Just Transitions: Use and misuse of language by the climate elite

Welcome to Season 2 of New Climate Capitalism!

I talked to Eduoard Morena, a Paris-based researcher who studies the social and justice dimensions of climate action, as well as climate philanthropy.

You may have heard the term Just Transition which has become very popular ever since the 2018 Yellow Vest movement in France. Edouard warns that this term has become distanced from its original meaning, and is increasingly being used in a tokenistic way.

But beyond that is much a bigger story about the widening gap between people and climate policy. About the missed opportunities from proliferating citizens assemblies. About a proactive far-right that is muscling in with new environmental narratives to get votes. 

So what’s going on, and what should we be worried about? 

Don’t miss this fascinating conversation, which I guarantee will give you some new insights into the importance of language and narrative in the international climate policy space.

Edouard Morena is a lecturer in French and European politics at the University of London Institute in Paris. He’s also coordinator of the Just Transitions Research Collaborative, and his research focuses on the social and justice dimensions of climate action through a focus on non-state actors’ involvement in the international climate debate.

He’s also the author of The Price of Climate Action: Philanthropic Foundations in the International Climate Debate (Palgrave Pivot, 2016).


The kind of mainstream approach to kind of climate action, uh, um, has this tremendous power of kind of sucking up and reappropriating contestation and criticisms, and then kind of completely numbing it as well in the process, you know, And just delaying the process and at the same time, creating even more of a gap between the people and the policy makers.

Denise: Welcome back to New Climate Capitalism. This is the first episode of Season 2.

I am really excited about the line-up for this season – there is just so much happening in this space right now. We will continue the work of Season 1 by exploring different angles of change in the financial sector related to climate change. In addition, we’re going to dig more into the “S” of ESG

Just to give you a taste of what’s coming up in the next few months, we’ll be talking about modern slavery in the supply chain, reputational currencies on the holochain, financial feminism and a new groundbreaking case of climate litigation from Australia. And much much more.

Today’s episode looks at the Just Transition and the climate elite.

I talked to Edouard Morena, whose research focuses on the social and justice dimensions of climate action, as well as on climate philanthropy.

He talks about this term the Just Transition, which has become very prevalent, especially since the Yellow Vests movement in France in 2018. He warns that this term has lost its original meaning and is increasingly being used in a tokenistic way.

But beyond that is much a bigger story about the widening gap between people and climate policy. About the missed opportunities from proliferating citizens assemblies. About a proactive far-right that is muscling in with new environmental narratives to get votes. 

So what’s going on, and what should we be worried about? 

Don’t miss this fascinating conversation, which I guarantee will give you some new insights into the importance of language and narrative in the international climate policy space.

Denise: So, um, today we’re talking to Edouard Morena. Who’s. Uh, a lecturer in French and European politics at the University of London Institute in Paris. He’s also coordinator of the Just Transitions Research Collaborative, and his research focuses on the social and justice dimensions of climate action through a focus on non-state actors’ involvement in the international climate debate.

He’s also the author of a book that I read and really enjoyed called The Price of Climate Action: Philanthropic Foundations in the International Climate Debate. Uh, so, and we’re going to talk about the, just transition today. So welcome Edouard. Thank you. 

Edouard: Thank you for the invitation. 

Denise: Um, so let’s, let’s, uh, get straight into this term ‘Just Transition,’ which is sort of everywhere, but not very well understood.

Uh, can you explain to us where it came from and, uh, when did it become important in the international climate debate? 

Edouard: Well, yeah, I mean, I think that’s pretty important to, to, to situate that kind of history, uh, on the origins of the concept. So the concept Just Transition was born in the U S um, in the eighties.

Um, um, so North American let’s say because Canadians were also involved and it’s actually a concept that was imagined by trade unionists. Um, and it was not specifically related to climate. It was actually more focused on polluting industries and, uh, and their, their impacts on local communities and workers.

So try to think about it high to close down these very polluting industries, but at the same time, ensure that local communities and the workforce was able to transition, uh, towards kind of cleaner jobs and good quality jobs and union jobs in particular. So it has a very specific history and that’s what makes it such an interesting concept.

It has a history that’s embedded within the kind of labor movement and within working class communities. Uh, and then over the course of the nineties and particularly the early two thousands, the concept was also taken up by the international trade union movement and, um, became kind of one of the core demands of the trade union movement within the international climate negotiation space.

