Podcast interview with Felix Dodds - on the climate change
- Created on .
An article for Inter Press Service News By Felix Dodds and Chris Spence republished here.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is absolutely right to call the latest UN climate report a “Code Red for Humanity.” Without immediate and serious action, we are condemning future generations to a dismal future.
Already, we have wasted too much time. Next year, it will be half a century since first UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm warned us of the risks to our environment from human activities. More than 30 years have passed since the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its first report (the latest report is its sixth). Even that first report in 1990 warned of humanity’s impact on greenhouse gas concentrations and planetary warming. Again, our actions over subsequent decades have been woefully inadequate.
This year has given us the most vivid insights into what the new world will look like, whether it is droughts and fires in California or the latest tragic wildfires in Greece, as temperatures get so hot that even a small spark sets them off.
The IPCC report also looks at heat waves. If we were to permit a 2 °C increase in temperature, then the record temperatures recorded recently in the United States and unexpectedly in Canada would become 14 times more likely to happen again in future, both there and elsewhere.
There has already been an increase in the number and the strength of. Flooding is happening more often and again in places not expected as rain falls in a different way to how it did before These heavy downpours, most recently in Germany, show that the flood defenses were built for a different type of downpour and will required huge infrastructural overhauls if this is to be the new normal.
Then there is the cascading effect if the forests and vegetation have burnt down. When the rain comes again there is now nothing to hold the water back, meaning floods will have a greater impact on already devastated communities.
The key here is water. The UN’s climate negotiations only added water as a key issue to the negotiations in 2010 due to campaigning by the multi stakeholder efforts of the Water and Climate Coalition. The approach to greenhouse targets missed a huge opportunity to address the key sectors that were either contributing to the problem or would be impacted by it.
No Minor Injuries
Why are so many political leaders either in denial about the need for urgent action, or simply paying it lip service? The current sense of denial is unsettlingly reminiscent of the comedy film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In one painfully funny scene, a mysterious dark knight bars the path of our hero, King Arthur. The two fight and King Arthur expects the knight to stand aside when he cuts off the knight’s arm. But the knight refuses, claiming at first that it is merely a “scratch”. The fight resumes and the knight loses his other arm. Again, he refuses to submit or step aside, claiming it is “just a flesh wound.”
This is where we stand with climate change. Already, we have inflicted great injuries on our planet and we need to respond accordingly. We cannot pretend the globe has just suffered a few minor cuts and scrapes. If our world was the dark knight, you could argue that we have, through our actions, already severed a limb. We must cease our attacks and treat this as a global emergency for our global health. No band aid solution or plastering over the damage will do. Inaction will not cut it.
In a health emergency, time is of the essence. You cannot wait to call an ambulance or try to carry on as normal. If you do, the patient may not survive. The IPCC’s latest report shows we must act immediately and take the strongest action possible.
A Call to Action
So, what can be done with the UN IPCC’s new warning?
First, those countries that have not yet submitted new Nationally Determined Contribution targets under the UN’s Paris agreement should do so immediately.
Secondly, developed countries should increase their contribution promised in 2015 for funding from $100 billion a year for climate work to at least $200 billion by the Climate Summit in Egypt in 2022.
Thirdly, and even more importantly, governments need to aggressively focus on the corporate sector and its responsibilities. This should include making it a requirement for all companies listed on any Stock Exchange to have to produce their sustainability strategy and their Environmental, Social and Governance Report (ESG) every year. This should be a requirement for remaining on the stock exchange. This should also require them to produce science-based targets to achieve net zero greenhouse gases by 2050. Companies’ voluntary, self-created goals are no longer sufficient.
Perhaps it is even worth considering having Stock Exchanges publish the total carbon of their members and to start considering them putting a cap on what the Exchange would allow and what their contribution to net zero will be.
