Cleaning Up. Leadership in an age of climate change.

Ep31: Emma Howard Boyd 'Climate Change? We'll be in Floods.'

Episode Summary

Emma Howard Boyd is one of the leading voices in the UK’s Environment scene. As the Chair of the Environment Agency, she is at the forefront of the current environment agenda. This week, Michael and Emma will discuss everything from recent flooding in the UK to the unique UWC schooling experience. Bio Emma Howard Boyd has been the chair of the UK’s Environment Agency since 2016. The Agency is a public body responsible for the protection and enhancement of the environment in England. She’s also the UK Commissioner to the Global Commission on Adaptation, an Ex officio board member of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), and an Advisor to the Board of Trade. Emma, with a background in finance, is a board member or advisor to many companies which include The Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project, the European Climate Foundation, and Menhaden PLC. Before becoming the Chair of the Agency in September 2016, she served as its Board member since 2009. Her other past roles include being the Chair of Trustees at ShareAction from 2015 to 2018, Vice-Chair of the Future Cities Capital from 2013 and 2018, and acting as a Non-Executive Director at the Aldersgate Group between (2012 -2018) Triodos Renewables (2004-2012). Before that, she held various executive roles at Jupiter Asset Management. She was also Chair of UKSIF (the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association), a member of the Commission on Environmental Markets and Economic Performance, and the Green Finance Taskforce. Emma Howard Boyd attended Lester B Pearson College, United World College (UWC) in Canada. She read Law and Economics at St John’s College at the University of Durham. Links Government bio https://www.gov.uk/government/people/emma-howard-boyd Environment Agency website https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/environment-agency Encouraging locally-led climate change adaptation (January 2021) https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/encouraging-locally-led-climate-change-adaptation Storm Christoph (January 2021) https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/gallery/2021/jan/20/storm-christoph-hits-the-uk-in-pictures Emma Howard Boyd, Green Summit speech (September 2020) https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/emma-howard-boyd-green-summit-speech The importance of disclosure in the climate emergency (June 2020) https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-importance-of-disclosure-in-the-climate-emergency The Prime Minister visits Didsbury following Storm Christoph (January 2021) https://environmentagency.blog.gov.uk/2021/01/21/the-prime-minister-visits-didsbury-following-storm-christoph/ Flood and coastal resilience innovation programme https://www.gov.uk/government/news/communities-at-risk-of-flooding-urged-to-apply-for-a-share-of-200m-resilience-programme Emma Howard Boyd - UK Environment Agency - Adaptation Week (December 2020) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBX_h8ORpoA Letter to The Times from Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency (February 2020) https://www.gov.uk/government/news/letter-to-the-times-from-emma-howard-boyd-chair-of-the-environment-agency ShareAction https://shareaction.org/ Menhaden Capital PLC https://www.menhaden.com/ Global Centre for Adaptation https://gca.org/ The Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project https://www.accountingforsustainability.org/en/index.html Green Finance Institute https://www.greenfinanceinstitute.co.uk/ Thrive Renewables https://www.triodos.com/ Climate Adaptation Summit 2021 https://www.cas2021.com/ Race to Zero https://racetozero.unfccc.int/race-to-resilience/ About Cleaning Up: Once a week Michael Liebreich has a conversation (and a drink) with a leader in clean energy, mobility, climate finance, or sustainable development. Each episode covers the technical ground on some aspect of the low-carbon transition – but it also delves into the nature of leadership in the climate transition: whether to be optimistic or pessimistic; how to communicate in order to inspire change; personal credos; and so on. And it should be fun – most of the guests are Michael’s friends. Follow Cleaning Up on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MLCleaningUp​​​​ Follow Cleaning Up on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/clea...​ Follow Cleaning Up on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MLCleaningUp​​​​ Links to other Podcast Platforms: https://www.cleaningup.live​​​​

