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Refinitiv Newscasts - Reuters Newsmaker: Achim Steiner discusses global response to COVID-19 pandemic 1

Thu 22nd April, 2021 4:40pm
Click the following link to watch video: https://share.newscasts.refinitiv.com/link?entryId=1_3w5kmmrk&referenceId=1_3w5kmmrk&pageId=RefinitivNewscasts
Source: Reuters

Description: Axel Threlfall, Reuters editor-at-large, and Katy Daigle, Reuters
climate change editor, lead a wide-ranging virtual discussion with Achim
Steiner, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and former
executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, on the global
response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its threat to human development, peace
and security from the impacts of climate change, and environmental
Short Link: https://refini.tv/3dH84Tr

Video Transcript:

>> A very warm, welcome everyone, to another Reuters newsmaker. My name is,
Axel Threlfall. I'm Editor at Large. Reuters is, based in London. Katy Daigle
is, Reuters' Climate Change Editor. She joins us, from DC. We're thrilled to
welcome, Achim Steiner, Administrator, of The United Nations Development
Program, and former Executive Director, of the UN Environment Program. We are
extremely lucky, to have him today, given that it's Earth Day, and huge number
of events, taking place under this year's theme, Restore Our Earth. Of course,
the two-day US-led, climate change summit, has also, just got underway. We'll
be keeping an eye on, that news, as well as we go. We'll leave some time at
the end, specifically for questions. But do start sending your questions, for
Achim through, and we'll try, and weave those in as we go. Achim, wonderful to
see you again. Thanks for making time for us, on Earth Day, of all days.
Congratulations, by the way, on the second four-year term that, was confirmed
yesterday. Thank you so much, Axel. Good to be with you and Catie, and thanks
for having me today. >> Let's start with Earth Day and what it means for you.
Is it a day of celebration for what humanity has achieved, of the relationship
between us and our planet? Do you think Achim, a day of reflection, a day to
think about the damage that we've inflicted on the planet, the precarious
state of human development and how best to resuscitate, which do you think it
is? >> Well, I think it is both. I say both because to me Earth Day is also a
celebration of those who already decades ago recognized what was happening
around us, what impact we were having on the planet, and the Earth Day is in
some ways a reflection of those pioneers. We often say we stand on the
shoulders of those who went before us. Earth Day was a visionary attempt to
try and to call the world to action. As we all know, the environmental
footprint of humanity has escalated, the situation that we faced at the
beginning of the 21st century is even more serious. It is also a moment where
we need to reflect because the way we are changing course right now is too
slow. But Earth Day is also a celebration of those who have demonstrated that
change is possible and that we have choices. It carries both, let's say
sentiments within it for me. >> Yeah. We're going to talk climate clearly
because of the summit going on and because it's such a big piece of the story,
but development of course, the other very big piece for you. I'd like to talk
to you about the Human Development Report because with what you've just said
in mind, it was a pretty stark report that you released in December.
Humanity's progress is stalling, I think was the headline. Are you confident
Achim, that we will see anything like the collective action that's needed to
hold that decline in human development? >> I think confidence words sound
complacent because really what we have seen over a number of decades, is a
phenomenon where more and more information, more and more understanding of
what is happening to our planet how pollution is affecting human health. How
carbon emissions is essentially filling up the atmosphere and affecting our
climate. How the loss of biodiversity is occurring on all the indicators of as
a loss of quality of life, but also of nature and of the life support systems
on the planet. Clearly the evidence points towards not enough being done so I
think confidence would be out of place. On the other hand, there are many
things that are happening that have already begun to happen and I believe that
transformation is possible that we can move forward absolutely and the
Anthropocene in that's that cornerstone of the 2020 Human Development Report,
that we embrace the UNDP as a reference point carries within that precisely
this duality on the one hand, an understanding of what is happening. But on
the other hand also that appreciation that you have choices as no generation
before us has had. We have more technology, we have more science, we have more
wealth in the world that we can actually deploy in order to make different
choices and different pathways possible and that's where sustainable
development really becomes the convergence point for every society right now
and I think the Human Development Report, as all reports are that are balance
sheets of what is happening have to be, by definition, stock balance sheets
because that's the reality on the ground, but they are not a reason to become
fatalistic. On the contrary, they are meant to spurn us on, they're meant to
give us vision, optimism, and direction. >> Come on Catie. >> Yeah, I love
that you're talking about these issues and the policies in terms of balance
sheets and of course you're an economist and I've, in career notice that a lot
of the policy that's being made around environments is being informed by
economics, by economists themselves and I'm curious about that. It's almost as
if economists are as central to the conversation as the scientists. What is
that? Why is that? What is the role that economists play in our understanding
or in how we solve these problems or solve these issues? >> While in many
ways, our societies have developed ways of transacting with one another, this
is really the long history of economics is beginning to understand how money
trade, exchanged, essentially begins to define not only individual well-being
but also how societies collectively can invest when we establish governments,
we have state structures derived to taxation, so that we can deal with
inequalities. We can have a health and social protection system in place, all
of this essentially has become transmittable through a fiduciary and monetary
lens and that is why economics has become such a powerful discipline. But I
think we also have to recognize that economists are not wiser than any
individual on this planet, they provide tools, they provide analysis that I'm
into informed choices, what has gone wrong? I think to some extent with
economics, or the way that we have allowed economics to define our scope for
making different choices is that you have reduced development essentially to
the growth of our economies, that gross domestic product, that per capita
income indices and clearly UNDP has a long tradition The Human Development
Report in fact was born 30 years ago. Precisely as a challenge to this narrow
definition of understanding human progress, it added education and health as
additional indicators to say there is more that defines human well-being than
economic indicators, and I think we are at the beginning of the 21st century
truly at a point where economics will continue to inform us in many ways
because it creates transparency, it creates ways of understanding how choices
have consequences. But we have to broaden that outlook and this is what the
Human Development Report, this is what professor Amartya Sen and Martha will
Huck 30 years ago brought to the debate and today we are still struggling with
this because we are still often defaulting. Including in the public debate to
this very simplistic roast indicator are economists and clearly, it has led us
in many ways to a point where we are acting irrationally. >> I think, of
course, up until now and high human development, high levels of human
development have gone hand in hand with a need if you'd like to put great
strains on the planet, that clearly needs to be changed, pathways need to be
redesigned, I'm going to bring his confidence word back in and you feel
confident the right things are in place to make such transformative change and
quickly? >> Clearly, not yet. Otherwise, we would not be having the kinds of
discussions we're having in the year 2021 where we are perhaps less than 10
years away from a point of no turning. The global warming going beyond 1.5
degrees. The implications of that are extraordinary. We are essentially
condemning hundreds of generations to essentially not having an option of
reversing a set of decisions and premised on sometimes the various spurious
argument that, cheap access to fossil fuels is a fundamental human rights.
