Adam Zuckerman [00:06:29] Hello everybody. Welcome back to the next episode of the Energy Impact Podcast. I'm Adam Zuckerman, your host for today. I'm joined by our esteemed guest, Ryan Hobert, who's the Managing Director of Climate and Environment at the U.N. Foundation. That's the United Nations Foundation. Ryan, it's great to have you.
Ryan Hobert [00:06:46] Thanks, Adam. Good to be here.
Adam Zuckerman [00:06:47] Yeah. So let's just hop in. A lot of people, you know, are extremely familiar with the United Nations, maybe not so much with the United Nations Foundation. And that's really what I want to take the time to unravel and unpack today. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and then we'll hop into the Foundation itself?
Ryan Hobert [00:07:04] Yeah. So I sort of grew up with this organization. I have a colleague who likes to say that the U.N. Foundation is neither the U.N. or a foundation, which is, I think, you know, funny. We were created in the late nineties by Ted Turner, who made a pledge of $1,000,000,000 to help support the U.N. across a number of issues at the time. The U.S. was not paying its dues to the U.N. and he was trying to make the point that we need the U.N. and we need the U.S. to support the U.N.. We've really shifted since the early 2000's from being a financing mechanism into the U.N., to being a platform for partnerships, for engaging U.S. citizens in the U.N., and for helping support the U.N. in a variety of different ways. And I came in in 2004, I had done... I had just come out of grad school and done some work with the U.N. Environment Program in Paris. And we at the time at the U.N. Environment Program were getting some funding from U.N.F. And so I got to know the program officer here and jumped over once I was done with my studies, moved to D.C. and started working with U.N.F but it's really evolved, as I said earlier, into this platform where we do a lot of public private partnerships, we do a lot of communications. We help promote all the good things that the U.N. is doing and try to engage U.S. citizens in its work, as well as try to help the U.N. solve big problems like climate change, which is the issue I work on.
Adam Zuckerman [00:08:37] And you said that you're in D.C. Why is the U.N. Foundation based in D.C. when the U.N. is more traditionally focused in New York?
Ryan Hobert [00:08:46] Yeah. So at the beginning, we were really... We set up shop in D.C. because a lot of the work that we were doing was helping essentially lobby Congress to be supportive of the U.N. and what it was doing. We do have an office in New York. We're within the Ford Foundation, which is right across the street from the U.N. and we do a lot of events there. We have kind of a liaison office. And obviously, most of our staff is up there fairly often, and I'm probably up there once a month, although Covid's kind of thrown a wrench in that. Although, diplomats like to work in person. So a lot of the folks in New York are in person working up there. So so we do tend to go up there quite a bit.
Adam Zuckerman [00:09:30] If you're working with the diplomats, D.C. is definitely one of the places to be. Now, as Managing Director, Climate and Environment, your focus is on sustainable energy. What are you focused on at the Foundation right now in the current role? Give us some background on your time from teaching to where you are now and some of the key programs that you're most passionate about.
Ryan Hobert [00:09:51] Yeah, so we do a variety of things on climate. One of the biggest things is we simply help support the U.N. however we can. And right now, that involves working directly with the secretary general in his office. For those of you who have followed what Guterres has done since he's taken over... he's just starting his second term, actually. He's been a very, very strong advocate for for climate action. And it was a little bit surprising when he took over five years ago, because everyone sort of thought because Ban Ki-moon, his predecessor, was also very big on climate, that he would pick another issue. And it turns out that within a year, it was absolutely clear that that was going to be his top issue. So we have we have a Secretary General who is passionate about the issue, who wants the U.N. system to be responsive. He wants countries to be engaged, very engaged in the issue. And so a lot of what we do is help support him and his team. We work a lot on the climate negotiations in a variety of ways. A lot of people, too, these days, they're big... The COPs are big affairs, and we can talk about that more if it's useful. But we also focus on a couple of discrete issues that are related to climate. So I myself, since you asked, have been doing a lot of work on food and climate, which has been, we think, an underappreciated and under worked on area in climate change. Up to a third of all emissions come from food systems writ large, whether it's agriculture or selling food or food waste, things like that. But climate change also has tremendous impacts on agriculture and food systems as well. And so if we don't do something about climate change, particularly smallholder farmers in poor countries are going to get absolutely hammered by the impacts of climate change. So we're working on that whole nexus of issues. We work closely with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is the U.N. body that brings together hundreds of scientists who periodically tell us what the latest science on climate is. And we do. We help them with communications work and do a lot of other things. They're currently wrapping up the cycle that they're in right now. These cycles are typically two years long. They come every 5 to 6 years. And so the synthesis report, which is the summary of the the previous reports over the last couple of years, is coming out in March. It's been slightly delayed, but we're doing a lot of work with them on that. And then we work on on a few other things, including oceans and shipping work. How do we decarbonize the shipping sector and a lot of work on finance. And then increasingly we're working on resilience and adaptation issues since even just with one degree of warming Celsius, we're seeing really, really serious impacts. And so can't avoid thinking about how do we, especially in the poorest countries, how do we help them adapt, how do we make them more resilient to the impacts that are coming?
