Climate Change


Post-COP28: Global climate action

Welcome back to UCL Generation One: The Climate Podcast. Introducing episode 4 of season four.

In this episode 4 of series 4, we’re moving beyond the UK to explore global climate policy in the wake of COP28. Hosts Mark Maslin and Simon Chin-Yee are joined by Pierre Cannet, the Global Head of Public Affairs and Policy at Client Earth, to discuss how the law can be used to create change.

Views expressed by our guests are their own.


Barack Obama 0:02 

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

Pierre Cannet  0:11 

The key generation being already hit by climate change, but the key generation to make sure we respond to the biggest challenge of human history

Al Gore  0:21 

To solve this crisis, please remember always political will is itself a renewable resource. Let's get busy renewing it today.

Simon Chin-Yee  0:31 

Fingers crossed governments do stick to their strategies and plans and even ramp them up.

Mark Maslin  0:40 

This is Generation One from University College London, turning climate science and ideas into action.

So I’m Mark Maslin. And as you know, I'm a Professor of Earth Systems Science here at University College London. What does that mean? Well, I study climate change in the past, the present and the future.

Simon Chin-Yee  1:07 

And I'm Simon Chin-Yee. I'm in the Political Sciences department here at UCL. And I look at everything from small island states to African countries, and climate action all around the globe.

Mark Maslin  1:17 

So Simon, you were part of this amazing event that UCL organised with the Climate Reality Project, and the Climate Café. It was on Valentine's Day. So of course, what did we call it, we called it Love Your Planet. And for me, what was the most amazing thing was that Al Gore, the former Vice President of the United States, and the founder of the Climate Reality Project, introduced the whole day, in a video address.

Al Gore  1:49 

We don't need to wait, we can act now. And the good news is, if we do, the science tells us that once we reach true net zero, global temperatures will stop going up almost immediately, with a lag of as little as three to five years. And even more exciting: if we stay at true net zero, half of all of the human caused greenhouse gas pollution will have fallen out of the atmosphere in as little as 25 to 30 years, and the long, slow healing process can get underway. And that all gives me a tremendous amount of hope. And it fuels my drive to continue pushing for action. But we've got to act. And I hope you feel the same way. And I'll simply close this off and do by saying that if you ever doubt that we have the political will necessary to solve this crisis, please remember always: political will is itself a renewable resource. Let's get busy renewing it today.

Mark Maslin  2:49 

I'm always struck about how positive Al Gore is. And I love that saying, which is of course: good political will is a renewable resource. And I keep using that again and again. And that really is what this podcast is about. It's about finding those solutions to deal with the climate crisis.

Well, last time, Simon and I were doing this podcast, we were talking about our experience, good and bad, at COP28. Now, in the last couple of months, we've already had the news that last year, temperatures hit 1.48 degrees, above pre-industrial times. And if you take the last 12 months, I know that's a technical sort of like switcheroo, but we actually did go above 1.5 degrees. So we're into a new world, Simon.

Simon Chin-Yee  3:43 

We are into a new world. And I'm at least pleased to see that the international negotiations around climate change actually started ramping up already in January. So around the world, there are lots of actions being taken, as us here at UCL, Mark I'm sure you are as well, I have a whole planning now over the next 12 month period, knowing where and how we are going to be working on the different climate negotiations around the world.

Mark Maslin  4:09 

And I think that feeds into our Generation One podcast because of course, we're going to be looking over the next four episodes, we're going to be looking at global, we're going to look at the national level, we're going to look at what individuals can do. And we're also going to be focusing on what businesses can do to deal with the climate crisis. In today's episode, we're going to be focusing on global climate action. Where do we go from here? And what needs to be done on the global scale?

Simon Chin-Yee  4:38 

We're going to be asking some of these questions of our guest, Pierre Cannet, who leads the public affairs and policy team of Client Earth. I can already tell you that Pierre’s work is truly global in scope. He works on policy advocacy on very targeted environmental campaigns and develops tools that will influence strategies aimed at adopting positive solutions to protect the environment. Pierre, welcome. Could you tell us a bit about Client Earth and what you do?

Pierre Cannet  5:04 

Thank you very much. I'm happy to be with you today. And it's an honour to share with you some thoughts, some ideas and talk about what Client Earth is currently doing. Client Earth is a law charity. And I joined Client Earth because this is, at a time of urgency, I think one of the rare NGOs to really use the power of the law to solve the climate and nature crisis. And this is fascinating what Client Earth is doing, because we are increasingly global. And so we are working at the European EU level in the UK, in Asia, in the US. And we have partnerships and local NGOs, partnerships in Africa and South America. So this is amazing work with dedicated talent, experts, whether we're speaking of the communications, the lawyers, and I've been through the COP28 with these teams, and can share the experience working at and with Client Earth.

