https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51u4JECraLQ

Rebecca Blumenstein: Good after­noon. Welcome to the biggest cli­mate ses­sion at Davos, Averting a Climate Apocalypse. I’m Rebecca Blumentein, Deputy Managing Editor of The New York Times. This has already been a momen­tous day. And this is a very crit­i­cal dis­cus­sion to have now. It’s been a year of promi­nent head­lines on cli­mate. Our job at the Times is to show it, not just to write it. The Australian fires con­sumed an area larg­er than the size of the entire state of West Virginia, and smoke from the fires was seen even in Chile. There’s been record heat, droughts, flood­ing; it has now been offi­cial­ly con­firmed that the past decade was the hottest on record.

2020 is an absolute­ly piv­otal year for our world’s cli­mate. Some are even call­ing it the year of truth.” Five years after the Paris Accord, gov­ern­ments need to reset their goals, and busi­ness­es are final­ly and quick­ly talk­ing about set­ting goals. We’re run­ning out of time to lim­it warm­ing to 1.5 degrees and to avoid 2 degrees. Scientists say we need to keep warm­ing below 1.5 to avoid the very worst impacts on all of us. And the more we delay, the hard­er it becomes.

We have top voic­es from across the world to dis­cuss the urgency of the sit­u­a­tion and next steps. But we are going to start with some words from Greta Thunberg, who made head­lines around the world last year by say­ing here at Davos that our house is on fire. I am so hon­ored to wel­come her to the stage.


Greta Thunberg: One year ago I came to Davos and told you that our house is on fire. I said I want­ed you to pan­ic. I’ve been warned that telling peo­ple to pan­ic about the cli­mate cri­sis is a very dan­ger­ous thing to do. But don’t wor­ry, it’s fine. Trust me, I’ve done this before and I can assure you it does­n’t lead to any­thing.

And for the record, when we chil­dren tell you to pan­ic, we’re not telling you to go on like before. We’re not telling you to rely on tech­nolo­gies that don’t even exist today at scale and that sci­ence says per­haps nev­er will. We are not telling you to keep talk­ing about reach­ing net zero emis­sions” or car­bon neu­tral­i­ty” by cheat­ing and fid­dling around with num­bers. We’re not telling you to off­set your emis­sions by just pay­ing some­one else to plant trees in places like Africa, while at the same time forests like the Amazon are being slaugh­tered at an infi­nite­ly high­er rate. Planting trees is good, of course, but it’s nowhere near enough of what is need­ed and it can­not replace real mit­i­ga­tion and rewil­d­ing nature.

And let’s be clear, we don’t need a low car­bon” econ­o­my. We don’t need to low­er emis­sions. Our emis­sions have to stop, if you are to have a chance to stay below the 1.5 degree tar­get. And until we have the tech­nolo­gies that at scale can put our emis­sions to minus, then we must for­get about net zero, we need real zero. Because dis­tant net zero emis­sion tar­gets will mean absolute­ly noth­ing if we just con­tin­ue to ignore the car­bon diox­ide bud­get that applies for today, not dis­tant future dates. If high emis­sions con­tin­ued like now, even for a few years, that remain­ing bud­get will soon be com­plete­ly used up.

The fact that the USA is leav­ing the Paris Accord seemed to out­rage and wor­ry every­one. And it should. But the fact that we are all about to fail the com­mit­ments you signed up for in the Paris Agreement does­n’t seem to both­er the peo­ple in pow­er even the least. Any plan or pol­i­cy of yours that does­n’t include rad­i­cal emis­sion cuts at the source, start­ing today, is com­plete­ly insuf­fi­cient for meet­ing the 1.5 or well below 2 degree com­mit­ments of the Paris Agreements.

And again, this is not about right or left. We could­n’t care less about your par­ty pol­i­tics. From a sus­tain­abil­i­ty per­spec­tive, the right, the left, as well as the cen­ter have all failed. No polit­i­cal ide­ol­o­gy or eco­nom­ic struc­ture has been able to tack­le the cli­mate and envi­ron­men­tal emer­gency, and cre­ate the cohe­sive and sus­tain­able world. Because that world, in case you haven’t noticed, is cur­rent­ly on fire.

You say chil­dren should­n’t wor­ry. You say, Just leave this to us. We will fix this. We promise we won’t let you down. Don’t be so pes­simistic.” And then…nothing. Silence. Or some­thing worse than silence: emp­ty words and promis­es which give the impres­sion that suf­fi­cient action is being tak­en.

All the solu­tions are obvi­ous­ly not avail­able with­in today’s soci­eties, nor do we have the time to wait for new tech­no­log­i­cal solu­tions to become avail­able to start dras­ti­cal­ly reduc­ing our emis­sions. So of course the tran­si­tion isn’t going to be easy. It will be hard, and unless we start fac­ing this now, togeth­er, with all cards on the table, we won’t be able to solve this in time.

In the days run­ning up to the fifti­eth anniver­sary of the World Economic Forum, I joined a group of cli­mate activists demand­ing that you, the world’s most pow­er­ful and influ­en­tial busi­ness and polit­i­cal lead­ers, begin to take the action need­ed. We demand at this year’s World Economic Forum par­tic­i­pants from all com­pa­nies, banks, insti­tu­tions, and gov­ern­ments imme­di­ate­ly hold all invest­ments in fos­sil fuel explo­ration and extrac­tion, imme­di­ate­ly end all fos­sil fuel sub­si­dies, and imme­di­ate­ly and com­plete­ly divest from fos­sil fuels.