And so during the early two thousands and up to already Copenhagen, but also in particular  between Copenhagen and Paris, they actually lobbied to include Just Transition wording in the Paris Agreement. So it is included in the Paris Agreement, but more generally beyond this kind of issue of, um, pushing for the inclusion of the concept in international climate agreements. 

The concept was also a really useful tool to build up links and a common understanding between the labor movement and the environmental movement. 

So it was also really kind of a bridging term between, you know, the environmental NGOs who were very reluctant to engage with unions because they saw unions as only thinking about jobs and not the planet. And on the other hand, the labour movement who had a very negative view of the environment. So this, because they also felt that the environmentalists were only interested in protecting the environment and not the workers. It played that really important role in creating a common understanding of the need to think about justice concerns.

And in particular social justice concerns when thinking as well about the low carbon transition. 

Denise: This kind of dichotomy between, you know, it’s either or, um, jobs or the environment is, is still with us today and, um, was a big theme in the Trump administration and here in France, uh, you and I are both in France.

Uh, so I wanted to ask you about that actually, uh, the yellow vest movement, which started back in 2018, was almost a textbook example of this thing at work. Um, what, um, what have we learned from that? 

Edouard: What’s interesting with the Yellow Vest movement in France is the kind of the timing. So it was the end of 2018. There was a COP that was planned in Katowice in Poland. So in the heart of Polish coal mining country, the COP was already being framed as a just transition COP.

So the concept was already being kind of placed on the agenda, let’s say of the international negotiations. And then you had the yellow vest movement exactly at that moment. So just in the lead up to that moment. Um, and so I guess what’s interesting as well, is, is this kind of the, the, what was interesting is to see that the gap that existed between the movement and the demands, you know, this was a popular uprising of people who were really, uh, unhappy with the kind of Macron government and his policies and the decision to increase the price of petrol at the petrol pump to fund low carbon transition in France.

And at the same time, the negotiations taking place in Katowice where this concept was being used. But was very disconnected from ordinary people and ordinary people’s lives. Uh, and so as I say, it was, it was a very, it was a kind of a textbook illustration of how the concept of just transition. There’s a reality on the ground, and a need to empower these people,and give them a voice and the Just Transition, you know, it can be a tool for that. 

And the reality in the negotiations hall, you know, in, uh, within the international climate circles where this concept is just kind of an extra concept in the long list of concepts, 

It is just about, is it almost kind of a form of tokenism, you know, saying that yes, we are aware of this kind of need to address the social implications of climate change. 

Denise: I mean, I, um, I do think that the yellow vest movement. Probably globally, right. Uh, sort of was, uh, was a real wake up call, for example, the composition of certain types of climate advisory bodies, um, you know, uh, to governments today is more likely to contain one sociologist.

Whereas, before 2018 it may not have contained any sociologist. 

What’s your take on that? I mean, is it, is, is that necessarily a bad thing? 

Edouard: No, I think, I think it, you know, when you look at the Yellow Vest movement, what did it lead to? It led to the Convention Citoyenne sur le Climat which in itself, I think is an interesting initiative and an interesting project. It was clearly an outcome of, you know, the Yellow Vest movement, uh, and a realization of the need to involve, uh, ordinary people. If I could say, I don’t know if that’s the right term, but in the conversation on climate change

But what we’re seeing now, and this is really interesting is how people who were involved in the Convention Citoyenne you know, in particular, certain personalities like Cyril Dion in France are starting now to say, well, we were used, you know, the Convention Citoyenne and the ideas and the proposals that were made and were supposed to be, you know, taken up, turned into a referendum and taken up and discussed in parliament.

A lot of them are actually being put to one side. A lot of them are being pushed to one side.

So it’s almost as if again, you know, and that’s always what I find really interesting. It’s almost as if, um, the kind of mainstream approach to kind of climate action, uh, um, has this tremendous power of kind of sucking up and reappropriating contestation and criticisms, and then kind of completely numbing it as well in the process, you know, And just delaying the process and at the same time, creating even more of a gap between the people and the policy makers.

Now there’s this growing, this is what’s happening with the Convention Citoyenne is only adding an extra layer of distrust between, you know, the people and their representatives. And the danger is really mounting? Yeah. We are, we are effectively on a collision course, not just.

In terms of climate action, but also politically, now we are fueling the, the, the populace. We are fueling, you know, the, the, the, the, those who, yeah. Th th those will be the ultimate winners as a result. And again, we’ve seen that in the U S. We’re going to see it in front and two years with the presidential elections, if nothing serious is done.