Fourthly, the role of local and sub-national governments needs to be supported and enhanced. Actors at the local and regional levels are critical to delivering what we need. They need to be supported to set their own 2030 targets and 2050 net zero strategies. To enable them to achieve this, central governments will need to support them and provide the extra funding. All planning decisions should be based on the new projections of climate change and building in flood plains should stop.
Fifthly, governments should review the impacts on climate change of all existing policies and not proceed unless they are within the strategy to deliver the NDC and the 2030 and 2050 Net Zero strategies. In short, governments need to start incorporating climate change into all of their thinking across all sectors. The problem is too vast, and too urgent, to do otherwise.
Sixthly, all governments need to urgently review their disaster risk reduction strategies ahead of a major UN conference on this subject scheduled for next May in Bali.
At all levels of government we need to review the interlinkages between water, agriculture, energy and climate change to ensure that planning is climate proofed. Without accounting for each of these sectors, the solutions will not be big enough to meet the challenge.
Finally, as voters, taxpayers and citizens, we need to press our political leaders to put climate change at the top of their list of priorities. They need to be reminded that it is not just future generations that will judge them and their policies—we can do so, too.
A Code Red Emergency
We have a decade to turn this around. Already, we have seen global temperatures rise by 1.09 °C. The IPCC suggests we may pass the all-important threshold of 1.5 °C by 2034 to 2040.
In fact, things may be even more pressing. The report that came out on Monday was the “summary for policymakers”, which means it was a negotiated document with both progressive nations and more climate sceptic and cautious countries negotiating the exact wording. While the findings were certainly scientifically sound, it is quite likely the language could have been—and probably should have been—even more urgent. We would do well to remember what some politicians have said over the last few years; if they have denied the science in the past then now is surely the time for them make way for others who are willing to give this issue the weight it so clearly deserves.
Felix Dodds is an Adjunct Professor at the Water Institute at the University of North Carolina where he is a Principal Investigator for the Belmont funded Re-Energize project. He co-coordinated the Water and Climate Change Coalition at the Climate Negotiations (2007-2012). His new book is Tomorrow’s People and New Technology: Changing How We Live Our Lives (October 2021).
Chris Spence is an environmental consultant, writer and author of the book, Global Warming: Personal Solutions for a Healthy Planet. He is a veteran of many climate summits and other United Nations negotiations over the past three decades.
This is an interview with me with BBC Radio Derby after the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report came on.
I had the pleasure of editing this paper "SDG 2030 Series Report No. 2 – ‘Financing for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement: The UN Ecosystem of Initiatives on Private Sector Finance’"
On July 13, 2021, on the virtual sidelines of the 2021 United Nations High-level Forum on Sustainable Development in New York – the HLPF, Stakeholder Forum and New World Frontiers held an HLPF ‘Pop-up’ Side Event to launch a new paper:
About the paper:
This timely paper is an overview of the UN Ecosystem of Initiatives on the private sector finance role in helping to finance the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement. The delivery of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has been estimated by several organizations, from the World Bank to the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, to be in the region of US$3-$5 trillion annually. This dwarfs the contribution from Overseas Development aid, which is in the region of US$150 billion annually.
The financing for the SDGs and the Paris Agreement will need a refocusing of private sector finance. In that context, this paper explores the state of the UN ecosystem of initiatives on private sector finance in support of this.
The realignment of private sector finance to support sustainable development and to stop funding activities that take us in the wrong direction has accelerated since the 2012 Rio+20 conference, the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (2015), the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, and the Paris Agreement.
2021 has seen action on fossil fuel company boards where, recently, three directors committing to move them towards renewables (EXXON-Mobile) have been elected. And a Netherlands court ruled that the Royal Dutch Shell company needs to slash its greenhouse gas emissions. Moody’s estimated in 2019 that the total green bond market was heading to $250 billion with the COVID recovery packages being built around green technology; this is going to increase substantively in the coming years.