Yes, we want to create development opportunities. Having access to energy, to
electricity, to mobility is all part of development progress. But if it
compromises future generations into a situation where they don't even have a
choice anymore on how to deal with these phenomena, then we truly have a
problem. What we do need to recognize is that we are entering a period of
radical uncertainty, but also fundamental transformation. COVID-19, we'll come
to that perhaps a little bit later has magnified and also amplified that
moment in time. But it has really built up over 30, 40 years again, today's
Earth Day. This is a discussion that has matured over many years. The reason
why I am an optimist and I remain confident that change is possible. Not that
it will just happen, is that every day across the planet people are
demonstrating this, take their renewable energy revolution. >> I think we've
lost you for a second, Achim. There you are. You're back. Achim, you're on
mute at the moment. Achim. >> Sorry. This is a gale force wind that is
happening in New York right now. I apologize interruption. >> You might need
to swivel the screen as well, like at a lock off, so we don't to bend our
necks to see. There you go. Go ahead. >> Apologies for that. It's slightly
improvised, but we are in the midst of a pandemic and the storm, so I hope
your listeners will forgive me. Take the energy revolution. We today have
countries that are producing a third, some of them close to half of the
electricity with renewable energy. This would have been unthinkable just a
decade or two ago. In fact, renewable energy is now emerging as world-wide,
probably the most cost effective way of powering our economies. We're on the
verge of the 21st century being able to envisage and access to electricity
that is almost inexhaustible because that's what the promise of renewable
energy is. These are the fundamental transformations or take digital, we now
have half the world's population connected to Internet and Broadband. This has
happened in less than 15 years. It is transforming everyday lives and our
economies in ways we could never have imagined. I think we need to maintain
that optimism, that significant change is possible. But it's not just a
functional economics. It's not just the result of a new technology. It's the
choices we make. Here y greatest hope with the younger generation. We have
seen them almost take charge of the public discourse or on climate change and
that is precisely what needs to happen because they understand perhaps more
clearly than older people today what the significance is of acting or not
acting in this window of time that we have. >> I'd like to ask you about the
developing world and this arguments that countries that are behind
economically have the so-called right to pollute so that they can develop
economically and catch up with the rest of the world. Of course, there's sense
in that argument. Historically they've been mended bestial less, but it also
doesn't quite work with our need to reduce emissions immediately. How does
that argument play out now and what the UN is doing in the field? Do we
recognize a right to pollute by certain countries? Should the West be making
space for that in the carbon budget or? >> Well, let me answer this in three
ways. The right to pollute is really a concept that has no place in the 21st
century because it is essentially a license to create damage to harm people.
Pollution kills more than seven million people. Air pollution every year
prematurely across the world in developing countries and developed countries
even to this day, this cannot be a justification for development progress and
therefore, tackling collusion wherever it occurs, whether in a household where
essential reliance on biomass and cooking in a small hut with wood creates the
respiratory diseases that so many women across the world still face. Whether
it is lead pollution in fuels that we used to have in the '70s, '80s, and
'90s, and still in some countries today, where poor people who live by the
roadside clearly have very high lead pollution levels in their children's
affecting their human and health and well-being. The right to pollute is a
concept that those belong in the 21st century part, and this is a very
important element. There is also degree of climate justice in the climate
debate. For countries who have historically created a significant part of the
problem, that cumulative problem of emissions in our atmosphere have a
responsibility to lead because that is also a just transition in which those
who have created the greatest burdens have also the [inaudible 00:38:27] >>
We've lost you. >> We've lost you again. >> No. You're back. >> Yeah. I'm so
sorry. It comes back immediately. When developing countries right now, look to
develop nations to lead this effort. I think that is understandable. Everybody
will appreciate that there is a principle of justice and fairness here. But
ultimately, our time window is so narrow that developed countries have to lead
even faster and developing countries have to transform more quickly. In fact,
both is beginning to happen. We are having a climate summits happening today
and tomorrow in Washington, further announcements are being made about moving
towards net-zero economies. The G20, the G7, are beginning to take decisions.
The European Parliament yesterday adopted the 55 percent emissions cuts and
the net-zero commitments. But then we have China having committed to net zero
by 2060, India during an announcement also in the next few weeks I expect.
They have been major investors also in these transitions. We don't have to
divide the world and those that have to do something, others don't do
anything. It is precisely the confidence that everybody is coming together and
pulling in the right direction that will accelerate the pace of change. >>
We'll talk about the two days summit in a moment and how realistic you think
some of these goals are? But very quickly, staying with the financing side,
lots and lots of questions by the way, coming in for you. One of them is of
course, around the aid budget cuts. Even as the economic crisis worsens, I'd
like to speak to you about international financing. Yeah. About the solutions
here or debt forgiveness, temporary basic income is something else that the
UNDP has thrown up. What is the overall picture on international financing?