You know, if, if, if a real kind of serious response to those demands made by the Convention Citoyenne are not, you know, if that’s not transformed into policy and into actual action. Um, and so it is very worrying to, to, to see this. And it’s also very frustrating to see how we never learned the lessons of the past.

We’re incapable of learning those lessons, uh, um, uh, And, you know, and, and, and the situation just gets worse and the climate situation just gets worse. The social and political situation also just inevitably gets worse as a result.

Denise:  Let’s talk about this, the so-called climate elite, Um, can you, first of all, explain who is the climate elite?

Edouard: I mean, yeah. I mean, I, I guess the, the, the notion of climate, which I’m really interested in actually draws on another notion that has been used by Kevin Anderson, a climate scientist at the Tyndall Institute who talks about the climate glitterati, I mean, I find that concept really interesting, and he kind of refers to the climate glitterati to speak about, um, you know, the communications experts to, uh, the, um, NGO kind of leaders, the, uh, think tank, uh, representatives, uh, some kind of climate diplomats, um, thought leaders. 

People who are also personalities you know, people like, Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio, you know, people who are very familiar faces to anyone who’s interested in the kind of climate space and the international climate space.

You know, whenever there’s a global climate action summit, whenever there is kind of a big webinar on the internet, kind of on climate change, you are, you know, in most cases you find the same people. It’s just always the same people. 

So, so I guess that’s what we’re referring to when we talk about the climate elite that also includes a whole kind of, mean that you have the kind of visible tip of the iceberg, but you also have a whole kind of, um, ecosystem of individuals who, who effectively are kind of working together, um, to kind of support these kinds of elites as well, to make them visible, to kind of turn them into these kinds of leaders are these champions of climate action.

What I’m interested in really analyzing is how this ecosystem is kind of self-sustaining.

And how this ecosystem is also a driving force behind the dominant narrative around climate action. A narrative that is really centered on kind of win-win, it’s kind of idea that, you know, unlimited economic growth and, you know, uh, the low carbon kind of rapid low carbon transition are possible.

But it’s also a group and this kind of connects to the Just transition. It’s also a group that’s very good at reappropriating concepts. They talk about transformative action. They talk about fundamental changes in the economy. They reappropriate this kind of discourse of transformation.

They even reappropriate that the discourse of climate justice and the Just Transition. But at the same time, they inevitably, and I guess this is also linked to the fact that it’s almost as if it’s just kind of self perpetuating ecosystem is also an ecosystem that is incapable of being redirected. it’s a very, it’s an ecosystem that is on a trajectory and it’s incapable of changing that overall trajectory. 

And as a result, what do you have? You have a, you have a space, you have people who are very good at reappropriating, other people’s concepts, including ones that are, have potentially transformative potential. But at the same time sticking to the kind of the general kind of trajectory, the general trend, which we’ve been on for the past two or three decades. , What I’m interested in looking at, and it’s still something I’m working on is to what extent that is also one of the explanations for this gap that I referred to earlier. This gap between policy on the one hand policy makers on the one hand and you know, the victims of climate change, because we’re seeing the first kind of climate victims today. And at the same time, you know, those who are voiceless, you know, those who are on the margins, those who are as well going to, uh, be most affected as a result of both climate change, but also the policies that we’re going to implement to bring about the low carbon transition. I think the climate elite is an interesting group of interesting people to observe and to analyze, to try and understand this gap.

Denise: Maybe we can talk about, um, one or two of the, sort of more invisible, yet influential actors in the space. And, um, so the first one is climate philanthropy.

Now you’ve, you’ve written a book on this and I know you’ve done a lot of interviews and research on it. Um, how. How would you characterize, um, their influence? 

Edouard: They are an essential element, I would say of the climate gliterati in the sense that they, uh, they are, you know, they are there to fund a lot of other organizations that kind of constitute this network, but also individuals. 

Uh, and at the same time, they’re also very good at networking and kind of building and sustaining networks, you know, facilitating a dialogues between different actors as well. 

By looking at climate philanthropy, by looking at who they fund by looking at, who sits on those foundations boards by looking at what networks they’re involved in you can actually see, you know, you can actually get a sense of, you know, what this ecosystem of kind of climate elites is and who’s part of it, you know? Um, and also what’s most fascinating is how self-sustaining it is. I mean, these are all, it is always in very, it’s always the same people. So, you know, the foundation will fund an organization and that organization’s leadership will be present on the foundation’s board.