Adam Zuckerman [00:12:51] It seems like you're focused on so many different things at once. How large is the team?
Ryan Hobert [00:12:57] So, we're very small team. We're only just about a dozen people. We used to be all in DC, but now we're sort of all over the place from the UK to the West Coast, East Coast up in New York. And really what we do, we're very nimble, and so we work with a lot of different partners and sort of seize on issues as they arise and try to make the most impact that way. So we tend to move around on different issues as opportunities arise and and shift people around accordingly. So it's a fairly small team, but we like to be involved in a lot of different things. Keeps it interesting.
Adam Zuckerman [00:13:38] All right. Now on the website, under "Climate and Environment," which is fantastically listed first among all of the UN Foundation's issues on the website, there's a quote and I'm going to read it specifically. "The climate crisis connects us all. We need collective action and leadership from all quarters to meet it. Citizens and governments at every level, the public and private sector, NGOs and philanthropy." And I think that the collective action statement there is exactly what you just touched upon. A lot of people think that politicians just talk. They don't do anything. What is actually happening right now in terms of collective action, of bringing the citizens, bringing the governments together, what are you seeing is very promising? And where are you seeing some of the challenges?
Ryan Hobert [00:14:21] Yeah, it's a really great question. I mean, on climate change, it's a really tricky issue because I think in kind of in a simplistic model, if you thought of the U.N. as this place that's almost like a world government where they make decisions and everything trickles down and those decisions get implemented. The world we live in is not at all like that. And so even when governments, we see this all the time, have a willingness to act on an issue like climate change, it's so implicated in every part of the economy and society. And the decarbonization challenge is so large that it takes not only willingness of the governments, but the whole host of other actors that you were talking about, whether it's the private sector, civil society, individual citizens, academia. And so our view is really that without engaging with all of those players, we're not going to have success on this. And I think, helpfully, I think the U.N. has really, over the last maybe 20 years, has really changed how it tackles these issues and is much more multisectoral in its approach and doesn't just see itself anymore as a place where the governments of the world come together. But it's an opportunity to bring in a lot of these other sectors who have solutions that governments can't offer and without whom these these problems are not going to be solved very clearly.
Adam Zuckerman [00:15:49] Are there KPIs, key performance indicators, that you held and hold your key stakeholders to in some degree? How do you measure success, challenge, failure, progress?