Who is stepping up adequately? Would you say, clearly not enough people are,
but it does amaze me and I've heard you say this when we see the amount of
money going to the bailout of an airline, or other sectors like that and then
you compare that to the money that is going to some of these developing
nations. I mean, it boggles belief. >> Well, let's start with the fact that we
are a generation that literally is the richest in human history, global wealth
is well beyond $300 trillion. I think the departure point has to be the
recognition that change is not impossible because of lack of finance. The
question is, who has access to finance and where is finance being invested?
Here we have major problems. First of all, the wealth is highly concentrated
in a limited number of economies, and eat within those economies, the
financial markets, financial players have an extraordinary amount of influence
and too much of our financial resources are still being invested into our 20th
century economy. We've had 10 years now of discussing the need for banks,
pension funds, hedge funds, essentially the financial system to embrace its
responsibility to invest in the 21st-century economy, low-carbon, and one that
is aligned with the 17 sustainable development goals. Also, we are seeing
increasing take up there, in fact, UNDP has been helping Mexico, Indonesia,
now the New Development Bank to apply a new SDG impacts norms and standards to
raise bonds on the financial markets and bind with the SDGs. It's a
complicated business, is a greenwashing, is it truly compatible with the SDGs,
but these are progressive steps we need to take. The 2nd challenge is that
many developing countries right now are also in the midst of this COVID-19
crisis, tracing an extraordinary fiscal crisis. We are having demobilize in
every country enormous amounts of money to deal with COVID-19, the pandemic,
the socio-economic impacts, economic implosion. People and countries are
running out of money and this is where I think, first of all, the logic that
we're applying to ourselves and wealthier countries needs to also apply to a
global economy because this virus is affecting everyone, and whether you look
at it from an economist's point of view, a trade economist point of view, the
markets of tomorrow for the recovery will also depend on what's happening with
three- four or 5 billion people living in developing countries. Here I think
we have seen first measues taken last year in the context of COVID-19. With
the depts sustainable suspension initiative, but also with the IMF in its
spring meeting this year having been given the special drawing rights that it
can draw on. There are some steps being taken, but let us be very clear. For
most developing countries, it is a very Bismol outdoor right now, very little
additional funding is available. Some countries, are in cutting their
development assistance funding right now, which I find incomprehensible from a
rational point of view and very difficult to defend also from a solidarity
point of view, but you have to recognize everybody is under stress that, that
problem is mounting. We need to look at this dept issue from a rational
perspective where dept suspension, but also dept forgiveness, and
restructuring will become part of rebooting our economies. This is where the
green recovery and the discussions that are now happening where we are
essentially investing in one another's ability to transform our economies, and
to build forward better, I think becomes an extremely important moment. This
is a unique window of opportunity. >> How hopeful is this some financial
Alliance launched just yesterday by [inaudible 00:44:07] carrying. It seems
filled with promise, of course, we're seeing traction and financing for the
first time in a long time around climate, but is this a first step of many
that needs to happen or is this going to be a vehicle that really makes
change? >> Well, let me begin by saying, I have the deepest respect from our
county because he is to me, an example of a leader who within the system that
is so inert, and has for so long denied the relevance of climate change,
namely the world of central banks of those who look at macroprudential issues
and global financial stability. We have only just in the last one or two years
seen finance ministries, even employee, climate change it by [inaudible
00:44:52] it's phenomenal. I mean, this is the lifeblood of our economies and
yet the ministry is the people in charge of our financial system, including in
the global context, have for a long time lived in denial. I think my county
has been one of the pioneers when he was the governor of the UK Central Bank
and the bank of England. He was part of a dialogue also together with China to
try and bring range finance into these debates. Today, we have actually a
network or central banks around the world working together on this. We have a
leader of the IMF express, Selena George Eva, who has explicitly made climate
change an integral part of how we look at the future of our financial system.
What we also have to understand is that change doesn't come at the flick of a
light switch. We are talking about the global economy, the global financial
system. It is very sticky, it is conservative, it has an extraordinary amount
of inertia within it and I think what my County launched yesterday, is yet
another step to bring the private sector actors, those who make decisions in
our financial system, who are the owners of the assets, or at least the
managers of our funds into a different pathway. It is right to be skeptical,
it is right to be critical, but it would be wrong to deny the importance of
that initiative. Therefore, I think it is yet another indicator that yes, the
financial system is highly beginning to recognize the threats of climate
change and pollution which threatens our economies whether it is for the
notion of stranded assets, whether it is the cost that it is imposing on our
economy. Just look at the amount of this fraction that hurricanes and typhoons
are now pausing, how the insurance industry is struggling to actually deal
with the degree of damage that has to be covered under different insurance
programs. I think we need to scale up these initiatives, and my County, and
yesterday's launch is yet another attempt to accelerate this change. >> I
guess just to pin you down a little bit on that, you've talked a lot in the
past about the private sector's role and getting the different parties to talk
to one another. I want to try and pin you down on what was announced
yesterday. Do you think a [inaudible 00:47:04] that we heard yesterday is the
right mechanism that we'll get things done now, that will move this process
forward. It's a stepping stone, or it's a step on the ladder of trying to get
many different players to convert first of all, on an acknowledgment of the
imperative to act. Secondly, to foster a responsibility to act. Because, the
private sector by definition is a series of entities that are owned by people
that are not the same. Now we can lose legislation. We can use taxation
subsidies, fiscal policy instruments to incentivize or to stop things such as
with be thus investors for instance. But at the end of the day, let us
recognize that in most countries across the world, the public sector budget
accounts for less than one fifth of what is transacted in an economy in one
year. We have to get the private sector, and not only define the private
sector in terms of large players. For instance, in an economy like Japan, 97
percent or more of the private sector is small medium scale enterprises. We
often think that the private sector is only large corporations. Now they have
a particularly large footprint. But every farmer, every owner of a garage, of
a workshop, service provider, is part of the private sector. How do you get
this disparate group of actors have define the vast majority of our economic
decisions every day to be aligned, and to be supported, and ultimately to be
incentivized, to be part of the solution rather than saying, well, the state
is, the problem will continue to serve our shareholders? That equation is
really an anachronism, and I think many in the private sector recognize that
today. >> On the topic of the private sector, I'm curious about adjacently
intellectual property rights. It's long been a sore point, and climate
negotiations around solar panels, around in various things, and of course now
we have new technologies being developed. Carbon capture, a green hydrogen,
and yet we've seen this same struggle or attention plays out over COVID
patterns as well. Are we looking at protracted wrangling over intellectual
property rights. Is that likely to slow down progress, or how are we going to
tackle this? >> Intellectual property rights, and the concept is actually a
fascinating example in which to also understand how things have to change.
