Climate Change


Climate Podcast: POST COP27: What happened and was it enough?

Welcome back to UCL Generation One: The Climate Podcast. We’re back for a two-part series, and part one is coming to you live from COP27 in Sharm El-Sheik. Join Prof Mark Maslin as he takes us through the conference centre, and chats to multiple people along the journey. Views expressed by our guests are their own.



UCL Minds  0:04  
We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.

ZiHan Xuan  0:14  
And I think this is like the real elephant in the room that the negotiations cannot address.

Katie Kedward  0:22  
Its knowledge generation and in order to contribute to the structural economic transformation that needs to happen to preserve our living conditions on this planet

Nadia Ameli  0:32  
was important to see that there is this recognition of changing will never form different interest system.

Helen Czerski  0:43  
This is generation one from University College London, turning climate science and ideas into action. Hello, and welcome to Generation One. I'm Helen Cesky, a physicist, an oceanographer here at UCL. Last week, you may have heard my co host Mark Maslin in Sharm el Sheikh for the cop 27 summit in Egypt. We heard on Sunday morning, 40 hours after the official cop deadline, that delegates had finally agreed a deal to create a new global fund to help countries which face huge costs as they deal with the loss and damage from climate change. This is a huge achievement for smaller and developing nations, which have been asking for this for years, and who feel that their increasingly urgent pleas on this topic have been continually sidelined by rich countries who are focused on emissions reductions. But the flip side of this cup was that very little progress was made. Some say it even went backwards a bit on the fundamental issue of cutting emissions and pushing forward the changes needed to restrict global heating to 1.5 degrees centigrade. So as always, it's tricky from the outside to understand what the significance of this year's copy is, and what will really change as a result. Is it enough and what happens next?

UCL Minds  2:03  
You're listening to UCL generation one, turning science and ideas into climate action.

Helen Czerski  2:12  
Today, I'll be talking to three UCL colleagues with differing perspectives on what happened at COP 27. We'll hear from Gian Shen UCL student and climate advocate with a young NGO, the youth constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. I'll also be talking to Nigeria Mali, from the Institute for Sustainable resources, and Ktk. Edward who is an economist at the Institute for Innovation and public purpose, but before I introduce them, I just want to take a moment to remind you how you can get involved in the podcasts and also in UCL is work and campaigns. We have a website ucl.ac.uk forward slash climate hyphen, change. There, you'll find all kinds of news research and practical information about how your choices can make a difference. We would obviously love it if you would rate and subscribe to this podcast wherever you get your podcasts from, and share it with your network. And we're also on Instagram and Twitter hashtag UCL generation one where you can comment on what you've heard. We also love to get your emails with comments and suggestions for future topics, the address is podcasts with an s@ucl.ac.uk. And if you want, you can send a voice note and we will include it in a future episode.

So let's get started by meeting one of the UCL community who was actually there at COP 27. And that is easy henshin. To start with. Just tell me when you were at COP and what it was like.

ZiHan Xuan  3:42  
Yep, for sure. So I think generally this cop is happening under quite extraordinary circumstances. As many of you know, we are dealing at the same time as climate change. We've also a war in Ukraine, we're dealing with an energy crisis. And all those circumstances I think affected what parties and governments hope to achieve at COP 27. Specifically, I think there was a perception that a lot more was needed if we were to keep 1.5 alive. But at the same time, I think there is also a lack of motivation or incentives for governments to prioritise this issue alongside the many other urgent and pressing challenges that they are facing.

Helen Czerski  4:24  
And so just explain what the children and youth pavilion was all about and why you think it's necessary.

ZiHan Xuan  4:29  
Yes, for sure. So, this is the first year and the first cop that we are actually having the surge in a new pavilion. So we actually quite proud to be able to put up this space. And what it really aims to achieve, at least from my personal opinion, is to create a space whereby young people feel safe and included in the policymaking spaces, but also a space where young people can showcase their ways of contributing towards the climate fight. So that means it's not just about policymaking. It's also about showcasing the contributions of young artists, for example, or young musicians and how they are also leading this fight towards the climate crisis. And finally, and this was the part where, which I'm responsible for, is to organise everyday around noon time, a high level speaking segment where we invite world leaders to come speak with you in a more informal kind of interactive setting, so that we can hear from these world leaders, you know, how they will commit to meaningful youth engagement, and how we can work with them in an intergenerational way to bring about the outcomes that we want.