Episode Notes

Emma Howard Boyd is one of the leading voices in the UK’s Environment scene. As the Chair of the Environment Agency, she is at the forefront of the current environment agenda. This week, Michael and Emma will discuss everything from recent flooding in the UK to the unique UWC schooling experience. Bio Emma Howard Boyd has been the chair of the UK’s Environment Agency since 2016. The Agency is a public body responsible for the protection and enhancement of the environment in England. She’s also the UK Commissioner to the Global Commission on Adaptation, an Ex officio board member of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), and an Advisor to the Board of Trade. Emma, with a background in finance, is a board member or advisor to many companies which include The Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project, the European Climate Foundation, and Menhaden PLC. Before becoming the Chair of the Agency in September 2016, she served as its Board member since 2009. Her other past roles include being the Chair of Trustees at ShareAction from 2015 to 2018, Vice-Chair of the Future Cities Capital from 2013 and 2018, and acting as a Non-Executive Director at the Aldersgate Group between (2012 -2018) Triodos Renewables (2004-2012). Before that, she held various executive roles at Jupiter Asset Management. She was also Chair of UKSIF (the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association), a member of the Commission on Environmental Markets and Economic Performance, and the Green Finance Taskforce. Emma Howard Boyd attended Lester B Pearson College, United World College (UWC) in Canada. She read Law and Economics at St John’s College at the University of Durham. Links Government bio https://www.gov.uk/government/people/emma-howard-boyd Environment Agency website https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/environment-agency Encouraging locally-led climate change adaptation (January 2021) https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/encouraging-locally-led-climate-change-adaptation Storm Christoph (January 2021) https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/gallery/2021/jan/20/storm-christoph-hits-the-uk-in-pictures Emma Howard Boyd, Green Summit speech (September 2020) https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/emma-howard-boyd-green-summit-speech The importance of disclosure in the climate emergency (June 2020) https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-importance-of-disclosure-in-the-climate-emergency The Prime Minister visits Didsbury following Storm Christoph (January 2021) https://environmentagency.blog.gov.uk/2021/01/21/the-prime-minister-visits-didsbury-following-storm-christoph/ Flood and coastal resilience innovation programme https://www.gov.uk/government/news/communities-at-risk-of-flooding-urged-to-apply-for-a-share-of-200m-resilience-programme Emma Howard Boyd - UK Environment Agency - Adaptation Week (December 2020) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBX_h8ORpoA Letter to The Times from Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency (February 2020) https://www.gov.uk/government/news/letter-to-the-times-from-emma-howard-boyd-chair-of-the-environment-agency ShareAction https://shareaction.org/ Menhaden Capital PLC https://www.menhaden.com/ Global Centre for Adaptation https://gca.org/ The Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project https://www.accountingforsustainability.org/en/index.html Green Finance Institute https://www.greenfinanceinstitute.co.uk/ Thrive Renewables https://www.triodos.com/ Climate Adaptation Summit 2021 https://www.cas2021.com/ Race to Zero https://racetozero.unfccc.int/race-to-resilience/ About Cleaning Up: Once a week Michael Liebreich has a conversation (and a drink) with a leader in clean energy, mobility, climate finance, or sustainable development. Each episode covers the technical ground on some aspect of the low-carbon transition – but it also delves into the nature of leadership in the climate transition: whether to be optimistic or pessimistic; how to communicate in order to inspire change; personal credos; and so on. And it should be fun – most of the guests are Michael’s friends. Follow Cleaning Up on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MLCleaningUp​​​​ Follow Cleaning Up on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/clea...​ Follow Cleaning Up on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MLCleaningUp​​​​ Links to other Podcast Platforms: https://www.cleaningup.live​​​​

Episode Transcription

 

 

ML  00:11

Cleaning Up is brought to you by the Liebreich Foundation and the Gilardini Foundation. Hello, my name is Michael Liebreich, and this is Cleaning Up. My guest today is Emma Howard Boyd. She's the chair of the UK Environment Agency. She's been on the board since 2009. And before that she had a career in finance with Triodos Renewables, a specialist bank. And then with Jupiter Asset Management, which is where I met her. And the two of us serve as advisors to the newly reconstituted UK Board of Trade. Please welcome to Cleaning Up, Emma Howard Boyd. So Emma, welcome to Cleaning Up.

 

EHB  00:54

Great to see you, Michael. 

 

ML  00:56

Now, I hope because you're in the UK, and is the evening, I hope you've brought a drink. And I hope you're not still in dry January or something like that.

 

EHB  01:05

I brought a cup of tea along with me this evening, that's what I'm still drinking at the moment,

 

ML  01:10

A cup of tea. Okay, I'll forgive you. I am not doing dry January. In fact, as we film this, it's not January anymore. And so... it is after sundown. And so I'm allowed to have a bit... I always worry about this, because quite often I find myself drinking beer or wine and the guests drinking tea. And then I worry that I look like some old soak, but anyway...

 

EHB  01:33

It is a Monday evening after all...

 

ML  01:36

It is a Monday evening, there must be some excuse why I'm drinking beer here. But no, it's great to see you. Thank you so much for joining me. You've had quite a couple of weeks with the floods, have you not?

 

EHB  01:49

It's been an extraordinary start to the year. In fact, we had some flooding over Christmas as well, I don't think it hit the national media. But at a local level, a number of houses sadly flooded. But a large number of houses protected as well. But you're right, mid-January we saw Storm Christoph hit the UK. And with that extreme rainfall, seeing river levels at levels that we really haven't seen before an autumn of rainfall, meaning that the land is quite saturated. And so when you do have a weather event like Storm Christoph, it means there is very limited space for the water to go. Again, sadly, households protected some 600 or so but at the same time over 40,000 properties protected by the investment that we've been putting in, in terms of flood defences, some of the temporary barriers that we put in place as well. So although for anybody that is flooded, it's absolutely devastating. Really right now, I think the main thing to say is that we still got a couple of months of winter to go through. As I've said, water has very limited places to go. So any rainfall event that we have between now, and the spring could bring flooding with it.