We don’t want these things done by 2050, or 2030, or even 2021. We want this done now. It may seem like we are ask­ing for a lot, and you will of course say that we are naïve. But this is just the very min­i­mum amount of effort that is need­ed to start the rapid sus­tain­able tran­si­tion. So, either you do this, or you’re going to have to explain to your chil­dren why you are giv­ing up on the 1.5 degree tar­get. Giving up with­out even try­ing.

Well I’m here to tell you that unlike you, my gen­er­a­tion will not give up with­out a fight. The facts are clear but, they are still too uncom­fort­able for you to address. You just leave it because you just think it’s too depress­ing and peo­ple will give up. The peo­ple will not give up. You are the ones who are giv­ing up.

Last week, I met with Polish coal min­ers who lost their jobs because their mine was closed, and even they had not giv­en up. On the coun­try, they seemed to under­stand the fact that we need to change more than you do. I won­der what will you tell your chil­dren was the rea­son to fail and leave them fac­ing a cli­mate chaos that you know­ing­ly brought upon them. That it seemed so bad for the econ­o­my that we decid­ed to resign the idea of secur­ing future liv­ing con­di­tions with­out even try­ing?

Our house is still on fire. Your inac­tion is fuel­ing the flames by the hour. And we are telling you to act as if you loved your chil­dren above all else. Thank you.


Rebecca Blumenstein: Thank you Greta for those stir­ring and provoca­tive words, and for your lead­er­ship on this issue. I am going to start by ask­ing our pan­elists a num­ber of ques­tions. We also want to open it up to you by the end of the ses­sion. And if you could please join us on that wef.cs/vote, we will also get you reg­is­tered because we like to take a cou­ple polling ques­tions in the mid­dle of the ses­sion as well.

Ma Jun, I’d like to start with you. China is by far the largest emit­ter on Earth. And what would your response be to Greta? What will it take for China to real­ly emerge as a leader on this issue, even prob­a­bly with­out the US?

Ma Jun: Yeah, I thank I great­ly salute Greta’s efforts because it has helped to vast­ly increase the pub­lic aware­ness glob­al­ly. I think the pub­lic must play a vital role, you know, if we want to avert a cli­mate cri­sis. And this is quite evi­dent in China, you know, dur­ing this eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment in China. Just like in the West, our fos­sil fuel con­sump­tion has mas­sive­ly increased. From the year 2000 to 2011, just eleven years, our coal con­sump­tion has been tripled, burn­ing half of the world’s coal. And the orig­i­nal pro­jec­tion is for that vol­ume to be dou­bled before we peak by 2014. Thinking about this is not sus­tain­able at all. But Chinese peo­ple, our cit­i­zens, made their voice heard when Beijing and the sur­round­ing regions suf­fered from a long stretch of smog­gy days, demand­ing for clean air. Millions of cit­i­zens on social media.

And then the gov­ern­ment respond­ed to by start­ing mon­i­tor­ing and dis­closed PM2.5 and then rolled out a nation­al clean air action plan. And I’m hap­py to report, though all this public/private part­ner­ship dur­ing the past sev­en years, Beijing’s PM2.5—you know, the fine par­ti­cles concentration—has dropped from nine­ty micro­grams to forty-two last year. So more blue skies. And dur­ing the process, the tough­est issues of coal— You know, China’s coal con­sump­tion increas­es have been brought to an abrupt stop. Last sev­en years, not much increase at all. Stagnated.

But that’s not enough. Our mis­sion has not being accom­plished. We’re still burn­ing half of the world’s coal, and we need to do more. But now, at this moment, we’re fac­ing the eco­nom­ic down­turn local­ly, and glob­al­ly we’re fac­ing a trade war, and also the with­draw­al by the US gov­ern­ment from the Paris Agreement. All these are not help­ful. So, we need to find inno­v­a­tive solu­tions which tap into the mar­ket pow­er which can bal­ance growth and pro­tec­tion. But all this needs peo­ple to join their efforts. So with that, I tru­ly salute the efforts to raise pub­lic aware­ness.

Blumenstein: Oliver, you head Allianz, one of the world’s largest insur­ers, and in September along with the United Nations launched a net-zero alliance, which is basi­cal­ly encour­ag­ing man­agers and some of the biggest funds to be car­bon neu­tral by 2050. And it feels uh, you know, to Greta’s point: why does it take so long? 2050 is fifty years from now?

Oliver Bäte: Yeah, it’s a [indis­tinct]. Not quite fifty years from now but only cer­tain thir­ty, thank­ful­ly. But it’s still too long. So I ful­ly share the out­rage of a 19 year-old daugh­ter who is also ask­ing me the same ques­tion every day. We heard part of the answer just now. But I want to be a lit­tle bit more opti­mistic. We have to be between out­rage, and opti­mism. I can­not get up every morn­ing and just be out­raged. I have to run a large insti­tu­tion that’s the largest insti­tu­tion­al investor in Europe, prob­a­bly. We have to do some­thing. So we’re try­ing to con­nect the opti­mism and out­raged by doing stuff…practically. And finan­cial mar­kets have been very weak in sup­port­ing, and investors very weak in sup­port­ing, the tran­si­tion.