Helen Czerski  5:39  
What from your perspective, were the things that the youth voices were calling for that perhaps weren't coming as strongly from other areas what what was distinctive about what your grouping was saying or doing?

ZiHan Xuan  5:52  
Many of the youth groups, which were present in coop actually had a meeting at the very start cup, to align on some of our key priorities. And they came down to three main things. So first, on the issue of loss and damage Finance Facility, which we were very proud to actually advocate for. And NDN got a decision on, which is also unprecedented. The second is to scale up support for adaptation. And the third is to ensure that the promises of finance and climate finance specifically are being delivered on by the Global North. But I think, from youth in particular, what we are pushing for, really this time around is for intergenerational equity, and specifically for young people to be involved in the climate policymaking spaces. Because despite the fact that we have an youth pavilion, we have some dedicated youth forums, for example, it is still kind of not the case that young people, especially in the Global South, are actively included in the decision making spaces.

Helen Czerski  6:55  
And I'm just interested in your your actual perception of the event, you know, what did you see that really impressed you? And what did you see that really didn't impress you?

ZiHan Xuan  7:04  
Yeah, I do appreciate that. The criticism about how it's been about too much talking and not enough implementation, because ultimately, I think the negotiations do not adequately, in my opinion, address some of the key kind of factors behind why we are having the climate crisis in the first place, which is some of the economic structures, political structures that determine the state of our world right now. And I think this is like the real elephant in the room that the negotiations cannot address, it probably will not address. And I think if we want to get towards 1.5, or anything, even near 1.5, we need to start looking at some of these systemic solutions. And therefore, I think what did impress me is the fact that, you know, you did have not just young people, but in general, just very kind of passionate advocates, or negotiators or diplomats, or even artists, who are contributing towards this fight. And they are really kind of putting in not just those two weeks of efforts, but a whole year round of consistent engagement with cop to try to get some of their demands of trust. And that was very inspiring. But on the other hand, I think what didn't impress me as much was the fact that because we are ultimately operating in this context, where it's very difficult to get radical kind of shifts in place with just two weeks, it sometimes does feel a bit, I guess this in a way quite people do feel kind of quite disillusioned with this process.

Helen Czerski  8:35  
One of the things that I find very interesting about this process that we've been on for a long time, and it's just that it takes a long time to get going is that, you know, it comes from different places, and it comes both from the bottom and from the top. And what what I see on the ground now, you know, in this country and talking to companies and councils and organisations is that they are trying really, really hard on the ground like they they don't really mind about what set a cop in a lot of ways in that they're already trying to, you know, put solar on roofs and reduce their resource use and all that kind of thing like that. They're doing loads of stuff. But from the top, it's like this mysterious world of governments and policies, and it's all a bit weird, you know, it's hard to work out what's actually going on? Do you feel optimistic for what's going on up there? And do you feel it really has an impact?

ZiHan Xuan  9:22  
Yeah, a lot of it is about, you know, how governments and negotiating blocks try to advance the interests, sometimes at the expense of others. But I do think also that if you look at the actual outcome of club this year, there are positives about the loss and damage finance facility that can very much be turned into a promising solution for grassroots action, if we can get the funding to trickle down to communities that on the front line. You also have for example, on youth, very good precedents set this year when it comes to the children and youth pavilion when it comes to the youth envoys when it comes to the Shama shack youth club, dialogue, all those things that can be turned into opportunities for grassroots engagement. On the other hand, I think that there is a kind of detachment from the negotiations from what's happening in the pavilions and in the other space. And even in the green zone, which we don't talk about so much. Over over there, you can really see a lot of grassroots and grassroots led solutions actually being pitched and being shared. In Country pavilions. I've done thematic pavilions, and I think the challenges for me is how do we make sure that whatever commitments or whatever financial technical resources that are being promised by governments in the in the covered decision, actually can reach those communities and can be utilised by them?

Helen Czerski  10:46  
Yeah, it's a very important point. And just finally, I was curious about what this leaves you with for the future. I mean, we've had the big statements, we heard about the government's thing, but for you, personally, you know, you were there. You're now back in the UK? What sort of how does this kind of set you up for what you're going to do next? Or what your next interests are? What what are you taking away for all of us? And what are you going to do with that?