 

ML  03:31

Right. And let's take a step back if we could, because it's such a complex physical system. When do we get floods? Where do we get floods? And the relationships with all the various different drivers? Because of course, you know, this podcast, this YouTube channel, you know, it's about leadership in an age of climate change. So everybody's expecting us to zero straight in on climate change. But what are the other... let's just make sure we kind of complete the picture. You've had a lot of rainfall, but land management matters, floodplain management, where we build stuff, does that not also have quite a big impact?

 

EHB  04:11

Absolutely, and where we build our infrastructure and the variety of different ways that you can prepare for climate shocks. I suppose when we first met, we were very much focused on reducing emissions and climate mitigation. Since joining the board of the Environment Agency and ultimately chairing it, a lot of my attention has also moved to the adaptation and resilience agenda. It's not to say that preparing and reducing emissions isn't an important thing to be doing far from it, it is absolutely vital. But what has become clear to me in the role that I now have is that if we're investing in renewables, if we're investing in energy efficiency, given the climate shocks that are now locked into the system, that investment could become stranded if we're not preparing it for the future, and literally wash away in a flood or melt in a heat wave. So how we look at land management, how we look at the different ways water can flood, and it's, it could be rainfall events, it could be through coastal erosion, and the impacts at the coast. It could be surface water as well, we need to get ready for the events that sadly, in this country, but around the world, we're increasingly seeing.

 

ML  05:46

But let's talk attribution for Storm Christoph. Has that in terms of attribution? When we do these conversations, I try to make sure that they're sort of intelligible for somebody who's obviously interested in climate, environment, energy, etc, but not necessarily specialists. So, you know, you and I will talk about attribution without necessarily sort of stopping to say, wait a minute, what does attribution mean? That's the extent to which something like a flood, or a hurricane or a forest fire can be laid at the door of climate change? Do you yet know the extent to which you can do that with Storm Christoph? And if not, what's the sort of process over time, so that you get more knowledge about what you know specific events that happen?

 

EHB  06:35

So what we do know is Storm Christoph is exactly the sort of weather event that climate change will bring so absolutely follows the predictions. What we're doing in those vital days before a storm hits, is working with the Met Office, we have a joint venture, we've had a joint venture there for a number of years now, where we are looking at their weather forecasting. And alongside that, laying on knowledge of the saturation of the ground, so that we can start predicting the different types of flood events that take place. And one of the things that was very different about Storm Christoph and something that is increasingly happening with rainfall events, as opposed to storms, which are typically associated with high wind is it brings a lot of media focus to the weather as it is approaching the UK, and allows us to kick off a procedure of warning and informing and in doing the vital things that we need to do, up and down the country and the Environment Agency is responsible for flood and coastal erosion risk management in England, the things we need to do preparing for when that weather actually hits the country. So it could be right down to what you, as an individual, if you know that you are living at flood risk. And one in five properties in the UK, in England is at flood risk, you can tap into your postcode into our warning system on gov.uk. find out whether you are at flood risk, and then also pick up on the flood warnings and informing that tell what is actually happening as the rain hits. But also the reaction in the rivers as the water works its way through a catchment. Quite complex, so we do need to make sure that ultimately any individual living at flood risk can understand the steps that can make a difference between not only what happens to their house, but ultimately their life as well. And with Storm Christoph we had at its peak four severe flood warnings, which means that there is risk to life. That's why all sort of three word phrases, prepare, act and survive. Because, again, the thought of flooding that we see in our country, see around the world, if you're not prepared sufficiently can ultimately lead to fatalities.

 

ML  09:40

But you know, what's great about this, is it's already bringing home the sheer complexity, because I think the naive model is climate change makes a Christoph 30% more likely, or something like that. But of course, what climate change also does is it sensitises us and then you do those joint ventures with the Met Office and, you know, get new modelling techniques and so on. So paradoxically, it might actually end up being less risky, even though it's more likely, is that fair?