Really it's when this was invented in the United States. It was a way of
actually helping to mobilize private capital to invest in research, and it
created an enormous boost in terms of investments in technology development,
but also pharmaceuticals, and others. But when I had the privilege of leading
the Oxford Martin School, and with my colleagues at the Oxford University, one
of the fascinating things I learned there is that in the way that intellectual
property plays out today, for instance in the development and discovery of new
drugs, is actually beginning to become the productive. The cost is so high,
the competition is prohibitive. Company is actually limited to very narrow
diseases, and potential remedies, their research. Because the risk is so high,
so you have a parallel competition that actually leads to a perverse outcome
that we are not tackling many of the diseases today for research and
development of drugs. Because it's financially viable or the cost is too high,
so we need to find new forms of perhaps having an open source discovery
across. Isn't COVID-19 has been a good reminder? We have put billions into
this extraordinary development of vaccines, and yet now we are at the point
but some intellectual property may become a constraint again. We need to
rethink how intellectual property is not something that is completely
redundant, but we live in a different era. Sometimes you have to learn that
these instruments that were developed a 100, 200 years ago in a market
economy, in a capitalist flips, incentivize the right organization, have
produced perverse outcomes. I think right now, COVID-19 is a stark reminder of
what it means to be poor or wealthy, to own a patent or not to own a patent.
Ultimately, if we don't progress with different paradigms here, we will tear
each other apart. A world in which right now wealthy countries are able to
vaccinate their people at the rate they're doing it, and the vast majority of
people in poor countries don't even have access to vaccine perhaps for another
6-12 months is not a viable way in which to live together on this planet the
7, 8 been the deeper. >> Let's shift it over if we cut the climate summit
today, and a little bit more on that. What do you feel when you hear the US
pledge to cut emissions at least in half by 2030? Do you think, fantastic,
here we go, this is a new administration with a lot of momentum behind them,
the space they've managed to gather, a lot of world leaders together, or do
you think we're hearing a lot of proclamations, if you like this, we need to
wait and see? >> Not at all. I think the first thing I have to remind myself
is how important sometimes one election can be to the ability of the world to
actually come together. This climate, somebody in Washington is clearly just
one stepping stone along the way towards plus two, which is really where all
the nations of the world will come together in order to agree on how to move
forward together in addressing climate change. But let us be very clear. If
you just think back 50 months ago, and this is something I often say to
people, and say, the world after COVID is a very dark world. Yes, it is. I
mean, many people will come out of this pandemic poorer, having lost their
jobs, having lost family members, relatives, it's a very dark moment. But
there is no reason to argue that we cannot actually accelerate transitions. If
you were having this discussion with me 15 months ago, you and I would not
have been confident to predict that they would have a meeting happening today
in April 2021, where Europe has just passed the 55 percent target. China has
permitted to net zero by 2060, the United States is about to make an
announcement that is significantly different, suggests where it was 16 weeks
ago. Let us remind ourselves what the world look like then on the climate
front, so take this seriously, build on it, but don't be satisfied with that.
I think that has to be the way we approach summits, but also the public debate
in every country because climate change is a global phenomenon. But the way it
plays out, and the choices that countries need to make very different, and in
a very unequal world. >> [inaudible 00:54:08]. >> When we were talking about
financing, I was thinking about encouraging financing, and a lot of the worry
or a lot of the worry that's expressed is around the potential for a
corruption, fraud. It has been an issue in the past. What sort of oversight
does the UNDP have on the spending on climate projects specifically? That
money will be coming from an increasingly large pool, whether it's the
alliance or the Green Climate Fund with or thought. >> Well, first of all, the
international community has established financing mechanisms and whether it is
through the international financial institutions, whether it's the Global
Environment Facility, the Green Climate Fund. These institutions, first of all
have both a financing mandate but also fiduciary oversight map data. They are,
all words are clearly scrutinizing this and there are many mechanisms that are
put in place in order to minimize the possibility, the potential for abuse,
and maximize the impact of the investment. We live in the real world, every
business, every public institution, and every country has around the people
who will try to cheat the system. The question is, how rigorous are our fiscal
and fiduciary systems? How closely are we able to scrutinize? What is the
right balance between non-being a project? If I may use such a patronizing
term for a moment, and actually being a puppet to a country saying, look,
we're working together, we need to entrust your institutions to actually lead.