ZiHan Xuan  11:10  
This is my second cup. So I was at the Glasgow Cup last year. And for me having that kind of, I guess benefit of hindsight, means that I can see that when it comes to young people, there is concrete progress being made. I think, for me personally, it is also about trying to connect some of these negotiations to the issues that I personally care about, and how that can potentially shape my careers. So one of the issues, which I really care very much about is the issue of green transition, green jobs, and localising NDCs. And this is something that young people at large, can benefit from, because when you attend these negotiations, you understand more about, for example, the ESG landscape, and how that can shape some of the personal decisions I make, in terms of, for example, what sort of careers I like to go into, or even, you know, what kind of political parties I'd like to vote for. So I think, beyond everything, you know, on a governmental level, or even on a personal level, in a way, is a capacity building exercise. And in that regard, I think there's a lot to learn from this process beyond what you can contribute.

Helen Czerski  12:20  
And we should just define a couple of acronyms there. So NDC, those are the nationally determined contributions. So that's what countries have said, have committed to adding to this effort. And ESG is a quite relatively new acronym. I think it was only invented in 2005. So that's environmental, social, and governance, which is often applied to the responsibilities of corporations to be responsible citizens, basically, she hadn't it's really interesting to hear from you. Thank you so much. And I hope that you continue to find things to take away and keep spreading the word about what was at COP and why it matters. So thank you very much.

ZiHan Xuan  12:52  
Thank you so much for having me.

UCL Minds  12:57  
You're listening to UCL generation one, turning science and ideas into climate action.

Helen Czerski  13:07  
So now we've heard what it was like on the ground at COP. Now let's get to some analysis of what it all means in the long run and what needs to happen next. Our guests for this are Nadia O'Malley, who's the principal research fellow at the Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources, which is part of the faculty of built environment here at UCL. And also Katie catered who is a research fellow in central banking and sustainability at UCL Institute for Innovation and public purpose. So welcome to the podcast, both of you. Hello.

Nadia Ameli  13:36  
Hello. Thank you very much.

Helen Czerski  13:38  
So let's start with the outcome of cop. You know, this is only a day ago, just over 24 hours before we recorded this. What was the outcome of this cop? And what were the big successes and failures? Perhaps Katie?

Katie Kedward  13:53  
Yes. So a really historic outcome from this Koc 27 conference this year was the agreement of a loss and damages fund. So this loss and damages fund was historic, in part because it has been demanded by developing countries as something they need for over three decades. And it has met time and time again, a lot of resistance from from wealthier nations, who have been very hesitant to accept the notion that they may or may need to pay compensation, essentially, to these poor nations, who are facing the unequal reality of being more exposed to climate related impacts, but having not admitted most of the carbon emissions that are causing them. So the 11th hour turn by the European Commission on on Friday night backing, the loss and damages fund was really pretty groundbreaking, and it led to the final agreement. We don't have all of the details sorted for the fund yet and I suppose we'll come on to that later. But in terms from opening the door to recognising climate justice, this was a really big deal for the cop.

Helen Czerski  15:04  
And then now the the question of loss and damage has taken over so much of this cop, does that mean that other areas were neglected a bit.

Nadia Ameli  15:12  
So guess it was a sort of exchange that was the way was fair to this cop in order to pass these laws in damage facility funding, somehow, Europe and other countries really giveaway on other huge priorities, in particular in terms of emission, and also facing down fossil fuels.

Helen Czerski  15:35  
Well, we should probably outline a sort of peculiarity of the court process here, which is that in Paris, this target of 1.5 degrees that are only allowing warming of 1.5 degrees above the pre Industrial Average was agreed on. But the how to do it was not agreed on then there was this assumption that these commitments were kind of ratchet up that, you know, they would people, countries would make minimal commitments. And then, at every successive cop, basically, they would do better. And it's that's what didn't really happen. Right, Nadia,

Nadia Ameli  16:05  
one of the disappointment for this cop was somehow shaped by the father was a huge presence of fossil fuel representatives. It is particularly clear compared to the previous cops, there was almost no representatives from fossil fuel industries in the previous cops, they start to attend the last cop in Glasgow, while this year, they now the amount of really the lobbyists, let's say from the fossil fuel industry increased quite substantially. And the guests reading really the news, the articles from the Financial Times, Bloomberg AI, other journalists who were there, they all admitted it was really felt the presence of the fossil fuel representatives, as somehow there was really some tension around really reducing really the commitment of facing down fossil fuels. So I guess on this relay, we lose a bit of the scope and high hope. Next year, it will be again, quite a dedicated topic, given that it will be in the Emirates. So still a very account which is quite focused on fossil fuels.