I mean, there’s this kind of whole process of almost of kind of revolving doors within this space, which is really fascinating to observe. And as I say, you know, philanthropy is a big part of that. Um, They, they never really at the heart of this whole, um, this whole, um, space, you know? And, um, and when you look even at the history, you know, I’m trying to also adopt a more kind of chronological approach to the kind of rise of the climate elite.

What’s interesting is to see that, you know, from the outset, when you look at the, I guess an important period was a period leading up to Copenhagen. So the early two thousands. post Kyoto pre Copenhagen. This is the moment, I guess, when these kinds of networks really began to gel and kind of emerge and grow in influence.

What’s, what’s, what’s interesting is to see how the creation of foundations like Climate Works like the European Climate Foundation. So in 2008, 2007, coincides as well with, you know, the Stern Review coincides with, uh, um, you know, the Climate Group’s launch of “Breaking the Climate Deadlock” with Tony Blair, coincides with a range of other initiatives, which were also very important during that time.

And effectively it’s the same people involved, you know, it’s always the same people involved. 

I’m still at the kind of research phase, so I don’t know what this will kind of lead to, but it is very striking to see, um, how these networks emerged and the level of interconnectedness let’s say between these different actors.

Foundations were at the heart of that process. 

Denise: Biden is going to be the next U.S. president and, and we’re at the end of 2020. Um, what’s your sense of what, um, some of these foundations are, you know, aggressively funding right now. Um, is, is the, just transition one of those or, I mean, I do recall back in, you know, after Trump was elected, um, and I think you and I talked about this, all the foundations went into strategic retreats immediately too, because they had to pivot and, you know, rewrite everything.

What’s going on in that space right now. And where are the priorities. 

Edouard: Yeah, as you say, I mean, I think immediately post Trump. So following his election, there was an interest in Just Transition. And so they began funding, various initiatives, I mean, it was never at the heart of their interest, but it was more, as I say, there was kind of a tokenistic element to it.

Just to say that, yes, we realized that the social dimensions need to be factored in. So I think there was kind of a certain degree of kind of recognition that they had not sufficiently taken into account communities and how workers would be affected by the low carbon transition. 

Um, but at the same time, what’s also interesting to see is how it was also for them, post-Paris. So not just post Trump, Trump election, it was also for them essential to show that, uh, uh, the 1.5 or two degree target was still possible based on the kind of model that they were pushing. Again, the kind of idea that, you know, it’s investors it’s corporations, which will ultimately save us.

So what that led them to focus actually put a lot on negative emissions technologies, focusing quite a lot of money, actually putting a lot of money into, uh, BECCs or into a new kind of direct air capture projects.

So kind of funding, even research on new technologies to, uh, suck carbon out of the atmosphere effectively in order to keep on the 1.5, two degree trajectory.

Um, which, which interestingly is actually something that they really didn’t speak about it before Paris. In the lead up to Paris, they were, when, when they were asked, well, what, you know, what do you think about, you know, negative, negative emission technologies, et cetera, et cetera, geo engineering, they would say, no, no, we don’t need that and maybe, um, the last thing as well, which was interesting. post-Trump is how they put a lot of effort into promoting what they call kind of bottom up action.

Um, so as I said, by kind of. Uh, um, um, showcasing the work of corporations, but also showcasing the work of cities and local governments, you know, and that’s also where people like Michael Bloomberg and Bloomberg philanthropy, you know, they stepped in and they effectively presented themselves as you know, the effective kind of parallel government of the U S you know, it was just extraordinary in 2017, for instance, to see how.

The day after Trump made his speech, uh, outside of the white house saying that the U S would be leaving the Paris agreement, Bloomberg orchestrated a press conference with Emmaunel Macron, and Annie Hidalgo at the Elysee Palace to say, you know, no, no, we’re still in, you know, we don’t need the federal government.

Um, and you know, this was extraordinary. And, and how they use that moment to effectively strengthen their position, which is to say, we don’t need government intervention. We don’t need government intervention. You know, the change and transformation, the low carbon transition will happen through the market will happen through investors, through companies, through local governments, not through the federal government, you know?

And so it was effectively turning this situation on its head. By saying that effectively Trump’s election is proof that we cannot trust governments to regulate and to, uh, manage low carbon transition. We have to trust the market. Uh, and, and again, I find that extraordinary, to observe.  you need to have a lot of competencies in climate communications to be able to push, to pull that through.