This is kind of being an external actors responsibility. Now, we empowered as
unity also depend on our own very rigorous systems, our risk management
systems and at the same time there is a degree of trust and monitoring
accountability with our partners, can be precluded that there will be people
who essentially, want to defraud the system within a public administration or
even within our own organizations. No, there is no zero-risk. The question is,
are our systems robust enough to recognize it? Can be preempted most of the
time and can be also ensure that it is not, in a sense ignored. I think UNDP
has learned hard lessons, governments have learned hard lessons. Lehman
Brothers was a lesson. I think we couldn't look all around us, and I think at
the end of the day, it is correct that the public judge these public
institutions with a higher degree of scrutiny, and that we have to be
accountable to a point where perhaps a private institution is not as
accountable to the public. I can assure you, for me as the head of UNDP, any
instance where either mismanagement or the attempt to defraud the organization
or to steal essentially, public funding for private enrichment is
unacceptable, it's intolerable. But I'm also honest enough to say, I cannot
give a guarantee that people will not try to do it. I can only do with my team
the best possible job in minimizing that risk and making sure that we will
help governments to also prevent this, which is why we have a significant team
that beyond the climate finance is actually helping countries on
anti-corruption. We also assist countries on with a program together with the
OECD called Tax Inspectors Without Borders, which helps countries to track,
particularly international taxpayers in their country who through transfer
pricing and other means, are essentially trying to cheat the country from its
legitimate tax revenue. There are many forms of corruption, many forms of
trying to cheat the system and I think part of the development task is to know
both through legislation with good and sound public institutions to minimize
that risk. >> Lots and lots of questions coming through for your argument, and
we're trying to bring as many in as we can as we go into [inaudible 00:58:05].
I want to bring it back though to the summit and COP26 and your on your hopes,
two questions. First, I wonder what's on your dashboard when you look at this
thing, what are the key metrics do you use? One year, two years, three years,
five years out. When we look at the measuring, some of that lofty 2050, 2060
rhetoric. How are you and UNDP really measuring this and measuring the success
or the failure of this as we go. >> [inaudible 00:58:40] I'm smiling because
your question reminds me of something I learned very early on when I was
studying economics, and basically, there is a wonderful saying, "In the long
run, we're all dead". What is the promise in the long run mean? But having
said that, I think to me the first and most important thing this year is to
recognize that the Parents Agreement was a pragmatic step in the right
direction, but it designed into the Paris Agreement and ingenious ratcheting
up steam. Every five years, countries will meet and we'll have to raise the
levels of ambition. This is what COP26 is about. This is the moment where
these NDCs, Nationally Determined Climate strategies, basically national
sovereign instruments of pledging. How will we raise our level of ambition?
Have to pass the stress test if Glassdoor does not demonstrate that, most
countries are actually significantly raising the level of ambition, then the
Paris Agreement is going to be in jeopardy. This is the first test. The second
one is clearly. Yeah go on. >> No. Sorry. No, please go ahead. I'm sorry to
interrupt. I do want to come back on this but go ahead. >> Yeah, very briefly,
the second part here is. How can financing this transformation become not just
a debate about who is responsible to pay for what, but rather has a paradigm
where we are co-investing?. Anybody who tries to reduce the climate
transformation, the energy transformation on our industry mobility and so on.
Well, if one pays this much, then the other one will invest that much. That's
a zero-sum game. It's a failure from the start. What cannot happen is that
just a $100 billion commitment continues to be such a struggle. We have just
seen stabilization packers in the trillions of dollars being mobilized in the
midst of a pandemic and we are not able to come up from the wealthier nations
with a $100 billion a year to co-invest alongside developing countries that
are investing multiples of that, in trying to do something that the
industrialized world has watched for 40 years and not act efficiently on and
now expects the developing world to do it in ten years. This is the
fundamental conundrum and you need to get out of this mindset that this is
taking someone's money and giving it to someone else. This is co-investment,
African needs electricity right now, 600 million people on the African
continent have no access to electricity. For an African government, for an
African economy, creating access to electricity is a top priority. It's an
accelerated development and all funds. Is it so difficult for us to envisage a
way in which co-invest in with African governments right now, into a massive
increase in the access to electricity, but doing it with a renewable energy
infrastructure. Imagine 2 billion African citizens by 2050 using the fossil
fuel energy matrix of Europe or the United States of the 20th century. You can
forget about the Paris Agreement. We have lost the battle. >> Sorry Katie.
I'll do this one quickly. >> The bigger context though, is collective
leadership and collaboration. You and I were explaining to Christiana
Figueres, about this on a number of occasions. Finding that collaborative
zeal, back in Paris, for the Paris Agreement, was what made that work. I
wonder, how hopeful you are, that we can find that, collaborative zeal again.