Helen Czerski  17:08  
Well, I guess it was, there's a statistic, I think that has been mentioned, which is that there were more fossil fuel representatives than representatives, representatives of the small islands who will disappear because of climate change. But the other thing just to cover the sort of headline issues at this cop, and then we'll dig down into the details. So going into this, it was said that there were these two main areas of focus that one was loss and damage. But the other one that this was the African cop now it's not the first time cop has been held on the continent of Africa. But there was a focus in the developing countries being heard perhaps in a way they haven't been before.

Nadia Ameli  17:44  
I guess some of the priorities for Africa were in terms of the loss and damage funding, which was definitely priority. And vulnerable countries have been waiting these for the fossil fuel facility for 30 years. It was sent to somehow err the day African country voices when it comes to the Africa special needs special circumstances. Just during the cop basically the African negotiator, put will forward the proposal, trying to highlight the recognising really the special needs that Africa is in terms of Korean population, the increasing energy leads, and also the special circumstances in which Africa is, again is one of the biggest country globally that where climate change impacts will be most felt. Unfortunately, this proposition was decline at attracted some not really positive on the fact that the African voice was heard, I guess there was against another positive note more in terms of youth and young activist, at least we see that in these call, there was a little bit more space to live in to young activist. So that was that they were able to keep a momentum somehow.

Katie Kedward  19:01  
I think what was interesting from this cop was the recognition that the role of international financial institutions such as the World Bank, and the IMF, the role that they play in really providing development finance to Africa and other low income nations. Al Gore went on record with this incredible language accusing the World Bank of fossil fuel colonialism, for continuing to increase its financing to fossil fuel projects across the developing world since the Paris Agreement and I think he was directly referencing the huge amounts of World Bank finance currently going into fossil gas pipeline infrastructure across Africa, which is obviously very striking because it's, it's putting these positions these countries in a in a in a position of carbon lock in in terms of the infrastructure, they're building out, when really they should be in the put in the best possible position to leapfrog fossil fuel infrastructure altogether.

Helen Czerski  19:54  
You mentioned before Katie this question of the loss and damage funds being agreed in principle I mean, these things seem to happened very slowly to the outside world. So, so what has actually been agreed with the loss and damage fund is that it should exist. And that's the big deal. But actually, there's nothing in there about how it will exist straight or exactly who's going to pay into it. And when?

Katie Kedward  20:13  
Yes, exactly. So we don't know who exactly is funding it. We don't know how much funding entire mechanism is likely to receive. And, you know, on the basis of commitments alone, we sort of have to be careful on how much optimism we throw into this for the simple reason that on a historic basis, few countries have ever made commitments to loss and damages or have made commitments to date. And secondly, you know, we have a very poor record of previous financing commitments to the global South, the cop Conference in Copenhagen 12 years ago, rich nations pledged $100 billion per year to developing nations by 2020, that that promise that pledge, was was never made, was never met, and was never held to account, we still don't know whether the Promised 100 billion per year has gone or whether it will it will ever make its way to developing nations.

Helen Czerski  21:03  
I'm interested in the sort of some of the little bits of detail in a way. And just as examples of the sorts of things that were discussed or where progress was made that in your own specific areas, with a particular details that came out or exchanges or, you know, conversations that were had or statements that were particularly impressive to you, or that were particularly notable, do you think in your specific area, Nadia first, perhaps,

Nadia Ameli  21:29  
yes, part of my research looks a lot at how we can reform, the climate finance architecture that we see today. It is important that we have this recognition now in the agreement in the text. And there is really a huge need or reform in the way multilateral development bank's but also international institution, they're really lending money to poor country, have done some of the research in this space, dig into the numbers. And if when we look at the global finances, especially mitigation that is flowing, from north to south to the global South, we see that very little fraction in the order video of less than 1% goes to the most vulnerable countries. And this is true not only for the private finance but even for the public one. So we do have a problem if throat basically the architectural public finance, we are not really able to target the most vulnerable ones, the poorest countries through 3d some public effort and support. So for me was getting back to your point was, was important to see that there is this recognition of changing, really reforming the financial system, and in particularly in challenging the way the public institutions, but you're the World Bank IMF, have been lending their money to the most vulnerable countries.