 

EHB  10:12

Again, if it's coupled with the right kind of investment and the right kind of preparation, we couldn't really see the numbers and the dynamics change. And again, being up in Didsbury, on the edges of Manchester, looking at some of the investments that we have put in place, over the last decade, some 60 million pounds spent on flood defences of different sorts, including natural flood defences. And we can come back to that, because that is an area where we need to explore more and more in this country. You can see that more houses have been protected to the risks of flooding. I think it was also very, very clear to me when I visited Didsbury, on the outskirts of Manchester, just how close we are getting with our schemes, and the amount of rainfall that we're experiencing, and the impacts on river levels as well. So, again, we need to make sure that we remain one step ahead of the climate change that we're now experiencing. That's why we published a strategy out to 2100. But within that strategy set out very clear things that we need to do over the next five years, over the rest of this decade, so that we're not delaying decisions to the end of the century. But also really understanding how you work with water. Because ultimately, communities don't want to live behind higher and higher walls. So again, the range of different things you can look at managing water in a catchment. And then the flipside to flooding, drought, we are looking at how we make sure that the work that we do on too much water is linked to the work that we do on too little water because we've seen over the last few years flip flopping from flood events and in the same catchment, same parts of the country move quite quickly into having too little water available. And again, some of the ways we need to work on flooding, is holding back water higher upper catchment through land management, so that we've got that water supply ready for if we then go into a period of prolonged dry weather.

 

ML  12:58

Now, that visit that you mentioned to Didsbury, was that the visit with the Prime Minister? Is that the one that Boris joined you to go and visit some of the flood defences?

 

EHB  13:08

That's correct, yes, the Prime Minister joins a number of local teams and from the Environment Agency to go and look at the flood defences, the scheme that we've got in place there. And also to see how close it got to the scheme which takes river water out of the river Mersey through a channel through a sluice into a trap channel, into a flood storage area on farmland, on a golf course, it was extensive. And again, some of the footage that you would have seen on the news shows just how expensive the flooding is these days with these sorts of flood events. So holding it  and protecting property from being flooded...

 

ML  14:01

And the sheer power of the water going through that sluice, right?

 

EHB  14:05

Absolutely. It is dynamic. And we've also seen flooding along the river Severn this year, but also last year. And I think one visit I did last February to Bewdley and other towns along the Severn was just hearing the rush, the volume of the water going down the river, one of my colleagues who's worked on the river for a number of decades saying 'she is so angry, we have never seen the river as angry as she is right now'. And I think that sense that there is something changing with the power of water as it makes its way through the system.

 

ML  14:52

But let me ask okay, so you did that visit with Boris, with the Prime Minister, and what you're really... Sort of zooming out what that really is a visit to adaptation activities. Because everything you're talking about there, you've said that, you know, you and I first met, we were working on mitigation, on renewable energy when you were I think it was Jupiter, Jupiter Asset Management. But this is all about adaptation. I mean, is one of the messages here... Let me let me back up, you know, if you want to avoid that angry river Severn and all those floods, you know, that you have to deal with a river Mersey, you know, what's the best way to deal with those? Is it to try to get every country in the world to move on from coal and natural gas and oil? Or is it to invest more in the sort of schemes that you're talking about? You know, did you sort of take the Prime Minister aside and say, look, forget mitigation, we just need to do lots more adaptation globally,

 

EHB  15:53

You need to do both, the two have to go hand in hand. It is so urgent that we emphasise the shift, the transition to net zero. And the quicker we can get on with that, the better. But at the same time, we know that what is already stored up in the system that will play out over the next few decades, means that we cannot hold investment in preparing for climate shocks, they have to go hand in hand.

 

ML  16:31

But what's the right ratio, though? Because if you look at the wide world, if you look at the spending between mitigation and we just got some figures out of Bloomberg New Energy Finance $501 billion last year in energy and transport, net zero mitigation side. Spending on adaptation, if you really, you know, forget just generic infrastructure spend, but you really look at projects around the world that are about adaptation. It's probably a few tens of billions at most, I don't know what the example is in the UK, how much are we spending on infrastructure versus, you know, adaptation, resilience?

 