You talk about Kerry investing, with African governments. The Secretary
General's words last year, ring around my head all the time, if we deal with
climate change, the way we dealt with COVID, we're in big trouble. If we can't
get the basic collaboration right, the collective leadership, how on earth can
we talk positively about COP26? >> The glass is always half full and half
empty, I would say to people who are watching what is happening right now,
just imagine what it was like when the last US administration took office, it
promised to leave the climate convention of the Paris Agreement. It
essentially reversed years of environmental legislation, renewable energy
policies, and we are in a very different chapter. First of all, in the United
States, it has rejoined the international community. It is clearly, is one of
the two top emitters in the world fundamental to having, credibility to these
efforts emerged. Secondly, we are seeing a climate summit happening, right now
as we speak, with China and the United States, despite all the differences,
despite the tensions, despite the notion that competition will define their
relationship, are actually, coming together around the climate change agenda,
because it is recognizably one, that unifies the world, and is predicated on
everybody coming to the table. The President of the United States, the
secretary general, the United Nations, the President of China, the Prime
Minister of India, and I could go on, are coming together. These are leaders
who have embraced the challenge. What has to happen next? Axial. If this is
not just to be promises, it goes back to where people live, into the
countries, into the community, it goes to the Fridays for Future, it goes to,
the young people who essentially continue to bring their impatience, because,
politicians are elected leaders. They are responsive to public engagement,
public advocacy. We have to connect these global, elements, and let us
recognize you have the science with the IPCC. We have the Paris Agreement and
the Framework Convention. We have the 2030 agenda, and the 17 sustainable
development goals. We actually have, the frameworks to act together. The focus
has to go back to where politics plays out, which is local. I think it is up
to citizens to make sure that their leaders, feel the pressure. I often say to
people who have watched the climate change convention year after year as an
event of frustration and lack of progress. Imagine if, that didn't happen
every year, and people would have to come into the spotlight of global
attention, and say," I don't care, I'm not interested, I'm not going to do
anything". It's a very different world in 2021. I am quite confident that the
announcements we are seeing now, are the beginnings of yet the next
step-change that we're going to see. >> Speaking of the meeting coming up in
Glasgow, my heart explodes when I think of all the things that still need to
be done. I'm curious about your wishlist. We could tackle everything from
financial regulations to maybe a methane deal, or what to do with climate
migration? These are a lot of different deals that need to happen, and which
are most likely to come through and which do you think are the priorities to
come through? >> Perhaps something that is not quite politically correct to
say, but I believe over the years it has become an indicator. The morbidity,
the agenda becomes as more disaggregated, the packages become the more it is
an indicator that big leaps forward, I'm not going to happen. I think Glasgow,
needs to be singularly focused on the NDCs. First of all, because the NDCs, is
what will bind us together or otherwise, we don't have a common agenda and you
don't have, also a confidence in one another that everybody is going to come
to the table, and brings something. I think secondly, the financing dimension,
and not only the public finance, we spoke the 100 about billion. This is a
down payment on a far larger, economic transformation that actually Lord
Nickel has called the growth story of the 21st century is going to be the
investment in a low carbon economy. We need to see out of Glasgow, what also
are just referred to. Appen in Paris. It was an extraordinary signal. It
didn't answer every question, but any corporate CEO, any financial or fund
manager left Paris, or acted in Paris with a different outlook after that
agreement. I think Glasgow has to deliver that next level of confidence where
the economy at large begin to really shift gear. I think that's where the
Initiatives at My Icon is taking, and many others also, with Bloomberg and
others playing a significant role in the corporate world also to change
thinking, whether or not he's thinking i rhetoric. But let's see where the
money goes. Show me the money, it's not a wrong way of actually describing
this. By not giving money to someone else and say, how are you spending your
own money on their own corporate footprint? I think these two are key issues.
The third thing I think is we need to recognize our climate change is not an
isolated issue. This is why we have the sustainable development goals. That is
why we have a universal agenda called the 2030 agenda. Climate change is as
much about reducing emissions as it is about creating access to clean energy,
new jobs in the tens of millions, enabling people who live in extreme poverty
right now, to have an opportunity in this economy of the 21st century,
including with digital technology and access to new platforms to be part of a
development story, rather than to be left behind. We need to recognize climate
change is a distinct but integral issue, and we need to invest in it with that
mindset, we plan or a foreign policy, our defense policies, our economic
policies, our transport policies, with climate change being a major driver,
but not a problem that sits on its own. In that sense, it's not solvable
because it's a systemic issue. >> [inaudible 01:08:25] Sorry, Katie. Did you
want to come back on that or? >> I just wondered how the biodiversity goals of
the UN plug into all of this. >> They are procrastinated at the moment. Let's
be honest, we have struggled to understand both the significance and the drama
that is playing out in some ways before our very eyes. The loss of species,
the loss of habitats, the destruction of ecosystems. The ecological
infrastructure of our planet is under extreme stress. It is only the last
couple of years that we have also seen a convergence between those who think
about climate change and those who think about nature. It is really in that
notion of a transition towards a green economy, which I had in a passionate
advocate for many years, that I think we will begin to recognize that we can't
invest a dollar in climate change and a dollar in nature conservation, and a
dollar in pollution control. We have to invest this capital that we have in
transforming our economies where we don't treat the planet like a mining
operation. This is not cornucopia, it's not an inexhaustible planet. We need
to get to circulate economists. We need to get to a recycling economy,
material resource efficiency. These are the drivers of 21st century economic
progress and success. I think that is to me, a critical part of understanding
that nature is in deep trouble, and we are not seeing it because in some ways
it's more diffused to recognize who cares about the frog species that I can
build a dam or another modes away. It's the wrong way to understand it. We're
actually wiping our heart off all that biological wealth that we have, which
ultimately keeps us alive on this planet. I mean, this is the irony that here
we are the wealthiest, most informed generation in human history and we're
sitting on a branch and we're cutting and cutting and cutting because we think
the next branch of timber is going to make us richer. >> I got to aware on the
time. We've only got 15 minutes left. I want to throw some of the many, many
questions we've had. Just before I do that, let me ask you this, has the
pandemic made you, at the risk of sounding glimpse, has the pandemic made your
job easier or harder, would you say? On the one hand we've seen there's this
focus on doing the right thing, seizing the opportunity in the crisis. A lot
of people are saying in all the other, we're seeing governments and businesses
really struggling. We've talked about some of these issues already. I don't
want to make sounds too simplistic, but has the pandemic open more doors and
close them for you, would you say? >> In the short-term, it's a disaster. Let
us be very frank, when you're a development agency, when you are present on
the ground in 170 countries and you are witness to SBIR and together with our
UN system agencies through the socioeconomic assessments, the response plans
we have done, the emergency support that we have provided. I mean, it is a
disastrous moment. I mean, the setbacks in Global Human Development, the
suffering, the loss of job, the many deaths and you know, as we speak today,
the pandemic is still growing exponentially. I mean, we are not out of this,
so no, it's become much harder and it is to some extent extremely frustrating
to see what is playing out right now. At the same time, it has made us more
focus. I lead an organization of 70,000 people. I have nothing but the deepest
admiration because as the world shut down, we actually stayed in place, and as
part of the UN family's commitment with the secretary continue to operate. You
became a backbone for a world that tried to at least at a minimum level,
provide support with protective equipment, with the ventilator, with now
vaccines also, WHO, UNICEF, COVAX struggling because we did not invest enough
initially and now not having enough vaccines. But this is what in a sense
makes us very focused. The third column would be, I'm actually to some extent
trying to understand how this may be a pivotal moment. Out of many crises have
come, opportunities. Now, it sounds a very prosaic statement, but history has
taught us that in moments of crisis, we focus more on what is important, what
is essential. Governments had to do it in a matter of days when they had to
make choices about who do they support, can be quite temporary incomes, cash
transfers, how did you obtain the equipment? Where do you get vaccines from?
