Interview with Christiana Figueres Mission 2020

The lady who ushered in the Paris Agreement now wants to ramp up the pace and ensure the world reaches peak emissions by 2020, leading to total decarbonisation by 2050. The whole campaign hinges on the a new report that cites 2020 as a critical milestone for stemming the effects of climate change.

Christiana Figueres is persuasive and influential but in light of recent world events that include the destabilisation of the EU as a political block, and the openly anti-climate action administration of President Trump, it is very clear that the world has changed since Paris.


 

Nick Breeze: As noble an effort as it is, should we be calling this Mission Impossible?

Christiana Figueres: “I don’t think Mission 2020 is completely impossible because the fact is, we just have confirmation from different independent sources that we are for the third year in a row, we have actually flattened out in emissions. For three years in a row we have actually flattened out greenhouse gas emissions and we have an increasing GDP. So we could already be beginning to decouple greenhouse gas emissions from GDP. The fact is we are already walking in the right direction, now what we are trying to do is just increase the pace and the scale. We have to be at a decarbonised economy by 2050.”

Nick Breeze: Has the momentum from Paris been completely dissipated by the Trump electoral victory? What is sustaining your conviction that emissions can be brought down to zero in the small timeframe that remains before we hit catastrophic climate impacts?

Christiana Figueres: “Well I think the international political arena is going to have to make their adjustments if the United States administration decides to do something differently under the Paris Agreement, which we don’t know [yet].

But politics is one thing and the real economy is another. The real economy has not stopped. Neither in the United States or anywhere else. And the reason why they haven’t stopped is because they do know that this is actually the best thing in their own interests, that this is economically beneficial and has many other benefits. So, I am not concerned about reversing the direction. I’m concerned about certainly keeping the direction and increasing the speed.”

Nick Breeze: The post-Paris rhetoric was on the coming together of a trinity comprising civil society, politics, and business. With the British public consumed by Brexit and the American political situation verging on chaos, aren’t we expecting too much of business to carry the baton all the way to the finish line?

Christiana Figueres: “No, I don't think we’re expecting too much of business. Business is not doing this to save the planet, believe me! Business is doing this because it is good business, because there is safer investments, because there is  less risky investments and because the prices are simply going down at such an exponential rate that it just makes more sense to invest into clean technologies than into technologies of the past century. Business is doing this because it is good for the bottom line!”

Nick Breeze: The 2020 report highlights the challenge posed by transport. If you take aviation as an example, you see that we’re still building runways, we’re all flying further for less money. Surely, to hit these goals, we just need to take some individual responsibility and fly less?

Christiana Figueres: “The fact is that you cannot exempt any sector of the economy from these efforts. So you can’t say ‘We’re not going to fly because aviation is too high emitting.’ That is the wrong approach. The approach is: aviation and maritime and land transport, all three of them have to come down in their emissions.

And it’s very interesting that in the last two weeks we have had an announcement from a very small start-up, as well as from Siemens that electrification is moving in the direction of electrification. So Siemens was the last company that just put out last week that they foresee that ten years from now, they will be having airplanes that are fully electric with clean energy and they will have a thousand kilometre range.

So you already have in a very short timespan, you already have flights that can be clean, certainly the short flights and then we have to look at the longer ones. But it is not a question of changing one mobility for another. For the time being if you want to be responsible, yes, definitely go for the mobility with the lowest emissions but that cannot exempt any sector. Every sector has to bring down its emissions… and aviation is coming!

Nick Breeze: What’s the catalyst that will direct the flows of investment capital towards meeting the Mission 2020 goals?

Christiana Figueres: I think what directs the flow of capital is actually cost and renewable energy is, everyday, just more and more cost competitive. You can see the flow of capital going into renewables and not into oil, it is just very evident.

Interview conducted at the launch of Mission 2020 at Google HQ London on 10 April 2017.



Figueres still text

More posts by Nick Breeze

The jet stream is responsible for what kind of weather we experience and it’s behaviour is changing. Dr Jennifer Francis, a research professor at Rutgers University's Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, explains how a combination of factors are going to drastically impact agricultural systems in Europe and Eurasia.

It is easy to look at the fires in southern Europe and think that “global warming” is a regional problem often on someone else doorstep. This misconception could not be further from the truth because the “global” bit refers only to global mean temperature. As scientists start to look at what is happening around the world, it becomes very clear that the interconnected global system is changing for all.

 

Dr. Saleemul Huq Director International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University, Bangladesh. In this short interview Dr Huq talks about his work and explains how those most vulnerable to the effects of manmade climate change are seeking recompense from the worlds greatest polluters.   

 

In 2014 Marks & Spencer became the only retailer in the world with carbon neutral operations. This huge undertaking across over 1400 stores has been rewarded with international recognition by the UNFCC winning Momentumn For Change award for carbon neutrality. 

 

UK based Carbon Tracker Initiative has played a key role showing big businesses, including fossil fuel companies, a route out of the business as usual high CO2 emitting path that is driving humanity towards catastrophe. Anthony Hobley has been at COP23 telling delegates “we are in a technology driven low carbon energy transition” and changing course “just makes financial sense”. NICK BREEZE catches up with him.

Nick Breeze: We are 2yrs on from Paris. Are we making any progress at the COP?

 

Earlier this week Environment Minister Michael Gove stated that he was convinced “climate change is a danger”, stating that it “is one of the biggest threats and challenges to biodiversity in the UK”.

By localising the issue to the UK, Gove seeks to belittle the global risk posed by climate change. This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief science adviser and founding director of the Potsdam Institute, Professor Schellnhuber was in London speaking at the Royal Society. When I asked him to respond to the Environment Minister’s comments he replied:  

In part 1 of this wide ranging interview, Anton Golub discusses why the world needs Lykke, the truth about financial regulators and why only 1% Initial Coin Offerings (ICO’s) they assess make it onto the exchange.

Anton Golub: The core vision of Lykke is the vision of Richard Olsen, the founder of Lykke. I am a cofounder. I met him seven years ago when I joined him for an internship.

I sat down to eat my croissant and he sat down next to me and said: “Anton, we have to completely  change the financial system. It totally doesn’t work. Everything is broken inside.”