Denise: There’s so much to be said for, um, uh, a mechanism and a network that, that, you know, has a high level agenda setting function, which then spreads throughout business society, civil society, the media, and so on in order to, um, kind of generate a new narrative. But I think ultimately what you’re saying is that, um, it’s what we have now.

The system we have now is unable to generate new narratives that can fundamentally reshape the theory of change. 

Edouard: I’m in my ivory tower of academia, so I’m always, you know, I, it’s always very easy for me to also point to the kind of negative and point to the inconsistencies and highlight, you know, the, the challenges and, and because obviously I’m not in the shoes of someone who is kind of a stakeholder who is kind of actively involved in these conversations, which is obviously, and I recognize that’’s something that’s very hard and I imagine very hard and challenging to do know it’s getting your hands dirty.

You know, it’s kind of actually trying to bring about the change rather than just commenting on it. 

What I criticize I guess, is it’s not so much about the theory of change, it’s more about their incapacity to properly, uh, draw the lessons from these moments such as these, you know, from the Trump election. From the yellow vest movement in France. And it’s this kind of incapacity, this kind of, and this constant return to business as usual, which I’m, I’m worried we are going to have in the U S with Biden. 

What I’m seeing now is just the same people I’ve been seeing for the past 15 or 20 years. Coming back into the fray and acting once again, as the kind of counselors as the, of Biden and the Biden’s transition team.

And I see that, and this is very dangerous. I think because as I say, it means that four years down the line, I can’t even imagine what we’re going to have, you know, well, what we’re going to be faced with in the U S and two years down the line and in the case of France, which is the country I know quite well.

Again, I mean, I’m very worried about the direction that we’re taking as well, uh, in the case of France as well. 

Denise: Well, let’s talk about that risk. You were the one that actually alerted me recently to the fact that the far right in Europe is getting quite sophisticated in their climate narratives. Um, and given that, you know, we are in the midst of a recession here in Europe, which is just going to get worse and worse with every month. Um, could you talk a little bit about, you know, what the far right, um, has been working on over there.

Edouard: In the case of Europe, at least you have different situations. I mean, in places like Germany, the far-right parties, like the AFD, for instance, are still fundamentally climate sceptic.

I mean, they’re still kind of very anti-climate, but if you look at countries like France, the Rassemblement Nationale, the dominant far-right party who, who was in the second round of the last presidential elections, you know, who could potentially even, you know, win the next election given the kind of trajectory that they’re on. if you look at their campaign, for instance, in the last European elections it was really interesting to see how they took up the issue of climate change or the environment more generally head on. They were clearly kind of positioning themselves in that space, you know, and they were clearly saying that, yes, it’s an important issue we need to address. 

And they were also making, you know, suggesting some things like re-localization again, a kind of a concept, it always comes back to concepts, a concept, which they also reappropriated from other groups and environmental groups who are probably not xenophobic or not racist, but they were taking up these same concepts and in many ways, making the same proposals, but coupling those concepts with this kind of idea that, you know, re-localization is also about protecting our culture, protecting our identity and fending off, you know, the invaders from North Africa, et cetera, et cetera. 

My big worry and my big question is, well, you know, when they do come to power, you know, if they do come to power, I hope not. But you know, if they do come to power, What will be the position of, you know, climate elites or people involved in the international climate space.

When, you know, Marine LePen comes up and says, you know, we need to relocalize our economy. We need to kind of, uh, focus on, uh, the circular economy or, you know, these new concepts and what, what will happen when she does, when she also takes up that wording. But when she combines that wording with the anti-immigration policies, when she combines it with kind of Islamophobic policies at the national level, you know, what will be the stance of those climate elites?

What will they say now? How will they respond? Will they, will they, whether they applaud her or not, you know? 

I think that’s the other, now that’s a big problem with these groups that I’m studying is that they are, they are constantly depoliticizing the climate issue.

They are kind of presenting it as something that is not political as if there is kind of one straightforward answer, as if the kind of low carbon transition is just kind of a, a series of steps that we need to take in order to reach our common goal or a common destiny, which is not the case.

So I think, you know, and, and, and, and coming back to philanthropy, the problem is philanthropy has also funded, you know, what, what it has not funded by not funding certain groups. It has also contributed to this kind of group think logic. So this kind of one size fits all approach, which as I say is very dangerous.