So I was per­son­al­ly in Paris five years ago, and I have to admit that I think we had much high­er ambi­tions than what has been achieved. But I would like to point out a sim­ple thing. It’s the first time that busi­ness is lead­ing, and gov­ern­ments are behind. In the past it was always gov­ern­ments demand­ing busi­ness to change busi­ness mod­els, and then we had to adopt. Today, unfor­tu­nate­ly I believe that gov­ern­ments are behind the curve, behind the riv­er. I can only speak for my home coun­try. We always talk about the plans when we would get out of coal, but with dis­cussing dates we’re not dis­cussing action. What we are try­ing to do is put the real action behind it. Now you can debate the 250, but the real­i­ty is we start­ed with 2.4 tril­lion US dol­lars com­mit­ted to go net zero—we had noth­ing before. Probably by the end of the week we will have more than dou­bled it. And once we are on the track, we can talk about exhil­a­ra­tion.

But all of this, sor­ry to say, we need to move from out­rage also to sci­ence. We need to do prac­ti­cal things to say how do we actu­al­ly address it? But I also will say with­out prop­er sup­port of the gov­ern­ments, par­tic­u­lar in the United States, in China, and India—which is also plan­ning to mas­sive­ly increase coal emissions…it will futile. So we’re going to do our job, we’re going to exert the pres­sure that we can, and we work every day to make it faster. But there’s a lim­it to what you can do.

Blumenstein: So just to just repeat that, you’re try­ing to get a dou­bling of the com­mit­ments this week at Davos by—

Bäte: Yes.

Blumenstein: —meet­ing with var­i­ous investors around the world

Bäte: Yeah. And the key con­stituents group—and you can all help—is the sov­er­eign wealth funds. The most amaz­ing thing I found out over the last year, that we can con­vince very strong asset own­ers—CalPERS and oth­ers that have led the way in the United States, Pension Denmark in Scandinavia is always with us, our col­leagues from AXA and others—we are com­mit­ted. The most amaz­ing thing is that the sov­er­eign wealth funds, often by coun­tries that have huge car­bon issues, have not yet signed up. So we need to make sure…you know, the Norwegians need to sign up—they make all their mon­ey with fos­sil… We need to get the Japanese involved. By the way, your Chinese gov­ern­ment insti­tu­tion, their pen­sion mon­ey can be invest­ed so we could mobi­lize tril­lions and tril­lions more into the right direc­tion. And then I’m very hap­py to talk about accel­er­a­tion. But first, they need to com­mit. And then, we speed up.

Blumenstein: Hindou, you come from Chad, which is first-hand expe­ri­ence in the impact of cli­mate change. And you also serve on the board for the Tropical First Alliance. Can you talk about cli­mate change and how it’s affect­ing the peo­ple in Chad, and real­ly the enthu­si­asm and will­ing­ness for them to play a very big role in what needs to hap­pen.

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim: Sure. Starting just by what Greta said, our house is burn­ing. She said at the begin­ning, and the end. So for an indige­nous peo­ple, when we say the for­est is burn­ing it’s not just like a lan­guage of expres­sions. It’s our real home that’s burn­ing. Because indige­nous peo­ples from all over the world—it can be from Chad, from the Amazon, or from Indonesia—we are depend­ing on these forests with our food, our med­i­cine, who’s our phar­ma­cy, our edu­ca­tion. So, for indige­nous peo­ples in Chad, espe­cial­ly my com­mu­ni­ty who are pas­toral­ists, cat­tle herders, are still nomadic. We are not depend­ing on the end of the month. We are depend­ing on the rain­fall. And the cli­mate impact, it’s on our envi­ron­ment, our social life. Our envi­ron­ment, when the rain becomes much and much short­er, with a heavy rain which can flood all our crops, or with a drought which can fol­low and dry up all our food. So that leads to the com­mu­ni­ty to fight among them­selves just to get access to these resources that are shrink­ing.

This is today. This is our real­i­ty. When the for­est is burn­ing in Australia, in the Amazon, it’s for­est that’s dis­ap­pear­ing. But in my region in Sahel, it’s peo­ple dying. Dying because of the cli­mate change, los­ing their life, who do not think about the future And that’s also when peo­ple talk about 2050 for me I’m like, real­ly? Seriously? By 2050, there’s no solu­tion for this plan­et. We need it now.

So when they fight, you hear about the migra­tions which become more and more. They migrate just to get access to the resources. And that’s also what’s hap­pen­ing the last months in Burkina Faso, in Mali, in Nigeria, and going on and on. The peo­ple who live in har­mo­ny among them­selves, which is pas­toral­ists and farm­ers, now they are fight­ing. So, the nature that pro­tect us becomes the ene­my of the peo­ples. That’s how we’re expe­ri­enc­ing every day. And that changes the social life of men and woman togeth­er, and we get more of the sev­er impacts. So the action I think needs to hap­pen now. And that’s also why the com­pa­ny act­ing is good. China’s act­ing, it’s good. But are we act­ing now? Are we act­ing for the real peo­ples? If we are doing it, yes. So, don’t talk about [net-zero] by 2050. Talk about accel­er­a­tion today. Change your poli­cies. Change your busi­ness. Because for us, we are already get­ting it and adapt­ing.