A RECORDING OF THAT SIDE EVENT CAN BE FOUND HERE. THE PRESENTATIONS, A SINGLE PDF
Felix Dodds: You have participated in the conceptualization of the SDGs, could you please explain to us how the SDGs came about and in what way are they different from the MDGs?
I was attending the informal for Rio+20 in July 2011 on institutional framework for sustainable development in Solo Indonesia when the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were proposed by Paula Caballero who was then Director of Economic, Social and Environmental Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombia. It was Colombia who played the critical leadership role initially supported by Guatemala and Peru. The SDGs from the beginning differed from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in several critical ways:
Another difference was that the MDGs were not negotiated and were originally opposed by NGOs and other stakeholders because they were had not been involved and because they reduced the outcomes from the conference outcomes of the 1990s to 8 goals and 21 targets.
The SDGs were the most participatory process that we have ever seen. I chaired the UN Conference Sustainable Societies ResponsiveCitizens two months after the Solo workshop, and we re-organized the conference declaration to include a set of indicative SDGs we also came up four years before the SDGs were agreed with 17 goals. Because this was a UN Conference the suggested goals were then put into the policy briefs of the Rio+20 conference.
At the same time as Colombia were proposing the idea of the SDGs Paul Ladd of UNDP in May 2011 had prepared a paper for I think the UN Development Group under Helen with a similar idea.
Initially it wasn’t supported by the development NGO and the development ministries. In fact at the Colombia retreat in November 2011 the development agencies attending it were focused on renewing the MDGs were a few changes on the margin…AUSAID suggested maybe an additional target and a few additional indicators on the environment might be the way forward. I think Save the Children opposition to the SDGs continued through to the end of the negotiations in 2014.
My work from July 2011 to Rio+20 was to support Colombia and to promote the suggested goals from the Sustainable Societies Responsive Citizens conference. That it was the NGOs and other stakeholders who put the first set of indicative SDGs forward is important as it laid the foundation for a huge impact in the process for stakeholders. My work after Rio+20 was focused on setting up a coalition for what would be SDG 11 on Sustainable Cities and Communities. The Communitas coalition played a critical role behind the scenes working with member states on building support for the goal and in facilitating discussion on possible targets. Finally, an additional difference between he SDGs and the MDGs was the interlinkage between goals and targets. This built on the work started by the German government at their Nexus Conference on Water-Food-Energy and the Green Economy in 2011 which I was the board of and managed the engagement of stakeholders with. I followed this with a second Nexus Conference in March 2014 in Chapel Hill at University of North Carolina which I codirected and which a section of the key SDG negotiators attended which helped the interlinkage targets on food and water emerge.
Felix Dodds: How did COVID19 change the way we communicate and what is your vision of how the world will evolve after covid?
I think for many people COVID has made us more internet savvy whether its using Hopin, Zoom or Virbela where you appear as an avatar in a virtual conference space. This isn’t universal and we have seen the limits of this for negotiations.
For the UNFCCC informals this last three weeks Egypt with UNDP created a high level space in Sharm El Sheikh for key African negotiators could coordinate and engage in person with the virtual setting. Its clear to me over the last eighteen months that the virtual setting has added the ability of people from around the word to attend intergovernmental meetings particularly those that are not negotiating like the High Political Forum or World Water Week and this is good news for increasing knowledge and sharing best practice what its not good for is negotiating difficult issues and for the participation of stakeholders to enable them to influence policy changes. So great for sharing bad for negotiating.
Felix Dodds: During the COVID crisis, how we can counter misinformation and influence others as an international collective to take action for the SDGs?
This is not new and you will find in some of the developed countries new NGOs such as in the UK the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit that supports informed debate on energy and climate change issues in the UK. Addressing misinformation and supporting journalists, parliamentarians and other communicators with accurate and accessible briefings on key climate and energy issues. We may need similar national organizations set up on the SDGs
Felix Dodds: What interesting online communities have popped up in regards to the SDGs?