Simon Chin-Yee  6:08 

Thanks very much, Pierre. We were both, Mark and I, at COP28 as well. So it's a shame our paths didn't cross then.

Mark Maslin  6:14 

Well, there was about 100,000 people there so Pierre, we probably actually walked past each other and just didn't notice. Pierre, I'm gonna take a step back. This is the first time that global warming has technically exceeded the 1.5 degree target over a 12 month period. This doesn't actually represent necessarily a break of the landmark Paris Agreement, but it is incredibly worrying. I want to ask how does that science feed into Client Earth? And how does that actually help you and your team?

Pierre Cannet  6:48 

So all of this science is guiding us and the urgency to act. The way Client Earth is also driving its initiatives and projects is guided by the most recent studies and science. And this is why when we are speaking of climate change, we are really advocating for climate laws to be science based, and to align with all the work being done when you look at the urgency to act, whether you're speaking about reducing global greenhouse emissions, or when you're speaking about adapting to climate change. Of course, the temperature goal is guiding the urgency to act but beyond this kind of temperature goal, you have all these trajectories. And when you look at the 1.5 degrees Celsius, this is the temperature threshold that was decided in the Paris Agreement, and this is not Client Earth or NGOs who decided that. That agreement was actually signed off by almost all countries on earth, and signed off by the decision makers, by the leaders with head of states and government being at the COP21 and then taking this agreement forward in their own jurisdictions and countries. So this temperature goal limit increase should be respected. And it's well below 2 degrees and 1.5 degrees Celsius. And so that is the compass of all actions to be undertaken country by country. This is the compass that needs to be translated in the different climate laws across the world. And against this objective is really the notion of whether we speak about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, whether we're speaking about adapting to climate change, or whether we're speaking about the finance and the governance piece. All of this needs to be included in the climate legal frameworks we are currently pushing for in different countries. The impact of climate change and consequences of this 1.1, 1.2, etc is increasing, and how it translates with more heat waves, floodings, droughts, the level of sea rise as well. So all of this is tangible, and we can already feel it: I as a citizen, but also a lot of communities we are working with. When we're speaking about the Torres Strait Islanders in the Pacific, the impact we’re seeing on different small island states. I was like, I don't know if you remember at COP26 in Glasgow, but having a minister from small island states, being really engaging and being you know, the feet in the water with a sea level rise. That was really like driving emotions, and we were really sensitive and civil to this and to see how the communities are being directly hit and affected by climate change. So, my point to conclude is probably to consider, us all, that the temperature goal, it's a political commitment, it needs to be translated in local laws and domestic laws. But this needs to be connected with a purpose of why we don't want to see much increase, we want this to be limited to 1.5. It's because a world of 1.5 is a very different world of 2 degrees. And this is what science is telling us.

Simon Chin-Yee  10:18 

And I like how you put people at the centre of this and that you're centring it on the science, that's important. But the other aspect of this is that climate justice piece that you talked about Pierre, which I'm really intrigued in, because climate justice for a Torres Strait Islander for example, and as someone who works on Pacific islands a lot, it means something different for different people. So at the recent COP28, the countries that had agreed to submit their updated climate plans for that 2035 period, that's supposed to be aligned with the 1.5 degree target that you've been talking about. But I guess my question is, is it just too slow?

Pierre Cannet  11:00 

It is, unfortunately, and the most striking thing is that when you look at the science, the outcome of the COP28 is about the global stocktake. So it's global stocktake means that the parties of the countries in the room of the COP28, in the plenary who actually concluded the outcome, are aware that it's going to slow. And we are saying that, scientists are saying that, but the thing is that these stakeholders globally, the parties, the countries, the representatives and governments in the room, are acknowledging that it's not going fast enough. What UNEP is telling us, the UN Environmental Programme, the scientists, the reports, there is one that is very interesting. It's called the Gap Report, it's an annual report, that it needs to go four times faster. So to your question, “Is this too slow?” all and everybody is saying it's not going fast enough. And if you need to look at the numbers, we need to go four times faster. And this is why, at COP28 but also in this critical year, there is no room to rollback. There is no room to backlash. There is no room for all the attempts to harm environmental policies. The question is simple: it's how the decisions, the laws, the policies can help us with justice as well, to accelerate action and ambition.

UCL Minds  12:33 

You're listening to UCL Generation One, turning science and ideas into climate action.

Mark Maslin  12:42 

Pierre, you and Client Earth have a real deep insight into the legal frameworks and the policies in different countries. So can I ask you, which countries do you think are really holding us back? And please, feel free to name and shame.