I think the strength of the climate movement, the strength of, you know, the climate community in the broader sense is in its diversity and its capacity to disagree. It’s an in its capacity to engage in political conflict, even, you know, uh, in order to move forward.

I think, you know, depoliticizing, the issue is a danger and, and, and I’m slightly concerned by the fact that they present the climate issue as kind of a nonpolitical, a non-partisan issue when it fundamentally is, I’m convinced it is. Uh, and I think it needs to be in order for us to really be able to address it.

Denise: Um, just to go back to the idea that, um, the climate elite is a sort of a moderating diluting force. Um, do you think that, you know, radicalization is a solution?

Edouard: I don’t know if radicalization is a solution. If by radicalization we mean, uh, Extinction Rebellion and it’s kind of occupations of the streets of London, um, or, you know, uh, climate strikes or whatever. I’m not sure if it’s a solution.

And in fact, I mean, I think that, you know, in the case of Extinction Rebellion, you can almost argue that they weren’t, they didn’t represent a fundamental stretch for those climate elites.

And in fact, they’re even being funded by them. Why? Because they’re not really engaging in politics now. They are effectively there to raise the alarm. They are there to kind of push this kind of narrative, which is a big part of the kind of climate narrative, which is this kind of element of fear, this kind of idea that, you know, we are on a crash course and that we have to act, you know, urgency is a big part of climate communications.

But that urgency is also combined with the discourse of hope. You know, so you have the urgency element, you know, Extinction Rebellion, the 1.5 degree report. Um, and then you have the element of hope, which is also there to kind of counter balance that. 

I think, you know, sometimes you can have even more radical stances within the climate negotiation space.

You know, if you look at the period leading up to Paris, you know, there were a few groups, they were very isolated, but who were actively following the negotiations. But at the same time, actually actively trying to push for instance, you know, common, but differentiated responsibilities, push, you know, a number of issues, which are fundamentally about, you know, justice and inequalities between the North and the South.

Uh, but also kind of pushing through kind of indigenous rights, you know, uh, the rights of minorities and there were attempts. I mean, as I say, they were within the space of negotiations. But at the same time, I feel that they were, they were more, uh, they were challenging more of the status quo sometimes than certain groups who were outside and who were protesting in the street.

Denise: I mean, I think it’s so interesting that you raise this concept of historic, but differentiated responsibilities. I feel that that is the one buzzword that never left the walls of the UN meetings. Um, that always stayed very internal to it. And also a concept that was just not very usable for communicators generally.

Edouard: Yeah, I think, you know, but I guess what’s also interesting with that concept is how. Um, it was also expanded. When I think of the, the Oxfam report and think was drafted by Thomas Piketty in the lead up to Copenhagen, where he kind of effectively was reusing this idea of common, but differentiated responsibilities, but looking at looking at it through a, um, wealth, so kind of this kind of differentiated responsibilities between the rich and the poor.

So cutting across the kind of North South divide, which I think was very interesting because it was also a way of breaking up the, the kind of manipulation of that concept by certain industrialized, developing countries like China or India or whatever, who, uh, um, um, and, and by, by really focusing on the fact that, you know, within the global South as well, you have deep social inequalities and you have, you know, a rich kind of elite who is overwhelmingly responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, as opposed to a majority, which isn’t, uh, so.

Yeah, but as I say, these were things that were happening within the UNFCCC space. Uh, and they were very interesting ones because they were really about, uh, challenging, uh, the kind of dominant frame, um, but from within, um, so I would almost argue that this was almost as radical as I say, as the kind of protests that were happening outside, which, you know, in many ways from the moment that they’re outside and it could also be interpreted and manipulated just as tools to kind of exert pressure.

But not really about setting the policy priorities, you know, imagining new solutions or new routes forward. Uh, and I think that’s, what’s, that’s critically needed. It’s really about kind of being able to construct a counter narrative that also includes very concrete ideas as to what is this alternative path to 1.5 or to two degrees.

And how concretely can we bring that about? Now, what policy decisions are necessary in order to do that? I think that’s clearly something that would really require more work. There are a few isolated voices. I think they’re trying to do that. 

Denise: So could you say who they are? I mean, who, who are those people who were working in that direction right now?

Edouard: In the lead-up to Paris, there was a, um, there was a kind of an informal group of people, uh, called the Climate Eight, uh, which, uh, probably not very well known at all, but it was really people actually from some of the big NGOs, you know, people from WWF’s international climate program, people from Greenpeace, people from Friends of the Earth, uh, I think it was Christian Aid as well.