A new space Clubhouse has emerged is an invitation-only social media app where users can communicate in voice chat rooms that accommodate groups of thousands of people. The audio-only app hosts live discussions, with opportunities to participate through speaking and listening. It started for celebrities but has widened out and has some interesting groups which discuss issues with a wide range of people. The SDGs are mostly dealt with in the UN Clubhouse but with the announcement of the Glasgow Finance Alliance for New Zero it is now being addressed in spaces for the finance sector.
I think the HLPF being virtual has increased the outreach and understanding of the SDGs. We have seen academic conferences that focus on the SDGs such as Future Earth enable researchers to participate and learn in a way they couldn’t before. One great example is also the Virtual Island Summit in September which brings together stakeholders from islands around the world many who would never have had the chance to meet together. So this has grown existing communities as opposed to new online communities.
Felix Dodds: Do you think the COVID will be a waking up call for more solidarity?
It is making it more obviously the inequality in countries and between developed and developing countries. I am hopeful that that will build stronger solidarity in our communities online and in person. But only time will tell. Building stronger online communities in support of the SDGs should be what we are working for and ConnectAID can play a critical role.
Felix Dodds: As the world is changing, how can we prepare to build forward better?
I have just handed in a new book Tomorrow’s People and New Technology: Changing How We Live Our Lives written with Carolina Chopitea and Ranger Ruffins. The book provides an indication of what the world might look like in 2030, it looks at the nexus between emerging technologies and sustainable development, politics and society, and global governance.
We are witness a series of social, political, cultural, and economic changes/disruptions this book examines the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the way emerging technologies are impacting our lives and changing society.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterized by the emergence of new technologies that are blurring the boundaries between the physical, the digital, and the biological worlds.
The book allows readers to explore how these technologies will impact peoples’ lives by 2030.
It helps readers to not only better understand the use and implications of emerging technologies, but also to imagine how their individual life will be shaped by them.
The book provides an opportunity to see the great potential but also the threats and challenges presented by the emerging technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, posing questions for the reader to think about what future they want. Emerging technologies, such as robotics, artificial intelligence, Big Data and analytics, cloud computing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, the Internet of Things, fifth-generation wireless technologies (5G), and fully autonomous vehicles, among others, will have a significant impact on every aspect of our lives, as such this book looks at their potential impact in the entire spectrum of daily life, including home life, travel, education and work, health, entertainment and social life.
The new goals agreed in 2030 will probably be for 2050 and will need to address some of this.
"I simply love Tomorrow's People and New Technology. Teasingly playful, inquisitive rather than just another turgid tome trying to be politically correct and accurate with each forecast, the authors' bandwidth is wonderfully broad, the insights incisive, and the writing welcoming. This book is a speculative triumph. It invites us into an imaginative world of endless fascination and ingenuity, at once allying suspicions that the future belongs only to the smart machines we have created and are in the process of letting loose."
Richard David Hames, Executive Director, Centre for the Future
First published in Inter Press Service here.
By Felix Dodds and Chris Spence
How are preparations for the Glasgow Climate Summit in November proceeding? Currently, we are more than halfway through three weeks of virtual preparatory negotiations taking place in June. These online talks are challenging in their own right, just as many had feared (see: ‘Should the 2021 Climate Summit in Glasgow Still Take Place?’).
As we enter the final few months before Glasgow, however, there is room both for optimism and deep concern. Curiously, both of these emotions center squarely on the critical role of the host government.
The success or failure of a climate summit of this magnitude depends greatly on the role of the host government—or “Presidency”. In the past, we have seen both unfortunate missteps from the Presidency, such as Copenhagen in 2009, as well as untrammeled successes, like Paris in 2015.
There are several common elements that make up a good or even a great Presidency. First, the ability to build trust among member states is critical. While this sounds simple in theory, in practice it is immensely difficult, even without the added complication of a global pandemic creating both practical difficulties and showing once again the deep rifts between wealthy countries, which have hoovered up the bulk of vaccines, and developing nations. Another feature of a strong Presidency is its careful planning, both substantively and logistically. Can the UK deliver?