Helen Czerski  22:55  
And Katie, in your specific area of interest, what what are the details that you saw that you noted that were particularly interesting, during this cup?

Katie Kedward  23:05  
I guess I I am optimistic that change will come for the simple reason that, you know, the aftermath of the pandemic has led a huge number of developing countries in a really dire economic situation in terms of their debt burdens, the amount of their national budgets they're spending each year on simply servicing debts. And on top of that, they obviously being hit by an increased frequency and severity of climate related disasters. So I think there is there is widespread acknowledgement now that as well as redistribution of funds, which we we've already spoken about as part of a loss and damages, there also needs to be debt restructuring, potentially even debt forgiveness, in order for countries to take up the challenge of climate change. And that, that requires that and that requires quite deep structural reforms to the the way the international financial and monetary system operates, including, as Nadia said, reforms of the World Bank and the IMF is key institutions there. Another development I found quite remarkable, actually, was the comments that Mark Carney, former governor of the Bank of England, made on behalf of the GE fans allowance Alliance. So that's the Glasgow financial alliance on net zero, which is a coalition of a number of very large financial institutions. And these comments basically called or even asked for governments to increase financial regulation to support the transition to net zero. And this, again, is really quite an extraordinary statement, the first year of GE funds. You know, it's been it's been wrecked by controversies and difficulties. A number of prominent banks and pension funds, particularly in the US have either pulled out or threatened to pull out of the Alliance due to the fact that they're facing legal challenges litigation risks from from their own shareholders. And I think what struck me about Mark Carney's comments there Shares he, he struck kind of a lonely figure. And you know, the kind of shift of the GE fans allowance to kind of recognising okay, maybe we need governments to come in pave the way for us give us some more guidance on where and how finance should be governed. For the green transition, I thought was very interesting.

Helen Czerski  25:18  
Something I think Milton Friedman said some point, you know, decades and decades ago, shareholders have become the point of a company. And nobody questioned that and all the business leaders today, just assume that the entire you know that the legal system is set up so that shareholders are the point of a company. And actually, it doesn't have to be true. There's this kind of realisation going on that. Actually, we you know, we have a choice. Do either of you see any real progress on pushing things like that along? It's not just reforming government regulation? It's actually reforming what we think a company is? Because that's a massive part of this, isn't it?

Katie Kedward  25:54  
It's an interesting question. I think what I've been, you know, over the past 20 years or so, cop has definitely got been a big part of getting climate up the agenda, the fact that Nadia said, you know, over 600, fossil fuel lobbyists spurred attendance this year, I think is testament to how important it is because even for those companies with vested interests to attend and show their face at what has become quite an important political event for the development of climate policy. Look, I think, you know, a concurrent risk that has risen over the same time, in terms of this development is also the risk of greenwashing. Because you know, that the court process, at its core is about, you know, it's a framework for negotiating commitments. It's not a framework for delivering on actions, you know, that's the role of governments to go away, and then come up with their nationally determined contributions and their strategies for decarbonisation. So the, you know, the the potential for the court process to have been co opted by companies making ambitious statements and then not delivering on them, I think is a risk that has become probably more acknowledged over the past year, but still needs to be held to account properly. So in our in our own work, we've called for a much bigger role to be played by central banks and financial regulators, in coordination with broader government to use regulatory policy to help steer finance away from the activities that are clearly incompatible with a transition. And clearly the definition of those activities needs to be put in some sort of public taxonomy, but also steering finance towards activities where funding is more urgently needed. Because as Nadia said, you know, green assets are qualitatively different from the incumbent carbon intensive industries, and there needs to be a more market shaping industrial policy approach to kind of nurture finance in that direction.