Ryan Hobert [00:16:03] Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, for climate, the biggest performance indicator really is... Is the temperature going up? How quickly are we putting in place the kind of resilience measures that we need to? And what are we doing about the countries that are completely getting, you know, are impacted to such a degree that some of them will no longer exist in a few decades? I mean, if you think about small island states in particular, the low lying ones, you know, they're having to think about relocating their whole country, how their language and culture survives and doesn't get lost... And these are some of the things that the UN is now having to think about is, "What do you do with a country that literally has no territory?" In all of the... You can just imagine all the complications that are related to that. So I would say we don't have... I would say we have a lot of very specific things that we're trying to achieve in a lot of different areas. I mean, shipping decarbonization is one area. For example, we're working within the International Maritime Organization to help them figure out how they can reach zero emissions shipping within the next few decades. And that's a really, really tricky challenge because right now shipping is using these very heavy and polluting bunker fuels, which are very energy dense. And how do you how do you replace that? Just, you know, just in a matter of decades? And we think the U.N. forum for that is one of their most impactful... And yet it's a very challenging one, because these are people from governments who typically are thinking about completely different things. Decarbonization is not why they're at the IMO. They're at the IMO because they, you know, have worked in shipping companies or they're trying to figure out how to help their company get access to certain markets or, you know, support the port system that they have. And so we have to be very pragmatic within those specific areas, but not lose sight of the broader goals of reducing emissions and protecting citizens, territories, species from the coming impacts of climate change.
Adam Zuckerman [00:18:14] And you mentioned so many different avenues and so many different verticals that you're focused on there. Let's shift a little bit to the SDGs. So can you explain what the 17 SDGs are and then how persuasive and pervasive they are in your day to day?
Ryan Hobert [00:18:28] Yeah, I thought you were going to ask me to list them and then you would just embarass me...
Adam Zuckerman [00:18:30] No, no, no, no, no, I'm not that detailed!
Ryan Hobert [00:18:35] Just kidding. So, yeah, these are... So previous to the Sustainable Development Goals, we had something called the Millennium Development Goals, which were, you know, a series of goals that the UN, the governments of the UN set for the UN to be reached by 2015. And then those were re-upped to the Sustainable Development Goals to be reached by 2030. And these are really... It's the list of basic to-do's for the world. That's I mean, that's the simplest way to put it. And it has to do with all the things that you would imagine are critical for humans to, and other species, to survive and thrive. So it's, you know, access to water. It's things like food, it's education, it's equality, it's climate, it's protecting land and the sea. It's how, you know, as we increasingly urbanize, how do we live in these urban environments in a way that's both sustainable and that's helping people thrive? It's worth... If you haven't, take a look at... The UN has done a very nice job of listing out all 17 and there's a little logo for each one that's very understandable. And you can look at the targets underneath each one and see what goals they're trying to reach. But I think the critical thing, given that it's already 2022 and that these goals are supposed to be reached by 2030, is there's only you know, there's less than a decade left to reach those goals. And a lot of them are fairly ambitious. And so the UN is now really shifting into a mode of how do we achieve these really fundamental goals, especially in the wake of COVID and the war in Ukraine, which has caused a food crisis and other issues where they're going to be harder to meet now with some of those challenges that the world is facing. So we're seeing the UN shift to, "Okay, how do we in the last leg of this, over the last six, seven, eight years, how do we make these goals a reality?" So the Secretary-General is going to be hosting an SDG summit in September during the UN General Assembly, when the governments, all the heads of state and government get together every September. And so that's going to be a big moment to figure out, "Okay, where are we on track on these goals, which ones are behind, and how do we get back on track?" And then for our part, climate is goal 13. So it's one of the goals. We would also say that it's embedded in a lot of the other goals because your goal for food, for example, is not going to be met if we don't pay any attention to the impending climate crisis. And so we have to think both about climate as its own goal, which has its own process in the UN. But also what are the impacts of climate change on all the other goals? And how do we do something about that?
Adam Zuckerman [00:21:28] Yeah, it's clear that climate plays a foundational SDG role as it impacts the other SDGs on many levels. And as you set those directions and those metrics and the programs and initiatives that are in support of that specific SDG, is it for countries? Is it for companies? Is it for citizenry? Who's supposed to pay attention?
Ryan Hobert [00:21:50] Yeah, so I think it's all the above. I mean, the U.N. is a gathering of countries, right? This is the system that was set up after World War II was for countries to come together and solve the world's problems. I think it was primarily that kind of a forum for the first few decades. I think since 2000 or maybe a little before, as I was saying earlier, it's become very clear that those... A lot of these things, these problems can't be solved without a lot of other stakeholders being intricately involved in what happens at the UN. And so the goals are set by governments, but there are a lot of ways for the private sector and civil society writ large to be involved in meeting those goals. And as I was saying earlier, it's really the to do list for the world. And so it goes beyond just what the governments are doing. It has to be something that citizens are engaged, are directly engaged in, and care about and want to see not only their own governments deliver, but want to see every government get help to deliver on those goals.