EHB  17:11

So for the last couple of years, I've been the UK Commissioner on the Global Commission on Adaptation, and I was delighted to be part of that. I think it really made sure that the adaptation and resilience agenda got very firmly placed on the international scene. It was chaired by Ban Ki Moon, Kristalina Georgieva, now of the IMF, and Bill Gates, and a number of countries around the world both developed and developing, really championing the need to focus on adaptation and resilience, alongside mitigation, also emphasising that nature and nature recovery has a huge role to play here as well. Last week, the Dutch government hosted a climate adaptation summit where the commission sunsetted, a lot of its work will continue on the road to Glasgow and COP26. But some of the announcements made at the adaptation summit, including one from Kristalina Georgieva was around spending at least 50/50 of international climate finance on the adaptation and resilience agenda. I think you need to look at it almost project by project, because sometimes it will need specific investment in adaptation and resilience. Sometimes it will be about combining the two. So if I'm thinking about the infrastructure programme in the UK, the IPA, the Infrastructure Projects Authority put out a report last summer, which looks at current annual infrastructure spend, and from memory it was about 37 billion roughly split 50/50 between the public sector and the private sector, the UK government's budget for work on flooding around a billion featured in there. But arguably all of that 37 billion pounds needs to be made ready for net zero, but also needs to be ready for the climate shocks we know that are coming and from an analysis that we've done at the Environment Agency, we know that for every home that is flooded 16 other individuals are affected by the infrastructure services that they use, and you saw it was with Storm  Christoph, you saw it last year with the flooding. It's about the rail, the road, the sewage and water infrastructure. You need to move into social infrastructure. So schools, hospitals, if they are built without being properly ready for climate shocks, so you know, we're focusing a lot on water, we also need to make sure that those buildings are ready for heat waves. I know that's a huge amount of focus is given to that by Baroness Brown, the chair of the Adaptation Committee of the Climate Change Committee. So we need to make sure that all of this is meeting the government's net zero commitments, but has an eye, very strongly to the climate shocks, the heat, the excess water, too little water, the droughts that we know that we're already seeing, and will continue to get worse, before things get better.

 

ML  20:52

Let's talk finance though. Because when we met, I think you were at Jupiter Asset Management, and you've got a very strong... you were at Triodos beforehand, which is a specialist bank. So you've got a very strong finance background. So you're sitting in now saying, we need to be doing 50/50 adaptation/mitigation. Presumably, you're gonna say that needs to be additional money. In fact, you've already said it, we need to do both. So we can't just cut the mitigation money and put it into adaptation, we're going to have to invest more. And I would argue we're going to invest more, because as the world gets wealthier, we want to be safer and have lower risk. But we need to do that on an accelerated timeframe because of climate change. Where does the money come from?

 

EHB  21:40

Again, this is where the very same colleagues that we've been talking to about the transition to net zero need also to be thinking about resilience in their investments as well. So I was involved with a UK government-led initiative, I'm still involved with a UK Government initiated initiative called the Coalition for Climate Resilience Investment, which was launched at the UN Global Summit back in September 2019. And this, it has a growing number of investors, insurance companies, indeed, countries signing up to work on the clarification, and information, and transparency around the physical risks of climate change. So again, I think I've continued to work on finance. And we need just as much effort going into making sure that investors understand the importance of adaptation and resilience, as they are now showing on the transition to a low carbon economy.

 

ML  23:03

Okay, so where I can see that working, and you sort of hinted at it earlier, is if you're building, you know, a wind farm or solar project, or public transport, or whatever infrastructure it is, you need to think about what you're building it for, it's not today's weather patterns, it's the future climate, future weather patterns in the sense of climate change. And I can see that because every investor says, Well, I don't want to build something and have it washed away, to use your words. But what about when you need to... you've got an existing school or existing public housing or existing city centre or existing, you know, infrastructure of any sort, and that now needs money? And how do you finance that? Because it's very different from, you know, somebody who's financing a new project maybe needs to add a bit of money to, you know, sort of harden it against future climate change. But here we're talking about infrastructure that has no spending plan, that is simply going to have to do remedial expenditure. Where does the money come from?

 

EHB  24:11

It's, I mean, it's a complex area, where again, depending on where you are in the world, you can tap into existing mechanisms(...) So even today, with DEFRA has looked at the mechanisms for investment in property-level resilience, and whether you can bring down insurance premiums because you have made a property more resilient to flooding, we have a small team at the Environment Agency, focusing on financial mechanisms that can work, will work, potentially alongside some policy developments as well. But we know we need to capture adaptation and resilience the way that gets factored in. Because ultimately, if you're not preparing communities to these risks, you end up with far larger sums of money needing to be spent on the recovery, the incidents, the recovery afterwards, and the devastation that flooding events, again, I'm focusing on flooding, can bring to a local community and bring to the business community if we're not adequately preparing. And that's where working with the finance sector, we need to best articulate what needs to be done.

 

ML  26:11

Right. And I can see that kind of correctly understanding risk, and pricing risk is a big piece of this. And there's people like Rowan Douglas, I'm sure you know, Willis has been working on that, as have many others at Swiss Re and Munich Re, lots of insurance companies done huge amounts of work. You know, one implication of that is that that might increase the insurance premium for real estate, let's say in a town centre, beautiful town around some historic river. But actually it becomes clear that that's a risk and the insurance premiums go up. I guess what I'm grappling for, is that fundamentally you would like to either, you know, that is either the right amount of the insurance premium, or you reduce it by making some investment. But shouldn't the bill be sent to the people who are causing the risk? Until it is, don't you have a sense of agency problem?

 

EHB  27:09

I think that takes us to the heart of a lot of the issues that we're dealing with in climate change and environmental issues as well. And I see it in the work that we do at the agency around our regulatory work. I've been very clear that, we, the country will get the environment that we are prepared to pay for. And that really comes in in so many different ways. Whether it's the penalties that business faces for treating the environment, wrongly, the way we need to look at different subsidies, that there's a whole switching of the way we view the environment and climate change that I think we've been working on for years and need to learn from those successes to make sure that it is measured and accounted for in the right way. So things like the Task Force for Climate-related Disclosure, which does bring in physical risks, where you do get businesses, making it very clear that they now need to increase their capital expenditure to prepare their businesses for different climate change scenarios, shows that we are moving in the right direction, but at every point, we need to make sure that the environment and climate change is priced in correctly. The 25 year environment plan that the UK Government, published a couple of years ago is all about pushing the environment into the heart of decision making. This needs to go beyond the departments of environment. It needs to be a fundamental part of any finance ministries thinking. And I, again, through my work on the Global Commission on Adaptation being incredibly humbled by some of the finance ministers, particularly of small island states, I'm thinking Fiji, on the back of Cyclone Winston that saw in 36 hours, at least 30% of GDP written off. That is where we need to make sure that it is understood what the climate threat is bringing to us, the climate emergency is bringing to us and by the right kind of investment we can hopefully push that away and protect our communities from the impacts that we're already seeing.

 

ML  30:05

And I don't disagree in any way, I entirely endorse that. I guess I was just sort of wondering aloud about how do you, how do you make sure, if...  not that you want to send the bill to the right people just because you want to punish them, but because you want to change behaviour, you know, and the classic, the classic response is, well, we need a carbon price, because that is the government's way of saying, you know, that that group over there is harming this group over here, it's all very well to say, let's have the transparency. So this group over here has to pay the right premium or has to invest. But fundamentally, you also need that transfer. And I think that's what a lot of us are grappling for, you know carbon pricing, but politically is a very difficult thing to get through it in a in a very sort of surgical way. So that transfer happens correctly without lots of collateral damage in the economy. I think that's at the heart. You know, you've kind of said it was at the heart of the challenge. And I do think it is.

 

EHB  31:04

Yeah, I think it's about putting environment and climate change, as I've said, right at the heart of financial decision making. And it's taken...  we're still not there yet. We're still working on it. But I think we are making huge progress, not least by the evidence of some of what we're seeing come out of the States at the moment. Yeah. 

 

ML  31:28

And, you know, one of the things that's been great about Cleaning Up episodes to date is, I don't know if it's a selection, because it's the sort of people that I invite onto the show, is the level of optimism. You know, I don't think everybody in the world is optimistic. But we do seem to, you know, there seems to be an optimistic crowd. And we're in a moment with the new administration in the US where you can almost sort of give yourself licence to be optimistic. I got a couple of other things that I wanted... a few other topics I want to make sure that we cover. You don't just deal with flooding. At the Environment Agency, you also deal with some other, you know, areas, which are very much at the heart of the debate and the discussion, and I'm thinking about biodiversity, and rewilding areas where there's quite, there's quite a lot of controversy around how fast should we be moving is rewilding the right approach? You've talked about natural solutions to flooding and maybe those are connected? Where is that discussion within sort of your top circle and the various political figures that you interact with?

 

EHB  32:39

There is huge emphasis now on the natural environment and nature recovery, we're going to see an important report published the Dasgupta Review on the economics of biodiversity, which I think will draw big attention to the natural environment. It's the other bit of this incredible puzzle that we are now grappling with in terms of the planet, and its longevity, or our place on the planet, from a longevity perspective. And again, clear right now that this is something that features in the Prime Minister's 10 point plan, the natural environment, a very strong push for that in the 10 point plan. And again, when we were visiting Manchester, a week or so ago, it was one of the responses to flooding that he is interested in, the role of planting trees in particular, but land management being a big part of the debate. And I see it also coming through as one of the priorities articulated by the COP26 team, alongside net zero, alongside the race to resilience, a very strong push for nature and nature recovery. And again, this comes through in our work at the Environment Agency through our environmental regulatory work, where again, often and very much associated with water, water quality, but also how we work with those responsible for our land, for farmers, how we work in partnership and collectively with other parts of the Department of Environment to make sure there's this strong focus on restoring nature.

 

ML  34:58

Okay, but supposing, I, tomorrow, I win the lottery, I win that that tremendous rollover lottery, that there's just been a new..., I have a billion dollars or whatever that is. 850 million pounds. And I say, you know what, I'm gonna give it to Emma, because I just love the work and the way she talks about it. So 850 million extra quid, a billion dollars, hard infrastructure, or nature based solutions.

 

 

 

EHB  35:28

I think it has to be a combination of the two, where we really need to see progress. And we're investing in this, is the nature based solutions part of the dynamic. And we already, we were very successful in the budget, with the department, doubling of flood capital investment to 5.2 billion. There's some additional money to look at innovative ways of dealing with preparing for flooding. And I will be using that additional money to enhance the piloting that we're already doing around nature based solutions, but in a way that allows us to crowd in further investment from others. And I think that is where we need to move the shift from grant-making to cornerstone investing so that million or whatever amount of money that we're talking about, we'll bring in others to make sure that we're making an accelerating progress throughout this decade to really deliver on climate resilience.

 

ML  36:47

So if you've got some free money tomorrow, you would be looking to pilot and do more around the nature based solutions. And presumably, that involves

 

ML  36:56

Even more, no, I'm not suggesting you're not doing it, but I guess I'm looking at what the trends are, what that's another way of saying is that probably that side of things is going to grow. And presumably, you need to do a lot of research, because you know, you have to do stuff, and then you have to make sure it works. These are such complex systems, you can't just model everything out and know the answers beforehand, can you?

 

EHB  36:56

Even more

 

EHB  37:21

Huge amount of work is carried out, we need to make sure that that is being done for the whole catchment. And making sure that what's done right at the top of a catchment and as water makes its way down the river that we're looking at the best solution which combines both looking at too much water, too little water and water quality. And a lot of those things can reinforce each other, if done properly and with the understanding the baseline as well and the impact that you could have further down the catchment has to be key.

 

ML  38:06

That raises a sort of lateral thought, is there anybody using machine learning to model catchment behaviour? Because it's so complex that it's the sort of the problem, is it not, that just lends itself to... let's just throw loads of historical data at it and see what the algorithms learn and whether they can then do a better job than, you know, than programmed models at predicting where the water goes and where the floods end up.

 

EHB  38:36

I don't know the answer to that, I do know that increasingly, we're using geospatial data to understand what is going on, and where we can target our interventions. And again, this is where we're seeing linkages to finance as well. So I don't know the answers to the AI aspects of it. I think the water companies are doing a lot of investment in technology too. So maybe that's something that we can be exploring in partnership.

 

ML  39:09

Fascinating. And you know, again, these are things that make me optimistic is that the sophistication of our knowledge should be on some very rapid growth path. I want to move on to, there's an area that you and I are now I would say working together. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say and that is trade. We have both been appointed as advisors to the Board of Trade. It's a very interesting group. It's got all sorts of members in it. About, what is six or seven ministers, six or seven of us from outside government? I don't know you're... I suppose you count as well... There's ministers, there's inside government, civic society and then some business people like myself.  Can you talk me through what you hope to bring to the UK's new resurgent sort of trade policy. First time, we've got an independent policy in nearly 50 years, what's your perspective that you want to make sure is represented?

 

EHB  40:12

It's the voice of the environment, the voice of climate change or being prepared for climate change, and also, nature's recovery. So given that I chair the Environment Agency, given all the other things I've been involved with in recent years associated with the climate change adaptation and resilience agenda, I see that as something that is very much bringing the 25 year environment plan, which is a DEFRA project, to the heart of those discussions with I suppose that background in finance as well.

 

ML  41:00

And that's really interesting, because there are those voices, who say that we are all tame members of the Board of Trade, because, you know, (...) you and I are the most sort of clearly identified with climate and climate action amongst the 15, or whatever it is, advisors. And both of us have got background in business and finance. And so there are those voices who say, this is all nonsense. Our trade policy, we need to have voices that are, you know, real activists that really understand this staff that are really going to push back against some of the other people on that board ,without naming any names. What do you say in response to that criticism?

 

EHB  41:43

I'm really pleased, Michael, that our second report from the Board of Trade is going to focus on green trade, time to be published, hopefully all being well, ahead of the G7 discussions where again, I think we can confidently say that a large part of the focus for those discussions will be on a green and resilient recovery.

 

ML  42:11

See, because what I see in the world today is when you look at all the net zero... Let's start with the Paris Agreement, then you see the net zero commitments. Then you see the things like the presidential executive order of the new Biden administration, you look at the 10 point plan in the UK, you look at the Green Deal in Europe, you look around the world. And I think that this is the emergence of a kind of new, green Bretton Woods agreement. You know, this is the whole framework for economic management of the world is sort of struggling to be born. But it's a framework that respects the planetary boundaries. And you can add to that the work that central banks are doing on risk, that insurance companies are doing on risk, etc, etc. And then there's this piece that is trade. I guess, to turn into a question. What do we need to do? What should we be pushing for? So that once we start to see new trade agreements being made around the world, not just the UK ones, how do we know when we've won?