Always look on the bright side
Let’s start with reasons to be optimistic. First, the UK Presidency has made one very positive and intelligent move. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent pledge to cut emissions by 78 % by 2035 (compared with 1990 levels) is impressive in its ambition. It set a very high bar for other nations and could, potentially, give the UK a strong moral foundation for asking more of others.
Another positive for the UK is the enduring quality of its civil service. While the UK’s politicians seem to have discovered a penchant for tripping on every possible banana skin in recent years, the reputation of the country’s public servants remains high. The performance of the National Health Service (NHS) during the pandemic is just one example. More relevant to the Glasgow Summit, however, is the caliber of its diplomatic corps and wider foreign service, which remains exemplary.
How to lose friends and irritate people
Set against these positives, though, are several worrying facts.
First, the UK is the assuming the Presidency in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, a process that has left both Britain and its EU neighbors both bruised and a low point in their relationship. Its exit from the EU could hardly be described as one that has built strong and positive relations with the remaining 27 countries. These are countries the UK will need onside to make Glasgow a success.
Secondly, the UK’s recent decision to cut development aid from 0.7% to 0.5 % Gross National Income (GNI) feels like extraordinarily bad timing..
In October 1970, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution supporting the commitment to the 0.7% GNI for development aid from developed countries. While developed countries had agreed in theory, however, few were willing to put their money where their mouths were.
The UK was one of these few. In 2013, the Liberal Democrat MP Michael Moore introduced the Private Members Bill to the UK parliament that would enshrine the 0.7% GNI development aid target into law. In theory, this would protect it from being a bargaining tool in any future government budget discussions.
The law was passed in March 2015 under the Conservative/Liberal coalition government. All major political parties at the last election in 2019 committed to standing by this development target.
Surprisingly, this changed in November 2020 with the Conservative UK Finance Minister’s Spending Review. The review indicated that in 2021 the government would reduce its allocation of development aid to 0.5 % (GNI). This has resulted in a huge cut: US$5.7 billion in aid will no longer be available. While the consequences are yet to be felt, it can hardly fail to be momentous. To put it into context, this cut is more than the combined ODA of Austria, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, Iceland, Greece, Portugal, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic.
Up until the UK’s startling decision to cut its ODA, it has held the moral high ground on this issue. In fact, it was one of only six countries to have reached the United Nations goal of 0.7 %--and the only G7 country to do so. This gave the UK a great boost for the upcoming Climate Summit, where finance will be a critical issue.
Now Johnson’s government has surrendered this advantage, many experts are wondering how it will affect the host government’s efforts to win over the international community that will descend on Glasgow in November? Such cuts will have profound, on-the-ground impacts in many developing countries—hardly a smart way to “win friends and influence people.”
Some of Johnson’s own Tory colleagues have serious misgivings. While a possible parliamentary rebellion seems unlikely, a coalition of Conservative MPs led by former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell, and including two former Conservative Prime Ministers, is opposed to the cut, viewing it as a self-inflicted wound. The Conservatives have a majority of 80 in the House of Commons, which means if Conservative 41 MPs supported the reinstatement of the 0.7% then the government could face a humiliating climbdown.
(Drawn from a briefing produced by our colleague Yunus Arikan from ICLEI who follows the UNFCCC negotiations as the focal point of Local government and municipal authorities (LGMA), one of the 9 stakeholders climate constituencies.)
Another potential pitfall in the lead-up to Glasgow lies in the meeting’s arrangements and logistics. By early June, publicly available information for participants in Glasgow was in short supply.
For instance, there was no information yet on the capacity of the Glasgow Blue Zone (the conference location where negotiations will take place) with no breakdown for governments and observers of layout and costs of pavilion and office spaces.