Adam Zuckerman [00:22:57] Do you think that we're on track to meet the climate goals that are set, or do you think that we're we're in a tough spot?
Ryan Hobert [00:23:04] Yeah, well, we're in a tough spot. I mean, I think it's sort of... It's the classic glass half full or empty kind of question. I think on the one hand, you know, we are not where we need to be. We know that emissions are rising too rapidly. They continue to rise when they should be going down. I mean, if we want to reach net zero by somewhere around mid-century, we need, especially in developed countries, we need plunging emissions. And we have, you know, we have some progress. I mean, in the U.S. and Europe and other places, emissions are going down, but they're not going down quickly enough. And in some countries like China, like India, emissions are still going up. They could be going up faster. So I think there's some success there. But it's... We're not where we need to be. I mean, the feat of taking on climate change in a serious way, is really, really... It's a tall order. And so, you know, the goal that the Paris Agreement has set for us is staying under two degrees and trying to stay under 1.5 degrees of warming. We're already at one degree and as I said, emissions are continuing to rise. And so I personally think that Paris, the kind of process that the Paris agreement sets up with five year increments of pledges by countries that are reviewed in the third year to see if they're adequate and a kind of a continuing improvement process for countries to outdo each other in reducing emissions, in responding to adaptation needs is exactly the right one, because we don't have a world government and there's no one at the top who can just mandate that countries reduce their emissions. And it's so complicated in the ways that it's implicated in the whole of our economies anyway, that that wouldn't be possible. But I do think that that is the right process and that's where citizens and a lot of other players have a huge role in saying to their governments, "We want to reach these goals. We want you not only to meet them but to ratchet them up and be more and more ambitious over time." And that's really the only way that we're going to meet the goals that we've set ourselves for the temperature goals that we've set on climate. So we need not only governments to take this really, really seriously and to think about how they're going to do this rapidly. But we need citizens to be involved so that the governments, whether it's in the ballot, you know, in the the ballot box or, you know, day to day in what politicians hear from their citizens, we we all have to be engaged in wanting these these solutions to take place.
Adam Zuckerman [00:25:39] So there's regular check ins for the countries, which is fantastic. You activate the citizenry to hold their countries and other countries accountable. But you mentioned that there is no world government. Are there any other levers that can be utilized that aren't being utilized or are there levers that are being utilized that can really hold countries accountable if they miss? And then the opposite side of that coin is... Are companies or countries rather rewarded if they exceed their their pledges?
Ryan Hobert [00:26:08] That's a great question. So on the first one, I think a lot of people are exploring this. I mean, one question is, can you work through the justice system, whether it's in particular countries or internationally, to try to hold countries accountable? Vanuatu is bringing forward a recommendation in the International Court of Justice to say that future generations need a certain amount of climate action and that that climate action is not being met and therefore that countries should be held accountable for that. We'll see where that goes. We're seeing more and more lawsuits in a domestic context, including in the U.S., where you have, whether it's young people or others, or in some instances, citizens trying to hold oil companies, for example, accountable by saying, "You caused this, you knew what the impacts were of using fossil fuels. And you essentially deceived people into thinking that these the emissions from your products were harmless. And so we're going to hold you accountable for that." We'll see how some of those things play out. I think we've seen a few positive things. But ultimately, again, coming back to the "there's no world government." If a country is not, you know, is not convinced that it should be engaged with other countries in the process of collectively trying to reduce emissions, it's going to be very hard to make that country do that. And so I think the only thing we can do is double down and try to encourage countries to do more. And again, the theory is that if one country is, you know, going above and beyond, others will be, you know, have an incentive to go do, you know, do the same. And I think in the energy sector in particular, that's really going to be true. We're already seeing, for example, in the electric vehicle market, for example, that the countries who have gotten a head start have a really good competitive advantage. I'm thinking of China in particular, and the rest of us are playing catch up. And if we're going to meet the goals that we've set ourselves on EVs, a lot of domestic production is going to have to be ramped up in a lot of countries other than China. And so I think that countries are increasingly seeing that it's in their own economic interest to be acting on climate in a really aggressive and forward way. And I think companies are saying we need a clear pathway for doing that. We need the kind of... We need legislation, we need incentives. We need you know, we need to think about how trade happens, all of those kinds of questions. So I think that's happening right now. But again, it's not quite happening fast enough so that all of it needs to accelerate. I think we're seeing a lot of good things happen in a lot of different corners, but it just has to accelerate in order for the math to work out on the emissions and concentration side.