Let me tell you why very short­ly. Because indige­nous peo­ples around all the world, we have the wis­dom. We are the most impact­ed. But we under­stand nature. We devel­oped the knowl­edge. We adapt. And we know how to restore those forests that are burn­ing. And look at the news in The Guardian where they are say­ing the indige­nous peo­ples of Australia, the two old woman pro­tect­ing their land because they know how to keep the fire away, is the case of all indige­nous peo­ples. A grand­moth­er from Pacific, she knows where to get the crops after a hur­ri­cane to feed her fam­i­ly; as my uncle and aun­ties cat­tle, when they move they know how to restore the ecosys­tem. So busi­ness­es need us, because we are the future. We are the solu­tion as indige­nous peo­ples. So you need to lis­ten to us, learn from us, and get your busi­ness sus­tain­able. You can­not keep your part­ners, because for us nature is our part­ner we’re pro­tect­ing. And for you, you need to pro­tect your busi­ness and lis­ten to us. We’ll help you to do that.

Blumenstein: Rajiv, you’re the pres­i­dent of the Rockefeller Foundation and also worked in the Obama admin­is­tra­tion, where you were known for work­ing with both Democrats and Republicans. Is there any hope for cli­mate not being a par­ti­san issue? As Greta said, she does­n’t real­ly care about pol­i­tics, but that’s usu­al­ly how it plays out.

Rajiv J. Shah: I think there absolute­ly is. I’m so glad that Hindou just gave us that pas­sion­ate descrip­tion of how cli­mate change affects peo­ple and lives, today, right now, not in the future—not only in the future. And I think that’s per­haps the key to get­ting out of a polit­i­cal debate about cli­mate change and get­ting to prac­ti­cal solu­tions. I’ve had the expe­ri­ence of walk­ing on farms in Ethiopia with famous cli­mate deniers from the United States—Congress. And when they talk to farm­ers who’re grow­ing food to feed their fam­i­ly, bare­ly get­ting by, and they recall the past famines in Ethiopia and what that was like, and they hear these farm­ers say every year it gets hot­ter, it gets dri­er; rain­fall becomes more errat­ic, and we face a longer peri­od of food inse­cu­ri­ty on a reg­u­lar and annu­al basis, you can’t argue with that. And that’s not about the debate. That’s some­thing that is the felt expe­ri­ence of hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple. And in fact, cli­mate change today bears its brunt most­ly on the bot­tom 2 bil­lion peo­ple on the plan­et. And so our com­mit­ment to Paris, our com­mit­ment to be seri­ous and urgent in tak­ing actions to meet those tar­gets is not just about pro­tect­ing the future, it is also about pro­tect­ing today peo­ple who rely on cli­mate, envi­ron­ment, and those nat­ur­al resources to sur­vive and to thrive.

At the Rockefeller Foundation we sup­port 15 mil­lion farm­ers in Africa with improved tech­nol­o­gy and financ­ing. And we see every day prac­ti­cal solu­tions that should be free from polit­i­cal debate. We know that there are It’s not future tech­nolo­gies, they’re cur­rent. Crops, and access to fer­til­iz­er, and access to ser­vices that can help farm­ers move their com­mu­ni­ties out of food inse­cu­ri­ty.

We just a few months ago launched a billion-dollar joint ven­ture with Tata Power in India to bring renew­able solar micro­grid ener­gy to com­mu­ni­ties that frankly, the gov­ern­ment says they’re con­nect­ed to electricity…but they’re not; they get a few hours a day and they can’t grow their com­mu­ni­ties that way. We now with solar tech­nol­o­gy and improved bat­ter­ies and stor­age solu­tions can pro­vide pow­er at a low­er cost, fully-loaded, than any coal plant con­nect­ed to a grid, con­nect­ed to exten­sion, into those rur­al com­mu­ni­ties.

It’s a fal­la­cy to believe that solv­ing cli­mate change has to trade off with the liv­ing stan­dards and improved liv­ing aspi­ra­tions of the world’s 2 bil­lion poor­est peo­ple. And I think in that space we ought to be able to find real­ly prac­ti­cal bipar­ti­san solu­tions that can solve both chal­lenges, cli­mate and pover­ty.

Blumenstein: But could I chal­lenge that a bit? I know back­stage we were talk­ing you know, is it a fal­la­cy to expect that peo­ple who don’t have elec­tric­i­ty yet are going to be able to not rely on fos­sil fuels? Is there like a lit­tle bit of a real­i­ty check that we need in terms of how we help those peo­ple?

Ma: Yeah, I think those who have must car­ry their respon­si­bil­i­ty to those who have not. You know, tak­ing China’s exam­ple, you put it quite cor­rect that we’re by far the largest emit­ter in the world. This is a result of China being the fac­to­ry of the world. Increasingly we’re man­u­fac­tur­ing to meet our ris­ing demand, but in the mean­time we’re still man­u­fac­tur­ing for many parts of the world. And all those exports car­ry a lot of embed­ded car­bon and pol­lu­tion. And in 2007 we launched the Green Choice ini­tia­tive, where we mapped out the fac­to­ries’ per­for­mance in China and found many of them are major sup­pli­ers to those glob­al brands’ day-today con­sump­tion. And dur­ing the past ten years, many of them start­ed respond­ing. And they start­ed moti­vat­ing thou­sands upon thou­sands to change behav­ior.

Having said that, there are many busi­ness­es which are not doing that. We’re track­ing 439 brands, and among them, 300 are not real­ly want­i­ng to even take a look at those vio­la­tion records. We have 1.5 mil­lion, 1.6 mil­lion records of vio­la­tions com­piled in our data­base. But if they com­pare the lists they can eas­i­ly iden­ti­fy the prob­lem. But many busi­ness­es would not take a look at that.