Um, uh, Action Aid was also present and also Oxfam, I believe. Uh, and they, they kind of came together and I think one of the moments where they, they were actually quite successful. 

Uh, there was the Warsaw conference. I think it was a COP 13 and they did the walk out. I don’t know if you remember the walkout when civil society. So all the civil society groups walked out of the conference center. And this was actually something that they had kind of set and organized. I’s actually people, it’s actually individuals who build up these informal kind of coalitions and who try to kind of subvert, I guess, the negotiations process from within, you know, who tried to kind of change it to try to push it in another direction and who in many cases, you know, and if you look at the work of groups like Action Aid or Oxfam, whatever, have actually very interesting. alternatives. They have interesting policy proposals to put on the table as well. They were very isolated and there was a lot of pressure exerted on them, you know, in terms of, you know, funding as well.

You know, saying that if you do participate in the walkout, you will not receive funding. And so there was also that kind of pressure exerted from within the climate community. To prevent these people as well from expressing their disagreement. Uh, um, and, um, and you know, it was, it was, it was very interesting to, to, to see that.

I mean, it was, I was, and it’s almost quite shocking to see the, the amount of effort that was put into, uh, preventing these people from expressing themselves or putting them in the same basket as you know, the climate denialist saying that they were also a threat to you know, the climate negotiations process.

I think that’s very, it’s very violent. 

I think in a, as I say, we need more diversity. We need more contradiction. We need more politics in the international climate space. You know, we desperately need that. 

Denise: Um, so this has been a really interesting, fascinating conversation. Um, I always appreciate talking to you because you help me to sort of lift the veil on some of these things that we just go around taking for granted. What you would recommend to people like myself who want to get beyond tokenism when they look at these issues and actually want to understand them more deeply, where should one begin?

What should one be reading? 

Edouard: Oh, I mean, there’s a, there’s a really, I mean, I, I guess I’ll draw on some of the, my recent kind of discoveries and readings. Um, Um, I mean, we organized a seminar just recently with Andreas Malm and then the Zetkin Collective on a book it’s written in French, but it’s going to be published in English next year.

So I guess look out for that on climate fascism. So on this issue of, you know, uh, what the rise of the far right effectively means for the battle against climate change. 

Um, so, you know, that’s definitely something that I think that we need to look into. Um, so I think that the, the, the book, the, the, the English version of the book is coming out next May, uh, with Verso.

And it’s going to be the title is White Skin Black Fuel on the danger of fossil fascism. 

So that’s, I think a book it’s definitely worth looking into, um, 

Otherwise, I mean, maybe on the issue of kind of incrementalism and I think another, you know, an important element as well as the kind of overall, I know that the dominant discourse on climate action is also, it’s kind of focused on technology and this kind of techno optimism, which is kind of a big part of that.

We haven’t really discussed this, but I think it’s, it’s there. Um, there’s a really good book by a guy called Jesse Goldstein called Planetary Improvement, um, which kind of looks into, uh, this kind of idea of kind of a green capitalism and this kind of idea of a new spirit of green capitalism. So really it’s kind of the discourse around clean tech and how that’s kind of contributed to a revival of, um, the kind of claim, a capitalist kind of discourse effectively.

Uh, um, so that’s, uh, I mean it’s, so it’s a fascinating book, uh, that goes into quite a lot of detail, but also provides. A really good sense of, um, the kind of dominant framings of the climate issue that we’re seeing right now, and this kind of idea that, you know, um, technology and in particular, as I say, negative emissions technology or geoengineering will ultimately save us.

And so that is that’s used as almost an excuse to delay also, uh, desperately needed action. 

Denise: Thanks a lot. It was a pleasure talking to you Eduoard. Thank you. 

Edouard: Thank you, thanks, Denise.

Denise: That’s it for this episode. If you enjoyed our conversation, you can follow Edouard on Twitter @Edouard_Morena and go to our website climatenarratives.co for the show notes to find some of the references he mentions.

A reminder that we have a monthly newsletter called climate narratives annotated that goes deeper on some of the issues we cover in the podcast., and regular updates on highlights from green finance. You can find the link to subscribe in the bio of our Twitter account @NewClimateCap.

 A big thanks to Valentine Scherer and Victoria Yates for their help producing this episode, and to Lucas Laufen for the theme music.

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