Helen Czerski  27:38  
I'm actually interested in the idea that both of your job titles exist. And I think this is very interesting, when you come you know, we're discussing cops and whether the cop makes progress and perspective on the cop. But actually, the fact that you to have these your research fellows specifically in these areas, that's a big step with that you're able to look at the COP and and, you know, provide analysis on what's going on? How do your new jobs if you like, contribute to this process of of COP, 27? And what it needs to do or what has to happen next?

Nadia Ameli  28:11  
I guess Yeah, policymakers will take the final step in order to implement basically our recommendation. But I guess we do have the responsibility to inform the debate and to share with you the real numbers, because something that I've seen a lot, especially in climate finance is it's very easy to make statements to join alliances like the the classical for line alliance for for clarifying ants, or any other climate pledges. But then when you check for the sensitive portfolio location, those companies you don't see really progresses or you don't see really huge changes. So guess we do have this function to provide empirical evidence in order to inform the policy debate that it will be some of the policymaker job to implement and to find the right the trade off in terms of what kind of goals we want to achieve for the future.

Helen Czerski  29:06  
And Katie, briefly, again, if you would, what, what's your perspective on having a job description that wouldn't have existed five years ago?

Katie Kedward  29:13  
Yeah, it's an interesting one, actually. Because I guess first and foremost, as an economist, I, and as working in academia, I see myself as a scientist, right? So I want to objectively look at evidence and come up with conclusions to inform policy on the basis of real science. And the important of that importance of that, as Nadia said, is, it's very much to hold this business and governments to account on the decisions they're making, but also the commitments they're making. But I guess also as an economist, taking into account the kind of existential threat that we're facing here right this isn't like regular sign it's just kind of generating knowledge for knowledge sake, it's it's it's knowledge generation in order to contribute to the to the structural economic transformation that needs to happen to kind of preserve our living conditions on this planet. And so there's a kind of there's there's a normative aspect to what we're doing here. It's urgent and it's needed. And it's it is, as I said, existential.

Helen Czerski  30:07  
We are almost out of time very quickly from both of you, then I'm curious in your level of optimism, we're recording this the day after cop 27 finally finished with an agreement and imperfect agreement, but still an agreement. What is in a couple of sentences each, how optimistic about things are you feeling at the moment Nadia first,

Nadia Ameli  30:29  
given where the cup will be set next year with again, it's the Emirates, I'm not incredibly optimistic in the sense that we are going to find an agreement on emission reduction, in particular the face down of fossil fuels. But they do feel quite optimistic in terms that we're making progress is in towards a loss in their match financing facility. So awfully early this year, we could see some progresses in a round basically how this facility will work. And some more details on on funding mechanisms, and also contributions. As I said, I'm less much less optimistic in terms of the face it down with fossil fuels.

Helen Czerski  31:09  
Okay, Katie level of optimism.

Katie Kedward  31:14  
difficult question to answer, I think the current energy crisis and macro economic crisis were facing given its links to energy. This kind of supply shock we've seen to fossil gas from the Russia Ukraine war is very much put decarbonisation on the agenda in terms of the pure economics and political perspective. So that I think is a cautious turns for optimism. But overall, look, I would say we have the technology available to solve this problem. We have the financial resources available. The obstacles that there are to overcome are largely political, and that means that they are eminently surmountable. What it just needs is more activism, more involvement from everybody calling for ambitious targets, delivery on those targets, and most importantly, holding the powers that be to account for everybody.

Helen Czerski  32:08  
Well, I love your optimism that politics is actually the easy, easy part of the problem rather than the hardest. Okay, we are out of time for today. So, Nadia, Emily, and Katie. Katie, thank you very much for joining us on generation one. Thanks for having me.

Nadia Ameli  32:21  
Thank you. Pleasure.

Helen Czerski  32:29  
That's all we have time for this week on generation one. So it's time for me to say thank you very much indeed. To my guests Z Hanshin Nadia, Molly and Katie cadwyn. And quickly quick reminder here of how you can get in touch with us at generation one, send an email or voice note to podcasts with an s@ucl.ac.uk We'd really love to get your feedback and we'd love to hear your suggestions for future episodes and guests. We hope to be back in the new year for a new series of generation one. But until then, from me, Helen Tarski thanks for listening and goodbye.