And more recent­ly you know, the green finance pol­i­cy in China…we respond­ed to that and devel­oped a dynam­ic envi­ron­men­tal cred­it rat­ing sys­tem. And 6 mil­lion fac­to­ries can give dynam­ic rat­ings. And there are so many who claim that they want to go ESG invest­ment. Many are mak­ing heavy invest­ments in China. We checked some of the port­fo­lios. They’re not all clean. There’s all this data avail­able. I mean, are you real­ly doing that? Are all these ESG investors—

Blumenstein: So there’s a press release say­ing they’re ESG [crosstalk] and they’re doing some­thing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent.

Ma: Yes. Yeah, many of them are not fac­tor­ing in the so-called scope 3” car­bon emis­sions, mean­ing the sup­ply chain sup­ply chain. Supply chain usu­al­ly accounts for 60, 70, some­times 80% of the total car­bon emis­sions. If we don’t inte­grate that into the action, if we don’t dis­trib­ute that to the fac­to­ry of the world like China, and of course now to many oth­er devel­op­ing coun­tries, then the Paris Agreement…we won’t be able to achieve that.

Blumenstein: So just keep­ing your glob­al head­quar­ters eco-friendly does not do it [indis­tinct]—

Ma: Yeah, chang­ing the light­bulbs or reduc­ing some busi­ness trav­el­ing, that’s not enough. Because by far the largest emis­sion is dur­ing the man­u­fac­tur­ing process. And that dirty work, those heavy duties are still being car­ried by China now. And some oth­er coun­try’s going to take take it over. But this time, we want to stop the migra­tion of all this pol­lu­tion. With all these new tech­nolo­gies avail­able, you know China have done so much mon­i­tor­ing. We installed auto­mat­ic mon­i­tor­ing on tens of thou­sands of major emit­ters. Now every hour, if you check our mobile app called Blue Map, you can pull out thou­sands upon thou­sands of major fac­to­ries hourly dis­clo­sure data. We visu­al­ize by help­ing peo­ple to see whether they’re in red or in blue. And major brands like Apple, like Dell, like Levi’s, Adidas, HMM…I mean, Target, Gap—they start­ed tap­ping into that. But there are so many more which turned a blind eye because…you know.

So I would hope that the peo­ple, espe­cial­ly the younger gen­er­a­tion, with all this enthu­si­asm, pay more atten­tion to the busi­ness­es’, you know, actu­al busi­ness­es’ action rather than just a press release.

Blumenstein: Oliver, why is it so hard to reduce fos­sil fuels and to get busi­ness to real­ly com­ply?

Bäte: We’ve just heard it. We have com­pet­ing objec­tives, right. People want to have life [indis­tinct]. They want to grow. They come from very low liv­ing stan­dards. And while we see that in Chad and oth­er peo­ples of India, peo­ple say, I want elec­tric­i­ty and I don’t care whether it’s com­ing from coal,” and they’re pre­cious. But these are all excus­es. I want to pick up on what we’ve just heard.

The finan­cial mar­kets have to play a much big­ger role, par­tic­u­lar banks also in lend­ing and oth­ers, not to give mon­ey to sup­ply chains that do not lis­ten. So what we real­ly need is trans­paren­cy, who’s doing the right thing, rather than green­wash­ing. And it’s very impor­tant that pol­i­cy mak­ers now make a deci­sion that says we want to under­stand what hap­pens in your val­ue change in busi­ness.” We are doing it indi­vid­u­al­ly. We’re doing it with the asset own­er lines. We’re ask­ing the busi­ness­es. But it’s ten out of hun­dreds of tril­lions. So we need to make this change at scale. So I wish we’d get support—not just this week but others—to real­ly increase it by fifty-fold and not take thir­ty years to do it but over the next week. Because if there’s no fund­ing for the sup­ply chains, there is no busi­ness mod­el that can con­tin­ue to pol­lute the world.

Blumenstein: Should com­pa­nies be required to dis­close their car­bon emis­sions? They’re not now.

Bäte: Absolutely. Absolutely. But we have many oth­er things. For exam­ple Germany, we’re tax­ing ener­gy con­sump­tion, we’re not tax­ing car­bon foot­print. So there’s zero incen­tive to move out of fos­sils. So pret­ty please for all the war­riors, let’s do some prac­ti­cal things that we can do. And even if the refor­esta­tion was just crit­i­cized, in many many coun­tries we are giv­ing tax incen­tives for exact­ly the wrong type of for­est to be built. Not the ones that are sus­tain­able for drought or for fire and oth­ers. We’re actu­al­ly fast-growing [indis­tinct]. So there are so many things that we can do tomor­row, but it has to be done.

Blumenstein: Hindou, President Trump just announced a pledge to build a tril­lion trees, I believe, in a refor­esta­tion ini­tia­tive. Is that gonna help, and could you talk about broad­ly the role that nature, that the nat­ur­al world can play in reduc­ing cli­mate?