But that's just the crisis management. How we build forward better? Where we
invest in UNDP? Our four priorities that we have identified right now, where
countries need to make choices, are making choices and we to be next to them,
to support them either in governance, social protection, greener recovery, and
digital disruption. These are four, not the only four, but four critical
variables that might actually enable us to come out of this crisis on a
different trajectory into the future and that trajectory has to be one that is
not, let's go back to where we were. I think every citizen on the planet right
now doesn't need convincing about that. What they need convincing is, can we
do it? How can we do it? Who will we do it with? That is in partly focused,
that's a mandated that I send for UNDP right now. We are not a soothsayer,
when we don't have all the wisdom but what we can do is connect instantly a
world of experimentation, innovation, and success or failure. Two countries
want to learn from one another and together I think we can accelerate this
transition. >> I'll hand it back to Kathy in just a second. Let's just a few
of these questions. There are a number of questions on the UN itself and how
much, and it's something we've talked a lot about. Where the UN is and how it
needs to change. Lack of respect for by member states, for the way the
international law, collaborative rulemaking, etc. How severely tested as your
faith in the UN system being, just as you take your second four-year term? >>
I think COVID has, for me being a reaffirmation of why I actually work in this
institution. It is an imperfect institution, just like the United States calls
itself, and imperfect union, let us be very clear. This is an institution born
out of an extraordinary aspirational idea and out of a traumatic moment in
history in 1945. We have elements of sclera offices or bureaucracy of
administrative failure. But if people only focus on that, then we will more
precisely end up to where we sometimes find ourselves in the public debate
that people actually do not focus on what, everyday there is an essential part
of our family of human beings working together on how planes by cross borders,
how medicines are developed, how agriculture and food security is promoted,
how we tackle climate change. Violence, say gender-based violence, look after
children, vaccinations. I wish people would have a moment in every now and
then to actually look at what it is that these extraordinary vision from 1945
has grown into and what it is delivering everyday. That is not to deny its
failures and shortcomings but if you only judge an institution by the headline
that re-reads in tomorrow's newspaper and don't look at the totality, then
something happens that I will call benign neglect. The United Nations today at
the end of the day, is not a separate entity, it is a construct that is owned
by the member states. I think member-states are at a point in time where
reflecting about the future of multilateral is not as an institutional
bureaucracy, but as a powerful idea and as the guarantor and the only
guarantor for us to be able to tackle these issues, cybercrime, climate
change, pandemics. Just to mention three, no country can solve this on its
own, the UN is not a panacea, but imagine a world without the United Nations
and multilateral platforms on which to come together, it would be, I think a
hiring prospect. >> I don't know if you've seen anything in particular in the
many questions that are coming through that you want to put the [inaudible
01:16:38] >> There is one that's quite interesting. We've talked a lot about
aid and helping the developing world. How is the UNDP bringing them into the
conversation? Because of course, it's not a one-way street, these countries
have a lot to offer in terms of knowledge, in terms of their own resilience.
