So basically a green city, London, which is momentous. And to support that he announced the the UK, we would be implementing mandatory transition plans for all listed companies and financial institutions across the UK. And the reason that's so important, is transition plans are the inevitable next step, to accompany making a netzero commitment. A transition plan, as simplest is basically how a company how financial institution is going to get itself to net zero. So governments really failed on the delivery part of finance. So the 100 billion, a commitment from developed countries to go to developing countries to support them in transitioning to that zero. That's no five years delayed. That's absolutely appalling. 


Matt Winning  8:04   

That 100 billion, that's basically we're talking about money from governments, essentially, is that right? Going to other, you know, going to other governments or other kind of put some money elsewhere to help to help developing countries, 


Heather McKay  8:16   

it's a mix. So it's yes, a mixture of government finance and also, you know, government finance being used to support private finance in investing countries do. So the government's really focused on this public policy, private regulation, private finance regulation piece. So that's where we see transition plans coming out what they're not doing, and what the UK Spending Review, a few months ago proved, is stumping up the cash that the government needs to do to support private finance and to support new markets in scaling up and delivering new products that companies can go away and make profit with and investors can go away and invest in. So the UK is a leader on developing innovative financial architecture. But I'm wary about, you know, being too happy clappy about it, because they're not public finance policy base, the supported pieces around it, that need to happen, we're gonna get to net zero. 


Matt Winning  9:14   

And you need to bought you need to kind of both of those pieces to be able to move it forward at scale. 


Heather McKay  9:19   

I exactly. And actually, just just to bring out a little bit more clearly, what's really interesting is so the Chancellor's speech focused on this idea of a netzero financial centre. So unfortunately, the government's entire thinking about that slap a transition plan on the company on Google, the City of London, Aubrey green, I think that everyone knows that that's not going to be true, you need to do a bunch of other stuff too. Whereas a couple of months ago, in the greening finance roadmap that came out in October, the UK pledged to create a net zero financial system. So definitely no net zero financial centre and then that's your financial system. And here in comes the joy I have and trying to explain an agile architecture. The difference between a system and a centre is the centre is purely focused on the private private finance, however, set your London sits within a broader financing landscape in the UK. So that is really public finance and public policy, working hand in hand with private finance regulation. And so that's what we want to see the UK doing is thinking about the transition, not just as a free market will take us take us there magically because investors are innovators, which is part two, but actually, government has a role in shaping and creating and supporting markets. And it can't abandon that role. Otherwise, we're never going to, we're never going to get to that zero. 


Matt Winning  10:43   

Yeah, that's really helpful in terms of clarification. So in terms of scaling up, green finance, because it's the thing that's, you know, taught, you know, we need more finance, or is this sort of scale or the problem that we're talking about here in terms of where we are and where we need to get to in terms of the amount of money that's being, you know, essentially spent on solving this problem? 


Heather McKay  11:05   

That's a really good question. And so I think, just to ground out the Committee on climate change, which is kind of an independent quango, that advises the government on its climate policies, this body basically has said that, you know, from 2020 to 2030, we need to see an additional investment of 10 billion every single year, and the transition, scaling up to 50 billion every single year, from 2030 towards 2050. So a huge amount of money, this current spending, have you I think, put forward, I think it was under six if you actually calculate it over the next three years. So really, we're there's a huge gulf between where we need, what we need in terms of investments and where we are at the moment. 


Matt Winning  11:50   

And as I guess, is it true that this, you know, the scaling up of of that is going to really need to happen over this kind of next decade, you know, to be able to put the things in place that need to be there to solve the problem over the next year, you know, if we're going to be net zero by 2050, 


Heather McKay  12:08   

in terms of when we should invest the office for budgetary responsibility and other independent institution around government has said that if we start investing, even 10 years later, the costs of the transition, or the cost of this investment is going to double. So it's really important that we start now. And it's really important, not only just in terms of making sure the UK actually meets its own targets, but also there's a part of it international competitiveness here. I think that we'd all agree we'd like the UK to be the home, and to be the, you know, the world leader in creating new markets, like heat pumps or something before us. But that's not going to happen. If we twiddle our thumbs and wait to act and wait for someone else to do it first. So if we're going to be this competitive global Britain post Brexit, then we actually have to start doing the work to create the new markets and create the new lines of business and minds of competitiveness that are needed to be competitive on the global stage. 


Matt Winning  13:10   

Yeah, yeah, no, absolutely. How do you see the role of the Treasury? And how crucial was the role of the Treasury? Because I think, you know, climate change has often been seen as this separate thing that can be dealt with by a department somewhere, and isn't necessarily central to government spending and every decision that governments make. 


Heather McKay  13:33   

Oh, that is such an interesting question. And I could talk for about an hour, but I'll try not. So I think firstly, the Treasury is absolutely crucial. The finance any finance ministers across the world are absolutely crucial in government actually meeting their netzero commitments. As the net zero review showed, which was the government's document, talking about the cost of the transition, and what it is going to mean for the average person and country. The fact that that report only focused on the costs, and not the potential core benefits and the potential economic returns that you're going to see. Really right to paraphrase Oscar Wilde shows that the Treasury knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. When it comes to climate change. I think that it's it's, we need to see that cultural shift happened within treasury and with them, it was practically within the mind of the chancellor, that net zero is an investment, we're going to get a return. It's not just a handout as overseeing it is actually going to get us to, you're going to get an immense amount of benefit. 