Adam Zuckerman [00:29:10] Yes, certainly. And we have seen some very positive notes come out of 2022. And the world saw the United States enacting its first ever climate legislation this year. There's COP, which just happened in in Egypt. Why don't we talk about COP? It's a great convening event. Governments and companies and individuals and subject matter experts from around the world gather together. Can you explain what a COP is, how the U.N. is involved, and what role it takes in the event itself for for people that may not be as familiar?
Ryan Hobert [00:29:40] Yeah. So the COP... So the 27th edition of The COP, it's an annual conference of the U.N. on climate change, where essentially in the early nineties, countries came together and said, "Climate change is real, it's happening. We need a forum within the U.N. to deal with this issue, a negotiated process." And so the 27th edition just took place in Egypt, in Sharm el-Sheikh, on the Red Sea. The interesting thing this year is it was really the first time... So the Paris Agreement, which I was talking about earlier, that was agreed in 2015, and that set up this process of five year incremental progress, th two degree and 1.5 degree goals, a lot of different other goals on adaptation, etc. And it took a couple of years after 2015 for a lot of the rules for the Paris Agreement to get themselves worked out. But this year, Sharm el-Sheikh, where the conference took place this year in November, it was just a month ago, was really the first conference where there wasn't really any major, huge piece of negotiating that needed to take place that was on the agenda. And the interesting thing is well, a couple of things. One is: it has become the UN's biggest convening every single year. It's bigger than the U.N. General Assembly. It's 45,000 people coming together in a particular place to talk about from governments to civil society, private sector talk about how we make progress on climate. And for a COP where there was no major negotiating agenda item. Now, I'm not saying there weren't things to be negotiated. There were a lot of things to be negotiated, and we can talk about some of those. But there was no major thing like there has been in the past, and yet that many people came together. And in the end, developing countries who all year had been signaling that they wanted progress on what they call loss and damage, which is essentially responding to the impacts that are already occurring, particularly among the poorest. That they wanted some kind of financial mechanism to respond to that. And so they put tons and tons of pressure on developed countries who typically the U.S. and the Europeans and others don't want to set up another fund where they have a hard time getting public money allocated to those funds. But just the moral impact of the story about, you know... and this was led by small island states who have, you know, who again, their countries are, in some cases going underwater, are getting hit by these tremendous hurricanes that are completely leveling the country. And so they wanted finance to be compensated for those impacts. And so the big outcome of the meeting in Sharm was a loss and damage fund. Now they've got a year to set it up and figure out how it's going to be financed. There are all kinds of questions about, you know, who's going to contribute. This has always been a big fight between developed and developing countries. You know, China, which is the largest emitter, do they have... They're still categorized within the U.N. process as a developing country and therefore presumably a recipient of funding. You can just imagine that the U.S. has a problem with that. You have the Gulf countries who are very rich countries, who are also categorized as developing countries. Should they be contributing to a fund like this? So I think that's a fight that we're going to have over the next year. But the U.S. and other countries simply couldn't counter kind of the moral clarity of the need for this kind of a focus on loss and damage. And then we've seen a lot of other interesting finance proposals, in particular the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, who put forward what she calls the Bridgetown agenda, which is essentially a rethinking of how we do development finance. The multilateral development banks, whether it's the World Bank or regional development banks, have this mandate to help support development in poor countries. And she's saying that in light of climate change, we cannot just go on doing business as we have until now. And we need dedicated instruments to help vulnerable countries, particularly with climate change, and they're not... And unlike the loss and damage fund, they're not just asking for money to be compensated. They're saying when we get hit by a hurricane, our interest rates go up. You know, they're already high and they'll go up to 15, 20%. And so then we can't afford to borrow or we borrow and we can't afford to pay that money back. And yet you guys have, you know, three or four or 5% interest rate. So what they're asking for is essentially to rethink how financing for development happens so that it is fair and so that the poorest can actually benefit. And they don't just get into these these debt traps over and over. And then on the flip side, sorry, I'm going on and on... The flip side. On the energy side, since this energy is podcast is about energy, we're seeing these these just energy transition packages pop up. There's a South African one that's being developed. It's almost $10 billion to shift. Essentially, it's to essentially help particular large developing countries leapfrog past coal, past other fossil fuels and go directly to clean energy. And so one of the big pieces of progress was not in the negotiations at all... It was that Indonesia got essentially some something like a $20 billion package, finance package, both public and private, to help it avoid coal build out and go straight to clean energy. And that's happening in Vietnam. There are questions with India taking over the G20, whether that can happen with India as well. So lots of interesting things happening that aren't directly in the negotiations, but they sort of come alongside this huge climate conference every year.