What are we learning from those countries and how are we, likely to see them
have more of a voice? >> First of all, by recognizing that we are far from
that era where development aid define the relationship between those who have
technology, money, and knowledge and they will import it, share it or transfer
it, and then countries will miraculously develop. I think we live in an era
today where development is exploding everywhere. We see digital innovation
happening across the African continent. We learned from Bangladesh and with
Bangladesh and it's stored in the steam, call that system formation where
today virtually every citizen lives within five kilometers, I think they're
five miles of a terminal where a series of digital services are available,
saving the citizens, the poor citizens of Bangladesh. Billions of dollars
every year in terms of time spent, getting on a bus to get a birth certificate
or a land title in the capital city or a provincial capital. We see digital
platforms enabling people who are excluded from our financial system, women
who had no land titles, perhaps no legally registered address or collateral
could never open an account. Today they are trading instantly on smartphones
borrowing money in the morning, buying goods, selling them during the day,
repaying the loan. This is development, innovation, and happening everywhere
in the world and South-South cooperation is a central part of UNDP and we are
a learning network today. That is not a north-south Learning Network, and in
some ways, I have the ambition to be an example of what the future of
development corporation looks like. UNDP should be emblematic for this
understanding, that creativity, innovation, and the potential to make
different choices is playing out everywhere in the world that we have as much
to learn from countries such as Sri Lanka or Costa Rica or the Kingdom of
Bhutan, as we have from the United States, from China, India, or indeed any
other country that is trying to address the common challenge of how do we make
life better for our citizens? >> It's a big question, but with learning and
teaching in mind, the question is, how do we better bring the SDGs alive to
consumers? So they create the right market pressure and last to demand the
private sector companies do more, but we talked about the private sector. How
much work are you doing on really bringing the SDGs alive? You can hear me
[inaudible 01:19:31]? >> Yes. >> That's the question. >> Look I think the
first thing we have to embrace is that we live in an era where things are more
complex, there was period ups in the 19th and 20th century where no singular
agendas were the promise of the future. When you share a planet with 8,917
billion people, when we live in an era where the consumption of materials of
energy have reached the levels they have. We have to manage systems that is
more complex so that those who would say, how can you have 17 goals? Well,
first of all, isn't it remarkable that all the world's nations agreed on what
I often call the 17 major risks we face in the 21st century. We agreed on what
they are, and we agreed on those 17 in particular because they demand that we
work together in order to mitigate those risks. They were translated into
goals. Now some people will say, this is too complex. Well, I would say,
welcome to reality. This is a very complex moment in time and we have to deal
with them now. I know that the SDGs have landed in different ways, and
different countries, but some countries have mainstream, in fact, a large
number of countries, they are using the SDGs to be able to have them very much
part of the national planning process. It's a way of focusing attention,
mayors are using it for the local planning, citizens are using it. To an
individual who is looking at the 70 goals saying this is all very calmly of
what can I do? Find a goal amongst the 17 that touches your heart or
challenges you intellectually, that makes you committed. The first thing the
goals offer is a way of becoming engaged, and then to connect your passion for
one issue to others who are addressing issues that are relevant to solving the
problem that you care about. That's the fundamental logic of the SDGs. They
are powerful vehicle and, it's no accident that the private sector, the
financial sector, has embraced the SDGs in ways I would never have expected
completely different from the original Millennium development goals because
they recognize that these are part of the future of our public debates about,
what is development going to look like? What society that we want to live in,
and what are we going to do about it? >> Katie do you have a final question
for me? >> Yeah, to that point, I know that the UN for several decades has
been working on green GDPs and in fitting environmental economics into the GDP
equations. Are we likely to see that move forward? It stalls and then has a
little movement and then it stalls, is never really been taken up except by
Bhutan with its a happiness index. >> I think perhaps it is no accident that
is out of Asia that we're seeing some of the bolder ways of rethinking, how
would you measure development and how would you also judge the quality of
development? The Kingdom of Bhutan and His Majesty are extraordinary
visionaries and people smile 10-15 years ago when Bhutan developed this notion
of gross national happiness. But actually, in many ways, it is an articulation
of a far more holistic and ultimately recognizable outcome of what development
should be about and Bhutan is using it as its Minister of Planning is called
the Minister of Gross National Happiness. It's a way of recognizing
development is a lot more than per capita GDP. Now in the rest of the world,
we're seeing a lot of different initiatives, the notion of the sufficiency
economy. In China, the notion of an illogical civilization, but also on
national accounting offices through the United Nations are working on changing
the system of national accounting in order to better accommodate the loss of
biodiversity and the impact of climate change, in a sense feature the costs
also of development, not just the so-called returns in terms of measuring
economic activity. During the peace 2020 Human Development Report, the next
frontier, was an unapologetic signal to the world that the way we measure
development in the future has to evolve. That's why we introduced this planet.
We adjusted human development index for the first time in 30 years, bringing
climate change and material resource consumption into the measurements, and it
produces very different results. This is what the public wants to use in order
to be able to judge its own governments, its own decisions. >> What's the
resistance? >> I think in parts, the unknown is always something in our
courses to adopt. Secondly, there's a lot of vested interests. Let's be very
clear. Today's economy has made some countries very wealthy. Why would you
want to give that up when first of all, you are not necessarily going to be at
the frontier of that new economy that is emerging automatically? Secondly,
competition, although in many parts of the world they celebrated as
fundamental to our economic success. People don't necessarily like competition
when they're at the top of the pyramid. You have monopolies, oligopolies.
There is a lot of perverse incentives built into our economies, just take the
example of fossil fuel subsidies. This is the year 2021 and we're still
subsidizing at hundreds of billions fossil fuel consumption. The IMF estimates
trillions of dollars of damage as a result of that, and yet it continuous
because there are many constituencies who advocate for that. But our citizens
are becoming wiser, better informed. Thank God for our young people because
they are becoming more impatient. They are not going to tolerate this, and
they are a voice that we need to count on. I think we've seen that, and it's
why I think you're going to see change happening much faster. >> All right. I
think we're at time. The hour went very, very quickly. We started with the
Human Development Report, the decline in human development that we're
witnessing. Do you think very, very quickly, very quick onset, can this be
sharply reversed? Do you think by the end of your second term? >> Of course,
pathways are possibly. We could end up in the year 2030 with 1.2 billion
people living in extreme poverty. This is a recent study we did with the
University of Denver. This is the critical message. We have choices. You make
different choices. You could actually 10 years from now, be much closer to
having achieved the SDGs than we were before this pandemic. >> Yeah. >> It is
possible, but it depends on the choices we make. >> As always, it's really
truly a pleasure to talk with you and hear your thoughts. It's been a really
super conversation and we've covered a lot of ground, especially on this very
important day that is Earth Day. My thanks Raheem to you starting your role,
at least your second to four year time was just being confirmed.
Congratulations to that. Katie, thanks to you as well for being a part of this
news make. It's always a pleasure to have you as part of it. We wish you the
best of luck, Raheem. We had to talk to you again very, very soon. >> Thank
you very much, and happy Earth Day to the world Katie and [inaudible
01:26:41]. Thank you. >> Happy Earth Day. >> Bye-bye. >> Bye-bye
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