Matt Winning  14:36   

Yes, we have a question from a student, Pranav Satish, a student at UCL 


Pranav Satish  14:42   

in a typical near liberal fashion. I think the onus is being put on the individual, specifically young individuals, we need to address the structural prerequisite that has allowed this exploitation of the planet through economic and social reform. rather than just telling an individual to change their behaviour, which I neither think is sustainable, or has enough of an impact, 


Matt Winning  15:08   

very much sounds like a student in a good way. Heather, if you do have anything to say? 


Heather McKay  15:16   

That's a really good question. Actually, we see it coming out a lot. However, I think it's a bit of a red herring. So I don't think that individual action or fighting for systemic change are mutually exclusive. Yes, it's, you know, it's been a long and convoluted lobbying process to blame the individual for the huge systemic and wicked problem that is climate change, when actually, large companies across the world are responsible for something within the global emissions. So yes, it's, it's not about saying that just by going vegan, or walking to work or taking your car, we're gonna change the world. I completely agree with that. However, I also think it's really important to create positive change in the environment around you through things like making more ethical choices and what you eat, buying less, and making sure it's sustainable. And also, you know, doing everything our mom tells us, right, like not littering, and being nice to people, and so on, so forth. Because it does create, you never know what happens. You can never really understand the knock on effect, the butterfly effect that can happen when you step up in your individual life and take positive choices. I mean, look at Greta Greta as the entire campaign, because Thunberg entire campaign started as a little girl sitting outside a government institution, protesting about climate change. And now we see kids across the world standing up and calling for action. So I really think it's important that Yes, call for systemic change. Yes. Vote yes, you know, by ethical, human support and support the right companies and make your voice heard. But also remember that these things also start at home? 


Matt Winning  16:57   

Yeah, I think the answer to that question is very much. Yes. Which is we need do we need to do this? Yes, we do. Do we need to also address structural change? Yes. So Heather, thanks so much for joining us. I wanted to ask you one final question today, which is something we've been asking our guests about. If you could put something in a time capsule for climate change, so that, you know, something that maybe didn't exist in 30 years time? What would that be? 


Heather McKay  17:25   

I absolutely hate private jets. I think they just I don't understand why anyone has them and why anyone uses them, and especially when anyone flies them to a climate conference. Hypocrisy doesn't help. It just doesn't help. 


Matt Winning  17:39   

Go. Yeah, it's really been fantastic speaking to you. Thanks for coming on and talking about finance. And yeah, essentially, how much there is to do over the next decade, 


Heather McKay  17:49   

then there is a lot to do right there is but we've taken really important first steps cop to build the architecture around, enabling the market to meet net zero and also making sure that government can hold them to account. 


Unknown Speaker  18:02   

You're listening to UCL generation one, turning science and ideas into climate action. 


Matt Winning  18:10   

So cutting global carbon emissions requires a worldwide response, but it shouldn't cost more for those economies with the least. A recent UCL study that I was an author on showed that countries in the Global South are given much less favourable credit terms than wealthier nations, often because of who they are. As a result, it makes it much harder for them to access the finance they require to build the cleaner, greener industries needed to reach zero carbon emissions sooner. Also, there are questions around adaptation and loss and damage that need to be answered as well. To get into some of these issues. I am joined by ash galley on the line who is a activist in residence at University College London. As an activist in residence at UCL, what do you think success would be for you, and for getting others to act on climate change? 


Ashish Ghadiali  19:08   

I guess what a lot of what I do is move through the climate space and attempt to bring perspectives of global justice, which really often means kind of just reckoning with the prevalence of racial inequality and the way that ongoing inequalities hamper the kind of climate action that that often very well meaning individuals, communities and groups got even governments, you know, are intent on bringing about without necessarily being the interconnection, with race with with kind of historic legacies of empire and slavery, and the ways in which the dynamics that come out of those histories continue to shape the crisis that we're in now and the future that that we're creating, 


Matt Winning  19:54   

as How important do you think finance is to solving climate change and how How important is it for the developing world in particular? 


Ashish Ghadiali  20:04   

Yeah, I mean, I think it's it's the central issue really, as we now move through the 2020s, the challenge of mobilising finance and distributing finance to the parts of the global economy that that need it the most. That's the question of decarbonisation. But there's also the question of financing, climate impacts, loss and damage in particular, which you know, is is escalating year on year, 


Matt Winning  20:31   

you're right, that it's not just about mitigation. How do you think we can change that conversation to kind of make it as you see kind of a boat, those three, I guess, powers that people talk about? 