Adam Zuckerman [00:35:46] And where do you see the energy mix transitioning? And do you think that COP and the SDGs play a role in that shaping countries objectives? Or do you think that they're... That it's nice to say, but the reality is, is countries are completely independent and it's a lot of talk?
Ryan Hobert [00:36:02] Yeah, I think you can make a case for either one. I mean, energy is always a big topic at the COP. There's been a fight over the last couple of years about what the language is, particularly around whether it's coal or, you know, fossil fuels more generally. The last year there was... I don't know if you remember, but there was a big fight over phasing down or phasing out coal. And the language ended up being phasing down which India and others supported. And there was a big hoopla about that. This year, it was India put forward a proposal to say we should phase down all fossil fuels, not just coal. And so that, a number of of countries were against that. That ultimately did not succeed. But there is language now about boosting low emissions energy. And so I think that's really the first time that we're kind of getting at fossil fuels indirectly. And so I think over the next couple of years, we'll see how that plays out. But it doesn't... as you say, it's not just in the climate forum that that these things are discussed. It's also in the G7, in the G20, where the major emitters meet up. It's at the U.N. General Assembly. But a lot of the language is kind of... Summarizes the zeitgeist, where we are on climate. And so tracking where the energy conversation is, for example, is a pretty good illustration of where we are. The other I mean, the thing that's directly related to that is this question about 1.5 and whether the 1.5 goal is still attainable. There was a little bit of a push at this COP to potentially renege on a reference to 1.5, and that failed. But it is something that's going to come up over and over because, as I said, we're already already past 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. And so we can't just continue to say that our goal is 1.5 if we're going to just completely blow past that goal. So what, you know, what is it going to mean over the next few COPs for us to think about a safe level of, you know, of emissions concentrations and not just be completely ignorant of the fact that we're that we're blowing past goals. And that's going to be a real challenge. I think that'll that'll shape how these discussions go forward.
Adam Zuckerman [00:38:16] That's likely right. And we've missed 1.5 in some degree. We've passed COP 27. We're planning for COP 28. What does the, that cook process look like? Is there actually planning for COP 29 in the works already now? Or is it a one year cycle without a five year plan or a three year plan or a two year plan? How does that work in the actual logistics of planning these events?
Ryan Hobert [00:38:39] Yeah, it's a really interesting question. I mean, on the one hand, since Paris, there's really been these five year cycles and we're just starting them because they started in 2020. And so we're sort of halfway through that first cycle of ratcheting up emissions ambition. But so next year is a big year, 2023, because it's the third year of the cycle and in the third year what they've set up, what they call global stocktake. So that's when you say, "Okay, where are we? Are we are we meeting the nationally determined contributions? So these are the country plans that we've said...
Adam Zuckerman [00:39:14] Who is "they?" Who is "they" in the quotes. You said they get together. Who is that?