Pierre Cannet  13:00 

Okay, so the question about naming and shaming is to understand what are the capacities, the context, the situations as well across the world? When you look at the what we call global stocktake that was concluded and negotiated at the COP28, it's clear from the numbers I just shared. Nobody is at the level. No one on earth, no country is really the big champion. This said, it's important as well, that we are looking in the climate laws about the targets and the numbers. So we might have, for instance, ambitious countries, while it's going to net zero in terms of targets and pledges. Let's say for instance, the EU carbon neutrality by 2050, the UK has its own net zero as well pledges, but at the end, what is to us Client Earth critical is to look in the details, understanding what is currently being implemented and done. What are the key strategies to make sure that these pledges are being implemented. You have reports being done to measure the progress against, for instance, renewables, against energy efficiency, around climate finance. And when you look as well at the progress made, some countries like Uruguay, Denmark, Jordan, Chile, some of them are making progress. When you look at the solar and wind generation, it’s going at rapid scales. And we can on renewables have and look, it's also in two different reports. So, what we are looking at for Client Earth is this question of enforcement, implementations, and making sure the pledges are translated into reality. And that's why we have, on very specific cases, the need to activate legal cases against governments on very specific issues. I think that we need to look more in detail when countries made pledges, like I mentioned for the EU and the UK. And really be specific around what we're expecting from governments. Other organisations and institutions are making some interesting rankings, so it can be used by Client Earth to look at the details and understanding what is going on. But at the end, we are very focused on what needs to be done country by country, on climate, and if we need to activate specific legal cases, to make sure that we are taking to account governments and companies.

Simon Chin-Yee  15:43 

Yeah, again, it goes back to this idea of climate justice, doesn't it? That was very comprehensive, what you’ve just given. I'm just wondering now, when it comes to, for example, the alliance of small island states or the African group of negotiators, for whom they have little to mitigate, they have little to cut in terms of emissions. So what do you see as the biggest threats then, when you're analysing these countries and their implementation? What do you see as the biggest threat to not implementing these strategies, or even coming up with weak strategies?

Pierre Cannet  16:14 

I'd say we have many threats across the world currently regarding the strategies. First one is about, you know, the lack of trust and the fact that this is a global issue. And we need to find a way that countries are cooperating, working together against this planetary climate crisis, and the responses that are global. But the proofs, I would say, of love and trust to be found country by country put on the table, whether we speak of, for instance, climate finance, which is critical 100 billion finance, but loss and damage, with a new fund created and making sure that then we are seeing more financial commitments on the table, that we are seeing as well, the implementation of funding programmes to be looked at very, very carefully. So this question of trust is essential. Heading up to the trust, I would say that a big risk identified by the World Economic Forum is about the misinformation, the disinformation, and how all of this regarding climate, nature and actions to be undertaken, to respond to the crisis, are being threatened by very like targeted campaigns against climate action. And it's being done by specific interest lobbies across the world, and it's targeting citizens and future voters. But of course, in the democracies, the decision makers themselves are being influenced and targeted by this misinformation. So, as we are approaching a year of elections, it's as well regarding this misinformation and the question of trust, to make sure that the future government's future mandates will be fully used, with decision makers aware of their own responsibilities, and the ability for them to respond. Because when you are head of state, when you are head of governments, when you're a member of the parliaments, the responsibility against this reality is to protect people. So we are looking at all of these, in this critical year, to make sure that we can respond to the challenge you have me about, and that we can address these different risks in a critical year.

Mark Maslin  18:45 

Pierre, so 2024 is probably going to be the hottest year on record. But it's also an election year with something like 50 countries, 2 billion people going to vote in elections. How do you perceive this is going to affect climate policy and action?