Ibrahim: Okay well. I will come back to this one. But I just want­ed to react. We are hav­ing like two [sep­a­rate words?] here. When we talk about peo­ple want­i­ng elec­tric­i­ty I’m like, seri­ous­ly? People who did­n’t get food for them­selves, who can’t eat three meals a day, are they going to think about hav­ing elec­tric­i­ty they’re going to have to build for them­selves? So I think we need to talk about this inequal­i­ty between what is tech­nol­o­gy, what is devel­op­ment, what is the need of the peo­ples, before we talk about how we can tack­le cli­mate change or ener­gy or not. So devel­oped coun­tries need to shift, and right now, from the dirty ener­gy, from coal or what­ev­er, to the clean ener­gy. But not for devel­op­ing coun­tries, because devel­op­ing coun­tries have the pri­or­i­ty to eat first and then focus on ener­gy.

Coming back to your ques­tions— [applause]

Bäte: Sorry about that, [indis­tinct]

Ibrahim: Trees. When we talk about trees, I think like, most of the biggest pow­ers thing plant­i­ng a tree is the solu­tion to cli­mate change—that’s it. But plant­i­ng trees, yes. We need to plant them. But how about keep­ing those who exist, the ecosys­tem that exists already? How about restore it? How about pro­tect it? We can’t give the excuse by plant­i­ng three tril­lion trees and cut­ting those that can make paper, that can make what­ev­er they want and make more mon­ey for them. That’s the ques­tion.

So plant­i­ng trees, it’s a sec­ond phase of the busi­ness. And we know how to do this restora­tion. Indigenous peo­ples in the Amazon, when you go to their land, is the most diverse ecosys­tem. It’s bet­ter than a nation­al park. Because the gov­ern­ment can’t pro­tect the nation­al park from fire or defor­esta­tions or from ille­gal min­ing. But indige­nous peo­ples can pro­tect their land. That’s why the ecosys­tem is more diverse there. It’s the same in the Congo Basin, because Chad of course is there as a coun­try but it’s also part of the Congo Basin. That’s how we are pro­tect­ing it.

So, we have the knowl­edge to do it. Let me give you one exam­ple of how we are restor­ing it. Like, my grand­moth­er is the best tech­nol­o­gy ever. Because she can pre­dict the weath­er, with­out hav­ing a cell phone or Internet. She can pre­dict the weath­er by observ­ing the wind direc­tion, by observ­ing the birds’ migra­tion, by observ­ing the tree flow­ers. She can can tell her peo­ple where they have to go to get to water and pas­tures. So this tech­nol­o­gy to restor­ing her ecosys­tem can pro­tect her peo­ple. And that’s how we are get­ting pro­tect­ed even though we are the most impact­ed, but we are still in our field, and we are going to be in our field for far. So let us restore this ecosys­tem and join all togeth­er to plant the trees after.

Let me give you anoth­er exam­ple of trees, just very short. The [Great Green Wall] in Sahel. We say Sahel is a big land of deser­ti­fi­ca­tion. But if com­mu­ni­ties come togeth­er, and each one of them takes the respon­si­bil­i­ty of restart­ing his own land, that’s the best way of plant­i­ng trees. Not throw­ing in mil­lions of them, but giv­ing the peo­ple the respon­si­bil­i­ty to make them them­selves because they know it is their sur­vival. So how I’m see­ing these tree plant­i­ngs can be suc­cess­ful.

Blumenstein: Rajiv, how do you square this con­flict between the devel­oped world and the devel­op­ing world and the role that each needs to play? You have big invest­ments in Africa and in India.

Shah: And I, when I was in the Obama admin­is­tra­tion was part of both the Paris Agreement and and also the Sustainable Development Goals say­ing that we can achieve zero pover­ty by 2030. And both are in fact achiev­able and both can hap­pen togeth­er. And it’s not that dif­fi­cult to fig­ure out how. First, the twen­ty largest coun­tries in terms of emis­sions are absolute­ly where efforts to get to zero emis­sion should start. And that is hard to imag­ine that being suc­cess­ful with­out gov­ern­ment pol­i­cy par­tic­i­pa­tion from China, the United States, and India. And right now, I’d say all three are going the wrong way. And even though China has done some things that are quite appro­pri­ate and notable, they’re still financ­ing 150 gigawatts of new coal plants in China—much of it is actu­al­ly in oth­er coun­tries around the world. The low-cost, state-supported financ­ing is in Kenya, it’s in Guinea, it’s in India, it’s in Colombia. So I think it’s impor­tant to rec­og­nize that this is a glob­al issue and the top twen­ty coun­tries that emit have to have the pol­i­tics and poli­cies that say we’re seri­ous about get­ting to reduction—and with all due respect to cor­po­ra­tions, it’s very hard to see cor­po­ra­tions using vol­un­tary action to solve this prob­lem.

Second, I actu­al­ly do think we have to re-focus on the liv­ing stan­dards and aspi­ra­tions of the world’s bot­tom 2 bil­lion. And it is pos­si­ble now to pro­vide renewable-based ener­gy to meet the grow­ing needs of that pop­u­la­tion. And even recent World Bank stud­ies from last year are already out of date in terms of their own assess­ment of where the lowest-cost elec­tri­fi­ca­tion strat­e­gy is from renew­ables. And I’m con­fi­dent this year, in our one project in India we’ll be pro­vid­ing pow­er based on solar mini grids to com­mu­ni­ties that have nev­er had access to elec­tric­i­ty, at fif­teen cents a kilowatt-hour. At that price, it beats every oth­er alter­na­tive. And I have met women who have sewing machines and say, You know, I was final­ly able to get a pow­er elec­tric sewing machine, dou­ble, triple my income. Send my kids to school.” A gen­tle­man who works on a farm that’s able to buy a rice huller and improve their post-harvest pro­cess­ing. Those are the kinds of things that will cre­ate employ­ment, growth, and oppor­tu­ni­ty for the world’s bot­tom 2 bil­lion, and if we do not take their aspi­ra­tions seri­ous­ly as part of this effort, we’re fail­ing the oth­er big chal­lenge of our moment which is the deep inequal­i­ty that threat­ens the pol­i­tics, that threat­ens us from being able to do things on cli­mate that mat­ter.