Ryan Hobert [00:39:18] And this is governments. This is the governments. The governments are the ones who are pledging, who are making these emissions reduction pledges. And they're the ones that have to look at each other in the face and say, "Okay, here are the analyzes that show that we are on target, aren't on target, and then figure out, okay, how do we... What is this going to mean for the next cycle?" Because this five year cycle is going to be over in 2025 and then you get into the next one and figure out, "Okay, what, you know, what emissions reductions can we make in the next time around." So this global stocktake. So we already know that the COP 28 is going to take place in Dubai and UAE. The one after that, we actually don't know. And typically it's a little bit of a surprise. You would think that they would know, you know, we know the Olympics when they're going to take place, like whatever, you know, a decade or more out. Sometimes it's only like a year ahead of time that the country knows that it has to prepare for a cop, which really isn't enough. So, I mean, that's a that's a really good question about why there's not a little bit more foresight, but we know that in the years to come, Australia is looking to host a cop, Bulgaria potentially for the Europeans. And then with Bolsonaro getting elected in Brazil, there may be there may be a COP in Brazil, and that would be kind of iconic because the... Rio in '92 is when the Convention on Climate Change and a few other conventions got set up. So... That would be a big moment.
Adam Zuckerman [00:40:51] All right. Now, what is your vision for the future of policy in the relationships in the clean energy sector? What's next? What should we be focusing on for 2023?
Ryan Hobert [00:41:02] Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, I think there's so many things going on, whether it's, you know, how vibrant the clean energy sector is and how quickly things are progressing there, especially you mentioned the Inflation Reduction Act, what that's going to do in the U.S.. I mean, a lot of these things are going to get accelerated over the coming years. In the international... On the international scene, the Secretary General of the U.N. is going to be hosting a big climate summit, which he's done a couple times previously during the opening of the General Assembly in September. I think there's a lot of, you know, I think in part what we see happening in th energy space will depend not just on policy, though. It will depend on whether, you know, whether we enter a recession economically, how things like whether it's border adjustments for carbon or how IRA plays out, which is, you know, there's a lot of buy... You buy or manufactured domestic provisions in the IRA. And how the Europeans in particular respond to that is going to be a big one. So I think it's going to be my sense is it's going to be an exciting year. We're kind of in a pivot time. The other thing is how quickly do we start reducing fossil fuel energy production? I mean, right now we've kind of got this... We've got this contradiction where on the one hand, we know we need to reduce emissions. We know we need to boost clean energy. And yet the Europeans, because of the war in Ukraine, want more of our natural gas and are doing a lot of things that are counter to that in order to make up for the fact that they're not getting gas from Russia and that there's a real disruption there. On the other hand, they're making even more ambitious... They're setting even more ambitious goals because they realize that more than ever, energy is a security issue. And if they don't get off imported fossil fuels, they're very vulnerable. And that's a real threat to their economies and to everything they're doing. And so I think it's a kind of a contradictory time where we know we need to make this transition and some things are going in the right way and other things aren't. And so I think it's going to be interesting to see how that plays out over the next year or two.
Adam Zuckerman [00:43:26] It's certainly one of the narratives that's been popping up in the last few months and over the last year as energy independence, energy security. You mentioned the just transition in South Africa earlier. What other programs internationally do you think that we should be paying particular attention to? Who's doing it right? Who's doing it wrong?
Ryan Hobert [00:43:45] Yeah. So I think it's worth following what's happening in these just energy transition packages, whether it's South Africa or Vietnam or Indonesia or India and whether, you know, how some of those things get built out. I think the reform of the development banks is another big one. You know, you could unlock a lot of financing for clean energy, etc. I think the other thing to follow is really what China does. They're by far the biggest emitter at this point. The US-China relationship is not in a great place right now, though they've mended some fences since the G20 meeting in Indonesia. So I think, you know, and one just very specific example there is around methane. You know, there's this... Both the U.S. and the Chinese are developing methane reduction plans. And apparently there's been a lot of work done behind the scenes. They just haven't announced it because the Chinese are so consumed by COVID and the economy and other things. So I think we might see some progress on some of those things in the next few years. And China really has moved very slowly in ratcheting up their ambition. I mean, their headline has always been "We're going to peak our emissions by 2030." And other countries are saying, "You got to move that data up. It's got to be 2025." And most people who follow this closely think that they could they could probably peak by 2025. So that's going to be another thing, is how quickly, you know, they've made tremendous strides and they're really the leader in clean energy deployment. But their economy is so big and it's growing it's been growing so fast that they've also been... Their emissions have been rising rapidly at the same time because they're building out coal and gas and importing oil, etc., etc.. So I think how quickly China can transition and whether they can work with others... And also the investments that they're making in other countries, you know, they're investing in Southeast Asia and Africa. What are those investments look like? Are they clean? Are they dirty? Those those are the kinds of things that are going to define the trajectory we're on for the decades to come.