Ashish Ghadiali  20:41   

The conversation sort of shifted rapidly over, say, the last 10 years, and we've gone from a paradigm of widespread denial of climate change as a problem to one in which, at the start of 2020, we suddenly saw like, you know, big corporate actors like Blackrock suddenly, you know, saying now we're kind of committing to the transition and to decarbonisation, there were kind of pitfalls in the paradigm that was kind of emerging, I guess, what might be described as the green capitalist agenda in that it was largely predicated on economic growth. I think that it became a corporate sort of shareholder common sense to actually start banking on the mobilisation of finance around a kind of green transition. I think what's really interesting about the research that you and Nadia have been doing, is it kind of points to the limitations of the growth paradigm. It's not a very effective strategy for governing a process an effective process of decarbonisation, as you've kind of shown it in your research. 


Matt Winning  21:44   

Yeah, and I think the research sort of touches on the fact that what is good or easy for the developed world isn't necessarily the same for the global south. So can you very quickly tell me about this 1.5 degree Charter which you were involved in? 


Ashish Ghadiali  22:02   

Yeah, sure, in the kind of run up to cop 26, I was in the middle of conversations between civil society groups, various representatives of the cop, 26 team at the Cabinet Office, or the the UN f triple C. And I guess when I stepped into this role as activist in residence at UCL like increasingly amongst climate scientists, there was a question around that time, certainly amongst civil society players of whether it was prudent to talk about 1.5 C and the possible breach of 1.5 C as a banner issue. Given the likelihood of breaching 1.5 C, there was a widespread comms consensus that was to nurture good vibes amongst the public and a kind of sense of hope and positivity. We're facing a kind of moment of real ecological catastrophe. But we feel that people in positions of influence, feel that we must talk about we know we mustn't look that crisis square in the face, we must talk about the reality of what it is for fear of feeling anxiety. And so I guess the strategy behind the chart was about how do we how do we articulate a kind of new a new common sense, 


Matt Winning  23:19   

if we can briefly in the last couple of minutes, just chat about what needs to happen in places like Africa? I see like what needs to happen in terms in terms of those aspects of mitigation, adaptation, and, and loss and damage? What what do you see being the main focus, 


Ashish Ghadiali  23:38   

if we can actually start to get a heads around a kind of global strategy for you know, like, how front loading investment now actually saves lives? Saves money in the long term? Yeah, then, you know, I think that what that might do is like, is like lay the groundwork, in a sense for a great new infrastructure project, we need to be working towards some kind of a great sort of structure of care, you know, this pandemic is, is the first great example of what ecological breakdown looks like, feels like, you know, but it's, in a sense, a dress rehearsal for what happens as climate impacts accelerate. I think that you know, really going back to basics of what a dignified human life looks like, you know, access to housing, access to health care, sanitation, food, water, and thinking about project that, you know, investing in the projects that that create an infrastructure that delivers that right into the frontlines of of this emergency. 


Matt Winning  24:47   

Okay, Ash one very last question. Before you go, we have a section of the podcast where we ask our guests to contribute to our generation one time capsule to be opened up at some point in the future by future general Is there anything you would add to our time capsule on climate change? 


Ashish Ghadiali  25:04   

Yeah, sure, I would, I would add a I've got it in my hand. It's a big chunky tome is called Black Reconstruction in America by W. E. B Du Bois, not obviously about climate. But I just think that really any effective path out of this crisis that we're in really needs to start with a kind of thorough grounding in decolonial thinking, 


Matt Winning  25:29   

got you. Thanks so much. I think that's an excellent addition to what we have. 


So that was me, talking to Ash Ghadiali about climate finance and also about activism and the role and systemic change required. Next up, Mark Maslin is back again to give us his climate news stories of this week. So here is Mark. 


Mark Maslin  26:01   

This is Mark Maslin, and welcome to our weekly roundup of climate related stories. First, we start with a letter that we have sent to the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to urge the UK government to withdraw the $1 billion support for totals Mozambique liquid natural gas project, as it's directly in conflict with the Paris agreements, one and a half degree temperature target, and also contradicts the government's own pledge in March 2021. To end the financing of overseas fossil fuel projects. The letter has been signed by myself and leading climate and energy experts from UCL and other universities from around the country. More bad news in Australia, Scott Morrison is pledged to increase fossil fuel production with new gas basins and pipelines already planned. Japan has announced that they want to develop a hydrogen economy instead of a renewable energy economy. But a course will be reliant on countries like Australia to burn vast amounts of coal to create the hydrogen. There is however some good news Norway will not grant any new oil exploration licences for virgin or little explored areas from 2022 onwards. And great news, shell pulls out of the Kambo oil project in the UK is North Sea. The energy giant says it is not economic. However, we are very positive about this because it shows that there is a movement within the UK to stop fossil fuel exploration both in the North Sea and far north of Shetland. 


Matt Winning  27:57   

So that is it for the final episode of Series One of generation one from UCL turning climate science and ideas into action. Thank you so much for joining us for series one we've loved making it and I look forward to seeing you again next year for series two. In the meantime, you'd like to ask a question or suggest a guest you'd like to hear on generation one you can email us at podcasts@ucl.ac.uk. For more information about UCL work in the climate space, do head over to the UCL generation one website or follow us on social media. Hashtag UCL generation one. So thank you very much for today's episode. Particular thank you Heather Mackay and ash Gatti. Ali, I've been winning. See you guys soon.