And final­ly I would just say I do think there’s a tremen­dous amount of space to move from divest­ment to invest­ment. Rockefeller and a bunch of oth­er foun­da­tions have moved away from fos­sil fuels in their direct invest­ments. But even more impor­tant than that, hav­ing incen­tives to cre­ate invest­ment so we have the tril­lions of dol­lars to cre­ate the tech­nolo­gies and the solu­tions that are nec­es­sary, it’s not the only solu­tion but it has to be part of the pic­ture, and we’re proud to be asso­ci­at­ed with a num­ber of those enter­pris­es.

Blumenstein: I want to ask all of you some of your opin­ions. We’re going to queue to a ques­tion over who has the biggest respon­si­bil­i­ty for reduc­ing emis­sions? Is it gov­ern­ment? Is it the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty? Or cit­i­zens? If you could enter your respons­es. We’re not see­ing much for cit­i­zens here, which is interesting—okay.

That’s fas­ci­nat­ing.

So gov­ern­ment seems to be in the pole posi­tion here, as many on the pan­el have said, of need­ing to play a big­ger lead­er­ship role.

Results: government at 54%, community at 36%, citizens at 11%

[Graph was ani­mat­ed through the pri­or com­men­tary; this was the final posi­tion vis­i­ble in the record­ing.]

Can we queue to one more ques­tion? How con­cerned are you that 2020 will pass and we haven’t made the progress that we need? Somewhat con­cerned, alarmed, sta­tus quo is fine, not at all con­cerned.

 Results: alarmed at 90%, increasingly concerned at 10%, somewhat concerned and status quo both at 0%

[Final posi­tion vis­i­ble in the record­ing.]

Wow. Okay. Well Greta, you are…you are get­ting through, that’s for sure.

We have a lot of ques­tions that have come in and our time is rapid­ly dis­ap­pear­ing here. So, Oliver there’s an inter­est­ing ques­tion about nuclear pow­er here, and I think to all the pan­elists. Now, Germany took a step back in nuclear power…you know, obvi­ous­ly with the Fukushima acci­dent. What role does nuclear pow­er play mov­ing for­ward, in terms of reduc­ing cli­mate warm­ing?

Bäte: I’m not an expert on tech­nol­o­gy so I’ll just say that up front. And unfor­tu­nate­ly a lot of these things are dis­cussed with­out facts. So—by the way, one of the things that we’re doing with net zero is to have what we call the science-based tar­gets ini­tia­tive dri­ven by the United Nations. So we need the facts.

There are many ways to bring nuclear into the pic­ture with more mod­ern tech­nol­o­gy. So we would­n’t exclude it. I would like to pick up one point that he has. [indi­cat­ing Shah] The com­mer­cial­iza­tion of new sources, sus­tain­able sources of ener­gy, has hap­pened much faster than we could all imag­ine. So not just divest­ment of new fos­sil fuel but putting a lot more assets behind new tech­nolo­gies, and their scal­ing. Unfortunately we have many of these exam­ples, but we’re not scal­ing fast enough.

So, where are the prop­er incen­tives, how do we scale that? So what I’m try­ing to pick up from Greta is, it is tak­ing too long because we’re hav­ing too many anec­dotes, too many nice sto­ries, and too lit­tle sys­tem­at­ic plan­ning and exe­cu­tion. We need to move from words to action.

Blumenstein: Mm hm. Ma Jun is there anyway—I mean, the gov­ern­ment of China obvi­ous­ly is very pow­er­ful. Your approach is to acti­vate the pri­vate sec­tor, large­ly. Is that let­ting the gov­ern­ment off the hook?

Ma: [chuck­les] Yeah. The gov­ern­ment must play its role, for sure, you know. And the whole rea­son that we as an NGO can com­pile so much data is because the Chinese gov­ern­ment in response to the pub­lic demand for data start­ed rolling out to all this mon­i­tor­ing and data dis­clo­sure. And we also changed the leg­is­la­tion, mak­ing our super­vi­sion much tougher. But I do think that con­trary to what many peo­ple would think, in China if the gov­ern­ment tried to do some­thing it can do some­thing, you know. There’s also a lim­it there. So the gov­ern­ment also needs peo­ple, you know, needs the pub­lic to send the clear mes­sage. And also the gov­ern­ment also needs busi­ness­es to join the effort, espe­cial­ly now.

And now there’s such a vast devel­op­men­tal of IT tech­nol­o­gy. I would def­i­nite­ly agree with Oliver. I just recent­ly met with our solar pan­el man­u­fac­tur­er. During the past ten years, there’s a 90% drop of the cost, and they said they’re on their way for anoth­er 90% drop, and we have the first solar pan­el pow­er plant, which can gen­er­ate pow­er elec­tric­i­ty cheap­er than the coal pow­er plants.

So I think all these are major oppor­tu­ni­ties. But we need moti­va­tion. We need the incen­tive for this to be tapped. All this tech­nol­o­gy is avail­able. Nuclear you know, push­ing the whole cost to the future gen­er­a­tions with all this spent fuel dis­pos­al.

So I do think that now if we all share this view that our house is burn­ing, our whole plant home is in dan­ger, then we need to come togeth­er to make our voice heard, to moti­vate. You know, as cit­i­zens, as con­sumers, you can do so much. Because the whole busi­ness would respond to that if you choose that you care, you know. Changing your day-to-day behav­ior is impor­tant, but if we can play our role more smart­ly, tap­ping into all this new—

Blumenstein: Making the data more trans­par­ent.

Ma: Yeah. No tech­nol­o­gy. Then we can scale up our efforts and achieve our tar­get in a prac­ti­cal and much soon­er way.

Blumenstein: In meet­ing Greta’s chal­lenge, I’d like to ask all of you what is the sin­gle thing, if you were talk­ing to a peer about today’s pan­el, what is the sin­gle thing that you would rec­om­mend that we should do to avert a cli­mate apoc­a­lypse? Anyone like to start?

Ibrahim: I can go. I think the sin­gle thing that I want, the emer­gen­cy’s now. It’s not tomor­row. So, the action needs to be now. Because what are we wait­ing for? Forests burn­ing? Food becom­ing dif­fi­cult? But peo­ple dying. Nothing more for me than see­ing the com­mu­ni­ty that’s dying who do not have a future for tomor­row. Who can­not think about the next fifty com­ing years. So, the action has to hap­pen now, and Davos is a big oppor­tu­ni­ty. Fifty years, so it’s now time to open all our minds, our eyes, from busi­ness to the big politi­cian lead­ers who are here to take a rad­i­cal step fur­ther, shift the econ­o­my to the clean one, and take the deci­sions to change all and every sys­tem to the sus­tain­able one. To save their peo­ple. To save them­selves. Indigenous peo­ple are sav­ing our­selves with our knowl­edge, and it’s the time to lis­ten to us. Give us our place. We can talk, and we know how to do it. We know how to pro­tect it. So lie on our back, don’t be in our face, and give us the way to act all togeth­er right now. [applause]

Ma: Yeah, I want to say… I just want— Of course this sounds like adver­tis­ing but you’re wel­come to down­load the Blue Map app. Because you can see the world is…our home is on fire. We track the glob­al air qual­i­ty. And most of the time you know, China, India, we’re suf­fer­ing from very severe air qual­i­ty prob­lems. But more recent­ly we start­ed see­ing in the Southeast Asia, Borneo some­times, all this burn­ing, [crosstalk]and Amazon—

Blumenstein: Australia.

Ma: Australia. It’s hard to imag­ine. San Francisco. You know, LA. California, there’s bush fires. So we can see it’s on fire, but in the mean­time you can see 3 mil­lion fac­to­ries locat­ed on the dig­i­tal map, col­or cod­ed accord­ing to their lev­el of per­for­mance. I chal­lenge busi­ness­es to look into that because we are track­ing hun­dreds of brands also on the app. You can see as con­sumers or busi­ness lead­ers how they per­form. I hope we can come togeth­er based on that data trans­paren­cy.

Bäte: Very tough. Very tough. I don’t want to say some­thing that sounds great but is not doable. But I’m get­ting out— At the begin­ning of the week we said you know, we’ll be suc­cess­ful if we do 2X. We have to think as a start­up and not like a 130 year-old com­pa­ny which we have, we have to do 10X in terms of get­ting the com­mit­ments. And we’ll try to do it as quick­ly as pos­si­ble.

Blumenstein: So not just dou­bling, ten times what you start­ed with. In how long?

Bäte: We don’t have thir­ty years, that’s for sure.

Blumenstein: Rajiv.

Shah: I think my big obser­va­tion is that this takes all of us. And we you had that chart that said it’s 50-some per­cent gov­ern­ment and the rest pri­vate sec­tor. At the end of the day, we need gov­ern­ments to set poli­cies, make agree­ments, and live up to those com­mit­ments and I agree with Greta’s obser­va­tion that we’re nowhere near meet­ing those Paris com­mit­ments. As so many peo­ple felt they were insuf­fi­cient as they were, and we’re gonna roll into Glasgow this year—at the end of this year, and I think peo­ple will see that we’re just not on a path where peo­ple are liv­ing up to the com­mit­ments that were made just a few years ago. So, gov­ern­ments have to offer real lead­er­ship. I applaud Allianz, and I think the pri­vate sec­tor and com­pa­nies have to take this on as well.

But I also think cit­i­zens mat­ter. And cit­i­zen activists that are putting this issue on the map and mak­ing it the cause of our time. Citizen sci­en­tists who are invent­ing new solu­tions. Citizen activists who are work­ing with indige­nous pop­u­la­tions. It’s so crit­i­cal that we all think of this is some­thing each of us has to do. Including chang­ing the way we eat, chang­ing the way we buy prod­ucts, chang­ing the way we live our lives, so that we can be part of the solu­tion.

Blumenstein: I’d like you all to join me in thank­ing Greta and our pan­elists for a fas­ci­nat­ing dis­cus­sion. [applause]


Help Support Open Transcripts

If you found this useful or interesting, please consider supporting the project monthly at Patreon or once via Cash App, or even just sharing the link. Thanks.