Special Glasgow Summit visas are currently available only for Blue Zone delegations and visa applications have to be submitted to the UK embassies starting from August. At this time, however, no information is available to facilitate visa applications for Green Zone events (where businesses and civil society will operate). Clearly, the clock is ticking on all of this.
Current UK COVID-19 measures ask for a minimum two weeks of quarantine upon arrival for most international participants,. Does this mean visa applications have to be adjusted accordingly as well? Will the policy be altered ahead of the Summit for government officials and other participants? This is not yet clear.
The Glasgow Summit is scheduled to have a Heads of State session on 1-2 November and a High-Level Ministerial Session the following week. No specific arrangement has yet been announced for access of observers during either of these segments, which again makes planning difficult for many non-negotiator participants.
here is the revision
The UN Climate Change Secretariat is expected to announce calls for special events (known as “side events”) on the UNFCCC-accreditation restricted Blue Zone 29 June. The results will be announced on 30 September which will leave less then a month´s time for speakers and organizers to secure their vaccines-visas-travels-accommodation for Glasgow - which will be a challenge in itself for any COP or major intergovernmental conference in normal times. It is also not clear what specific COVID-19 measures will apply for side events and meeting rooms, which influences the number of speakers and participants.
There is also no information yet on whether the UK Presidency and/or the UN Climate Secretariat will offer special vaccinations for participants, or whether observers will enjoy such benefits. Even if they do, the basis of selection will need to be clarified and it is also not clear which countries will accept such offers. Clearly, many logistical matters need to be clarified in a short space of time.
The Glasgow Summit will mark an important moment for Boris Johnson’s Government. After the perceived foreign policy missteps over Brexit, Glasgow represents Johnson’s best opportunity to show that his vision of a new, global Britain can become a reality. The Prime Minister has apparently set great store by showcasing what his country could become in a post-Brexit future. If managed correctly, it could be a crowning success of his leadership.
Yet if he is to burnish such a crown and make it gleam once more, he will need to ensure the logistical details are taken care of, and promptly. Furthermore, he will need to provide more details for how the UK will meet its ambitious 2035 emissions targets, since opponents are already asking how such momentous pledges can be achieved. Bringing the full weight of his country’s diplomatic skills in the lead-up to Glasgow will also be needed. This is no time for half-measures. It should be a complete team effort.
Johnson should consider changing tack on his government’s ODA cuts. If this reduction was repositioned as a one-off, single-year adjustment, an announcement to reinstate some or all of the 0.7 % commitment could be timed in a way that would give Glasgow—and Johnson’s own reputation—a major boost.
Finally, it looks very likely that Convention on Biological Diversity Summit in China may go ahead with only Ambassadors from country embassies in China and no delegates or stakeholders from outside China. The Biodiversity Summit starts three weeks before the Glasgow Climate Summit – it makes you think - is this an indicator of what is going to happen?
Felix Dodds is a sustainable development advocate and writer. His new book Tomorrow’s People and New Technologies: Changing the Way we Live Our Lives will be out in September. He is coauthor of Only One Earth with Maurice Strong and Michael Strauss and Negotiating the Sustainable Development Goals with Ambassador David Donoghue and Jimena Leiva Roesch.
Chris Spence is an environmental consultant, writer and author of the book, Global Warming: Personal Solutions for a Healthy Planet. He is a veteran of many climate summits and other United Nations negotiations over the past three decades.
I was interviewed by James Silverman earlier in the year on his platform U&i which is the idea that individuals and communities are the fundamental drivers for sustainable change. It’s about you and I leading the change to achieve sustainable development.
"What is Sustainable Development and what are the SDGs? The global goals and agenda 2030 are being implemented across the world- what needs to be done to implement them effectively, but also ensure the goals are making the right changes?
We talk to Felix Dodds about this question. Felix was instrumental in getting SDG 11 into the goals, sustainable cities and communities. He has global networks and has published, multiple books and articles on the subject."
You can find the interview here.