Pierre Cannet  19:08 

This year will be critical for the next decade or more, because all the decisions taking in the next mandate will impact our generation. That is, as you introduced, the key generation being already hit by climate change, but the key generation to make sure we respond to the biggest challenge of human history. So this is about this generation. And it's about the next generation and the future generations because the decisions made today are impacting the ecosystems, the oceans, the climates, the pollutions put here on earth will last for decades and sometimes centuries. So all of these decisions for the next mandate, have a direct impact on the present but let's not forget about the future as well on Earth and future generations. And it's important for people to realise that Earth and life on Earth is on the ballot. So we have this year elections where the voters, and as well, the parties, and politicians in charge of finding the solutions to respond to the crisis, need to realise the challenge for the next mandate to really put in place the right decisions and the right rules and the right laws in place to respond to this biggest challenge we had as humanity to solve. So having in mind, if you go beyond the environmental aspects, and you focus on the economy, and you focus on the jobs, and you focus on the resiliency of our societies in front of climate change, and biodiversity loss, nothing will be possible without a healthy planet, and healthy ecosystems and healthy ocean and stable climate in the next years and decades. And so, for decision makers, whatever the party to consider, whatever the approach. That all these decisions in the next years will have a direct impact on the economies on jobs, on the wellbeing of farmers when they are confronted to increasing droughts, for instance, and heatwaves. So all of this needs to be really considered when life on Earth is on the ballot. We need to make sure that the voters, the parties, the next elected decision makers will have in mind these challenges in a very integrated manner, and putting the environment, health of people and ecosystems, and justice at the centre of their projects at the centre of their decisions. Whatever happens, there is one thing sure that Client Earth will be keeping to take into account companies and gardens. This is the mission we had. And we'll continue to do that.

Mark Maslin  22:10 

So Pierre, I mean, a lot of the younger people are deeply frustrated, and many of them are now taking direct action. Can I ask, why is the approach of Client Earth so important and why do you feel this is a much better route to take than say, perhaps direct action?

Pierre Cannet  22:31 

There are many routes and many avenues and many ways to do it. And I think the most important thing is to be respectful to this DNA. Currently, I joined Clean Earth because I believe, as the Global Head of Policy and Public Affairs, I believe in the power of the law, I believe in the way we used the law. And in the way we won cases, when I mentioned as well, the Torres Strait Islanders the way to protect the communities. So this is a key lever we are using as Client Earth. And that's why I'm championing it, because I believe in it. And this is why I joined as well Client Earth and happy to work with lawyers on it. But we should not oppose what we are doing with how the others are reacting to it. I'm not positioned to criticise, or to say to anybody what needs to be done. I'm just here to say if you want to join us, if you are a lawyer, a law student, if you’re believing in the power of the law, then support us and come to us. If you're believing and feel that your action in the streets, that your action in cooperative, for instance, for organic food is useful, do it. And I really want to invite people because we have a lot of eco anxiety currently. And my way to solve the eco anxiety is I joined Client Earth because I know that with little actions I'm doing, I'm trying to compensate the burden and the fact that I'm really afraid of what's going on and the big wave we're seeing, and the science and the numbers and the news and the fact we don't have policies in place. And so for young people who are willing to join Client Earth or other legal actions, it's really up to you to define that. And I'm also thinking the question could have been: how is it working with corporate engagements and people in the companies being proactive, to move from the inside and trying to influence from the inside as well, corporate decisions. So I think it's complimentary. And I think I'm not positioned to judge or evaluate any other levers. I'm here to say why I think this is a good lever and why the law is powerful. And when I look at the cases we launch, I'm looking at the different victories. When I look at the advocacy we're doing, I believe in the power of the law. And I feel that changing in our democracies, the laws can have an effect. This is how we've been functioning in the past centuries in many democracies, and this is how the rule of law is, I think so important to work in democracies around this justice and law component.

Mark Maslin  25:04 

Thank you, Pierre, I have to say, I think that people sometimes forget that the rule of law, the use of the law, the use of the frameworks of our society, are absolutely essential for dealing with these crises. And this is why some organisations like Client Earth and yourself are so important. So thank you so much for joining this podcast. And I have to say, it's been an absolute pleasure to speak to you.

Simon Chin-Yee  25:29 

And we'll be watching with you over the coming 12 months to see all of these different outcomes to make sure and to hope and fingers crossed governments do stick to their strategies and plans and even ramp them up.

Mark Maslin  25:40 

Yeah, I don't think we're going to have any fingernails left by the end of some of these elections. But yes, I agree. We will be watching with you.

Pierre Cannet  25:48 

Thank you. And I’d just to thank you for the podcast you're doing because it's an ability for us to share our thoughts and the encouragement we can share with you to continue the discussion.

Simon Chin-Yee  25:59 

Absolutely. We need to keep the conversation going. Brilliant.

Mark Maslin  26:02 

Thank you very much, Pierre.

That's it for this episode of Generation One from UCL turning climate science and ideas into action. But stay tuned for the rest of the series, or listen on demand to all our episodes on your favourite platform. If you'd like to ask a question or suggest a guest that you'd like to hear on Generation One, you can email us on podcasts@ucl.ac.uk. Otherwise, for more information about UCL’s work in the climate space, and what our staff and students, as well as our researchers, are doing to make sure that we don't just talk the talk, but we walk the walk on to a more sustainable future, head to the UCL Generation One website. Or follow us on social media, #UCL Generation One.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai