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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  October 29, 2021 12:30am-1:01am BST

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this is bbc news. we'll have the headlines and all the main news stories for you at the top of the hour as newsday continues straight after hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. it is tempting to be sceptical about a conference billed by some as humanity's last chance to save the planet. but the truth is the cop26
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meeting in glasgow is a very big deal. global heating is real. it threatens to inflict existential harms on all life on earth unless greenhouse gas emissions are effectively eliminated within a generation. can it be done? well, my guest is fatih birol, boss of the international energy agency. he believes the answer is yes, but is he ignoring the political realities that he'll encounter in glasgow? fatih birol in paris, welcome to hardtalk. thank you very much, mr sackur.
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well, it's a pleasure to see you in your headquarters in paris. of course, very, very soon, you'll be in glasgow as a delegate at the cop26 conference. how unfortunate do you think the timing of the conference is amid an energy cost crisis, a supply crisis, but also with the covid pandemic still with us? it is very unfortunate, both of them. and we are seeing energy prices, coal, oil, and gas being very high. and not only that, the possible impact on the economy, but some people try to portray this as the first crisis of clean energy transitions, which is, i would say, completely wrong. but i see the risk that it may well be a barrier for further policy action to address climate change. this is definitely unfortunate,
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but there are some fortunate things, mr sackur. there is a great momentum among the countries around the world, and one country after another making commitments to bring their emissions to zero, net zero by 2050 and 2060. this is the fortunate part of the story. right, well, let's get into the detail. and let's think first not of political leaders, but of ordinary people watching and listening to this show around the world. hundreds of millions of them will depend on cheap energy for their livelihoods. they'll rely on gas. many, many will rely on coal. and your message to them from the international energy agency is that fossil fuels have to be eliminated. now, as they see their gas and coal prices rise, frankly, they're going to say, "well, what happens to us?" it's a very legitimate
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question, but i have two points here to underline. first of all, we don't believe, and nobody believes, i think, that we will get rid of the fossil fuels tomorrow. it will be a process, but we have to see their consumption, their use need to decline throughout the time. this is number one. number two — some of the clean energy options, for example solar energy, is today, in a big part of the world, becoming the cheapest source of electricity generation. so, we have to take this into account. but i do agree that, as a result of this transformation in the energy sector, which is inevitable, some communities, some people will have some difficult times. coal miners, for example, just to mention that, all the workers who are used to manufacturing the internal combustion engine cars, the normal cars we are using
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today, when the car manufacturers move to electric cars, you need different types of workers with different skills. so, there's a big job for the governments to address these challenges coming from the transformation. it will not be easy, it will be very difficult, it will not be a rose garden. but it has to happen because, on the other hand, if we don't do that, there will be big hardships around the world. as you mentioned at the beginning of your introduction, lots of lots of implications for our climate. i guess the difference is between big hardships, existential hardships that may be 20, 30, 40, 50 years down the track, and real hardships that are facing people right now. and itjust interests me that your agency, surely its first priority ought to be energy stability, ensuring that energy markets across the world work in real time. and, of course, right now,
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they're not working, and they're partly not working because gas and oil prices are rising very sharply. does it therefore, in the short—term — not the long—term, but in the short—term — make sense to tell the fossil fuel producers that they should be ceasing all investment in new fossil fuel production? now, first of all, we do not say all the investments need to stop. what we say is that the demand for these sources, for example, oil, will decline in the future, it will be enough to invest in the existing fields. well, that's my point, that's my point, because... yeah, for people to understand this, you have issued various policy papers over the last few months, saying that investment in new fossil fuel production should cease. and i'm just wondering that, in the current context, does that really make sense?
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i think it makes perfect sense. what we are saying is invest in the existing fields, but there is no need to invest in exploring new fields there. today, mr sackur, we have 6.5 million barrels per day of unused oil capacity today in middle east countries, and the tightness we have today is, in my view, an artificial one. if they wished so, they could easily bring volumes of oil to the market, and this would comfort the market. it is not a lack of oil, it's the lack of the readiness for some oil producers to bring oil to the market. there is enough oil, there is no need to worry about that. so, you're saying that the current supply problems, and this is about oil and gas, are much more about political decisions than they are about physical capacity? cos there's been a very, as you know, a very loud and long debate about russia, which is a vast supplier of natural gas.
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exactly, exactly. now you appear to be saying that the russians could put more gas into the european energy market, they're just choosing not to. the russians say, "well, hang on a minute, we're doing the best we can. but if the world tells us not to invest in our gas production facilities, then what do you expect?" and isn't it easy to understand moscow's position? i think it is. we have all the data at our fingertips at the international energy agency. i can assure you russia can, without investing one single new dollar, russia can increase the exports to europe by more than 15%, which would be more than enough to cover the markets. but what russia is saying is that they would like to get this or that compromise with europe on different fronts beyond the current energy market crisis in order to bring this gas to europe.
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again, i believe both gas and the oil markets, the current tightness, is an artificial one. if the producers wanted so, they could bring enough volumes of oil and gas to the markets, and at the same time comfort it. and also, one point on gas. gas has been presented up to now by the gas industry as a reliable, affordable energy source, which could accompany renewables for a stable transition to clean energy. but with the high gas prices today, the gas industry is getting not good marks from millions of customers around the world. this is something they really need to reflect, in my view. what about china ? because the signals in the run up to the glasgow conference from china have been that, given their problems with energy supply — they've had rolling blackouts, supply side problems — they're rethinking some of the commitments to ease back on investment in new coal production.
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the prime minister, not long ago, said, "our priority has to be consistency of energy supply above all else." do you worry about the impact this is having on chinese strategic thinking? china is the single most important country when it comes to emissions. they are responsible about 30% themselves of the global emissions. just to give you one example how critical china is, emissions from chinese steel and cement industry — forget the rest of the emissions from the industry, forget the transportation, all the power plants in china — just these emissions from these two industry sectors is more than entire european countries' emissions put together. just to put in a context how important china is, if china doesn't come up with an ambitious plan. this may well be a bad
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news for all of us. if we want to keep our i.5—degrees target alive, we need china to come with ambitious plans and ambitious implementation of those plans. you say, "if we want to keep the i.5—degree celsius target alive." many people would say that target's already dead. in the words of one analyst who knows the science very well, "recent commitments over the last decade or two to curb greenhouse gas emissions have been an epic fail." and even during the covid pandemic, when there was a global economic slow—down, we see that greenhouse gas emissions continue to pile up in the atmosphere. if it's an epic fail, why do you insist on still saying, "0h, we can make the target, we can do this?" i think, first of all, i would say we should do this, because if we want to have a liveable planet still, i think we all want it.
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we have to keep the temperature increase 1.5 degrees maximum. this is number one, number two... but, mr birol, there's no point repeating that if, to all intents and purposes, that has already become impossible. because if you keep repeating that, then... i don't agree with this. sounds like you lack credibility. no, no, no, idon�*t agree with it. i think there are still chances to keep our target alive if we do two things. 0ne, massive expansion of the renewables, massive expansion of the electric cars, massive expansion of other clean energy technologies, which are already in the market. we don't need to discover them. and we can do that. and the second — push the button for the technologies which are not with us, and they can be part of the solution as well. the technology is there. the global capital is there. what is lacking now is the international collaboration and determination of the countries to come together to address this issue.
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and this is the reason why i say glasgow is an extremely important chance for all of us. and i still maintain it is becoming more and more difficult to reach 1.5 degrees, but we do everything we can to reach there. if we cannot reach 1.5, if we end up with 1.6 or 1.7, it is better than ignoring this 1.5 degrees target and end up with a three—degrees temperature increase. i think we should keep our eye on the ball. here, it is the 1.5 degrees. we try to get it, if we end up with 1.6, 1.7, it is much better than the business—as—usual trends. what's the point of going to a summit with a message, which you know a whole host of countries which are still much dependent in terms of their economies on fossil fuels, telling them that they've got to get to zero emissions within a generation? you know that, notjust russia and china we've discussed,
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but countries like australia, saudi arabia, norway, even, a whole host of countries are simply not interested in committing to eliminate their fossil fuel emissions. yeah, it's a huge challenge, i completely agree with you. but what i say to just those countries whose economies are closely linked to oil and gas, or coal revenues, even if they are blocking or delaying the process, clean energy transitions are getting... i mean, just look at the electric cars today. only two years ago, 2% of all the cars sold in the world were electric cars. and as of today, it is 5% globally. in china, 20%. in europe, 20% of all the cars are electric cars. and this would mean that we are going to soon see oil demand peak and slowly decline.
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those countries better prepare themselves for the next chapter of the energy world. otherwise, they may well be left behind and not ready for the next chapter of the global energy economy. so when, for example, australia's resources minister, keith pitt, says, "coal, oil and gas are going to continue to be a big part of australia's energy mix," when the energy and oil ministries in saudi arabia make it clear that they are going to continue to invest and develop their oil resources — you say they're swimming against the tide of history, do you? i believe that a new global energy economy is emerging around the world. it is not only driven by the wish of saving the planet, because technology is going in that way, and those countries who are investing in coal or other fossil fuels
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may well be taking a big risk, in my view. how much does american leadership matter in all of this? we haven't discussed america yet, but the biden administration is trying to push through a massive piece of legislation which will involve trillions of dollars being spent on clean energy initiatives. as we speak to each other, it's not quite clear whether that's going to get through the us congress, but nonetheless, how important is america's position? it is perhaps one of the most important parameters today. the us leadership, the us coming back to the table and pushing the climate agenda is very, very important. it's the largest economy of the world, and very determined, across the us government, secretary kerry, overall, around the world, talking with the leaders. and i am really, as a citizen
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of the world, i am thankful to the us administration to take this issue as a top priority. of course, together with their partners in in europe, injapan, in india, china and the others — without the us leadership, we wouldn't have the hope even to get a good result from glasgow. so, it is a very important one. but i come back to politics, because we know that the us—china relationship is very difficult right now. some would describe it as toxic. same goes for the us relationship with russia, and there is a great deal of nationalism at play around the world. governments which are not so much interested in collaboration, multilateral approaches, even to the biggest challenges like climate change, but are much more focused on defending their national interest. for you, as a consultant and adviser to governments around the world, how do you overcome that inclination to nationalism?
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it makes my life very, very difficult, i can tell you. it's one of the nerve centres of the problem. but we are, in our discussions with the government leaders around the world, we are trying to isolate this climate change issue as much as we can, because this is over the current political tensions. it affects everybody. emissions go into the atmosphere from jakarta or from manchester or from detroit orfrom johannesburg. it has the same effect on everybody. emissions don't have a passport. so, therefore, we are trying to make the leaders of the world understand that this is an issue for everybody. and i think i see an understanding of many, many countries — not all — but many big countries understand this challenge very well. problem is you're going to be in glasgow, and president xi is not,
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nor is president bolsonaro of brazil. some of the key players that you need to get your message to are simply not going to be there. how big a problem is that? it is a big problem. definitely, i would have wished that all the leaders would be there in person, but some of them, i understand, are going to join through video messages and zoom or whatever. the important thing, what i expect from cop, that all these world leaders come united and give an unmistakable signal to the world that you citizens, you investors, we are united here and determined to build a clean energy future for all of you, and you investors, if you continue to invest in the fossil fuels, then you are going to risk losing money. this is the message i would like to get from cop26, and i am not hopeless that this message will not come true.
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i think it will come true. so, you bring it down to a question of money. and again, i put to you the fact that, in this post—covid world, governments are counting their pennies, their dollars very carefully, and it seems they are not least disinclined to make good on the long—term promises they made to deliver $100 billion a year from the rich world to the poorer world to help the emerging economies transition to a clean energy future and to mitigate the worst effects of climate change — if that promised money does not get delivered, what does this say about the credibility of this multilateral approach? it will cast a big shadow on the, er, the sincerity of the rich countries. i think rich countries have a moral responsibility, and it also makes economic sense to provide financial support to our poor,
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and i really hope... they're not doing it, mr birol. you know that they are not doing it? year on year, they are failing to meet the 100 billion target. i think we are close to that now. and, for me, it is a litmus test for the rich countries, how sincere they are, how determined they are to put this $100 billion on the table. if it doesn't come, i think it is not good news, and they wouldn't pass the test, in my view. it strikes me, as we talk, that we're talking completely in terms of what governments must do — structural reforms to the energy market, the development of clean energy alternatives, and you're very keen on your electric vehicles — i get all of that at the macro level, but you don't spend any time talking about what we all, as individual inhabitants of this planet, should and could be doing differently. is that because you don't think individual behaviours really matter to whether or not we succeed in curbing the worst
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effects of climate change? it does very much. but, unfortunately, individuals make their choices based on the government decisions. for example, i mentioned electric cars, but there's other types of cars which are also breaking records, which is suvs. and if i was... many people are buying suvs, and the numbers are very strong in europe, us, china, india. if i was a responsible government, i would put heavy taxes to suvs in order to provide a signal to the people in the street that this is a bad one. i am taxing the bad one so that the habits of the people change and they get the signal. so, we cannot rely only on the goodwill of the consumers, citizens. they should be, in my view,
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channelled by their governments and regulations and financial incentives or disincentives. that's a very interesting point. i was talking to an australian big businessman the other day who's investing massively in green hydrogen technology, and he was telling me that in australia, the approach to this problem is very much about technology, not taxes — ie, australia is hoping fervently that technology can somehow deliver the clean energy future that the planet needs without inflicting too much pain on individual citizens. that may be wishful thinking, may it not? i think technology is one part of the solution, an important part of the solution, but i still believe there is a need for governments putting the right framework, giving the right signal to the investors and the citizens. in the absence of governments providing this general framework, i think if we leave everything to the markets, i don't think that we will be able to solve our climate problem. i am very clear about that.
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and a final thought — prime minister borisjohnson is going to glasgow saying that success, in his view, is "touch and go". he says there are still massive problems to overcome. what happens if glasgow fails? i don't think that glasgow will fail. but if it fails, we will continue. i, myself, my colleagues in the international energy agency, and many other people will do everything so the energy sector goes in the right direction. nobody, nobody will be immune to the change in the energy sector. we are going to a direction where the clean energy transition will be the name of the game in the energy markets in the years to come. fatih birol, i thank you very much for joining me on hardtalk. thank you very much, thank you.
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hello. with a number of weather and flood warnings in force where it's been so very wet, it's certainly worth keeping across those if you've got travel plans going into the weekend. a weekend which will bring more rain at times, but not all the time. there'll be some sunshine, too. saturday, for many, looks like a fine day. quite windy this weekend, and it will turn a little cooler. the low pressure very much in charge, but the frontal system that's brought so much rain does clear away during friday. another one with rain overnight and clearing early on saturday, but then a stronger area of low pressure with more rain and wind for part two of the weekend on sunday. this is how things are starting off on friday morning, with a lot of cloud around, with outbreaks of rain in many areas, including moving into those parts of eastern england that have spent
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much of this week dry. but the idea is that all of this will slowly clear eastwards as the day goes on. northern ireland soon getting into the sunshine during friday morning. for many other places, it will turn drier and brighter into the afternoon. but even in the afternoon, still some rain falling in parts of the midlands, northern england and eastern scotland before here, too, things improve into the evening. still mild out there. it'll feel a little fresher, and it does turn cooler over the weekend. more showers running into south west england, wales and northern ireland on friday evening. and that's from the next weather front coming in, that makes further progress north and eastwards going into saturday morning. a touch cooler as saturday starts. so, early on on saturday, this will be moving through with some outbreaks of showery rain. they'll be quite heavy, but a lot of that does clear away into the afternoon. and following on behind, plenty of sunshine, just the chance of catching a shower. so, for many, saturday afternoon will be dry, temperatures will just come down a degree or so.
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but the lull before the next weather system doesn't last very long, and it's this area of low pressure and again going into sunday, so another swathe of quite heavy rain along it. that will be gradually pushing its way north and east as the day goes on. may take quite a bit of time before it gets into northernmost parts of scotland. behind it, it will be brightening up, but you may see some heavy showers moving in, and it'll be windiest through southern parts of england and south wales. that's your weekend for you. into next week, showers, some sunshine at times and for all parts, it'll be turning colder as we get into november.
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welcome to newsday. reporting live from singapore, i'm karishma vaswani. the headlines... in an exclusive interview with the bbc, the indonesian president says wealthier countries need to do more to get the world's poorer countries vaccinated. translation: i see that everyone has helped, - but in my opinion, it's not enough — notjust for indonesia, but for all developing countries, and especially for poorer countries. ahead of the g20 meeting, president biden unveils his $1.75 trillion spending plan, calling it a historic investment in the country's future. also in the programme...


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