Adam Zuckerman [00:45:56] I think that's right and looking at the Belt Road Initiative and others, it's a time for another podcast I think that we could get into on that. Now we're almost out of time, but a few more questions for you. If you could share a message about sustainability with our listeners, how do you think people can make a difference in their daily lives? We've talked a lot about countries and the international approach there, but the reality is, is that people are what compromise and make up the countries and the companies alike. What can people do?
Ryan Hobert [00:46:26] Yeah, well, I think there are a lot of different answers to this question. I mean, one of the ones that I find compelling, which is counterintuitive, is simply talking about the issue, whether it's the problem of climate change, which I think a lot of people sort of suspect is a problem, but don't talk about it because it's politically controversial, especially in a country like the U.S. Or talking about the opportunities associated with shifting to clean energy or energy efficiency or, you know, ways that we can live in a less carbon and GHG intensive way. And I think there are a lot of really exciting things happening there, whether it's, you know, e-bikes or e-vehicles or ways that we can, you know, heat and cool our homes more efficiently or thinking about things like food waste. I mean, there's a UNEP report, a U.N. Environment Program report that came out, I think it was last year, that was saying that up to 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from food waste, which is just an incredible thing to think about. But that's something that each of us can do something about. We can scan our fridge, you know, a couple of times a week and see what looks like it might be going bad and try to eat that first and when.... Also not try to just throw our food away, but to compost whenever we can so that the organic matter can be reused and become soil rather than emitting methane in a in a landfill. So I think there are a lot of examples of things that people can be doing. A lot of cities are prioritizing greening and trying to get greater tree cover. And you see people getting out there and planting trees or asking for street trees out in front of their house. There are things that we can all do, but maybe the biggest one is just talking about it and not being afraid to to bring up something that might be controversial even though it shouldn't be.
Adam Zuckerman [00:48:18] All right. So the last question that goes directly to talking about... What is one topic or subject that we did not discuss that you think we should have? Here's your final mic.
Ryan Hobert [00:48:29] Yeah, that's a good question. Well, we talked about a lot of things. I mean, I think... So there's one one initiative that I should have mentioned earlier that I think is really interesting that the Secretary General has put forward and it's called Early Warnings for All. And it gets at this issue of people... In our country, you know, we have all kinds of ways of knowing whether, you know, bad weather is coming or we're going to have a drought, etc... In a place, you know... In a lot of countries in Africa, for example, even though people depend much more directly on the land because they, you know, they depend on food, on growing their own food, for sustenance, etc.. They don't have good data about the weather and about longer term trends and they don't have the kinds of communication system to let them know about those things. And so it's really... It's a cool initiative. It was just launched. It's called Early Warning Systems for All. And it's about within the next five years putting in the investment to have warning systems, whether it's for a hurricane or it's for a drought or extreme flood, any extreme weather. And they're doing some interesting things working with tech companies, trying to get... raise the money that will take, especially for the poorest countries, to get the kinds of systems they need to respond to that. So I think that's one that is worth watching out for and helping support however we can.
Adam Zuckerman [00:49:53] All right. We'lldefinitely keep an eye out for it. Ryan Hobert, Managing Director, Climate and Environment at the United Nations Foundation. We appreciate the time. There's the Energy Impact podcast. And I'm today's host, Adam Zuckerman. Thanks for joining.
Ryan Hobert [00:50:05] Thanks, Adam.