 

EHB  43:27

I think if we look at the events of the last month or so, going back to the Climate Ambitions Summit on December 12, I think it was, we've had the One Planet Summit, hosted by Macron. We've had... The Dutch hosted Climate Adaptation Summit, all of them attended by various leaders from the G7, the G20 and beyond. I think this sense of the importance of preparing and aiming for net zero, those net zero commitments, the understanding, again, it's a big year for nature this year with the COP15, the biodiversity COP as well, that that ambition set out for both climate change and nature is embedded in future trade as well and the way we trade with others and supply chains. And that is what I suppose my ambition for being part of the Board of Trade is to make sure that those opportunities around this agenda are understood.

 

ML  44:49

And I think you know, if I look at... I'll give you my my perspective on this. I agree entirely. I do think there's this kind of new green Bretton Woods, all of those things G7, G20, central banks, etc. My ambition would be that it gets pushed into some of the mechanics of trade, right, rather than any just sort of nice mood music. But then we actually start to unpick it and say, okay, is it free trade agreements in sustainable goods and services? Is it carbon border adjustments, so that countries can forge ahead with net zero? Is it reform of WTO? Is it aid for trade respecting, you know, x, y, z? To what extent do we need to put sustainability, not just climate, but broader sustainability into trade deals? Or does it get better dealt within consumer protection, some of that mechanics and I'm a bit hindered, because I'm not a trade lawyer. But I want to see that... I want to see the bridge built between all of the kind of good things going on and good thinking going on and the actual mechanics of trade, which is very detailed, as we've kind of learned during Brexit, it is down to which form you have to present at the customs post.

 

EHB  46:01

I think that's a great vision to have, to really make sure that it leads to some fundamental change. And we've already seen the UK Government make a great announcement about UK export credit guarantees, we've seen similar announcements coming out of the US. And again, this really sets the tone for a very positive year and beyond. Making sure that, again, the UK hosting important events, like the G7, like COP26, shifts the dial in really making climate... Yeah, as I said before, the decade of delivery, and we're really making a difference.

 

ML  46:50

Let's use the final few minutes, if we could, to talk about what makes you tick, perhaps. Because Mark Carney, in his Reith Lectures, has talked about how we have to put values at the heart of value. And, you know, you're such a great example, you know, you have got a career in finance. But, you know, instead of just going off and making more and more and more and more money, you've actually become, you know, you joined the board of the Environment Agency, you're now chairing it, you've clearly, you know, have a thinking and trying to sort of use your knowledge of how the system works, you're almost like hacking the system, something I talked to James Cameron about, on his episode of Cleaning Up. And I suppose my question is, why have you made that choice, when so many other people in the finance sector have either not made it or have been much slower to make it.

 

EHB  47:53

I put a big deal of credit to a couple of years of my education that really made a fundamental difference to who I am and how I've sort of grown up. And it goes back to my last two years of high school when I was at a United World College called Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific on Vancouver Island. And it was a very international college. We're talking several decades ago, where we were living in this remote community by the sea, in the middle of a , young people aged 16 to 20, from probably 60-70 different countries, over two years. And that was, I suppose, the time where I really learned to love the natural environment. But the whole ethos of the United World Colleges was around service towards others. And given that they were established pre-Internet, and this was right at the start of... No, I think we were pre-internet when we were out in Canada. This was this strong belief that if we were going to have international understanding, you needed to bring young people together, so that they experienced people from different cultures. And that time has, I suppose been a backdrop to the rest of my life and really meant that... I spent my early few years in finance, in corporate finance and mergers and acquisition, with no real emphasis on environmental issues. Very quickly it I saw that that needed to shift and that's what took me into the world of green investment.

 

ML  50:01

And those schools quite extraordinary, because I think that there is, I know there is one in Wales, Atlantic College, and the students teach each other to sail. Which is a hell of a responsibility, you know these kids are 15, 16, 17. And it's that sort of thing, isn't it? There's this real responsibility, ethos about teaching each other’s and showing leadership.

 

EHB  50:28

Yes, when I was out in Canada,  I learned climbing and land rescue. So again, as 16 to 20 year olds, we were out. If people got lost in the wilderness, we were out supporting local land rescue teams to go and help bring lost people back. 

 

ML  50:51

So not just sort of once, you know, once for fun, but doing it for real.

 

EHB  50:57

Absolutely, absolutely. But again, I think, sadly, as time has gone on health and safety regulations, it means that some of the freedoms and opportunity that we had many, many years ago... Well, the young people today in United World Colleges experience something akin to that. It's not quite the same level of experience that we had back then. 

 

ML  51:24

So here's the extraordinary thing. I don't know how many people I know who've worked on climate and clean energy and transformation. But there's now you, who went to the United World College, Bernice Lee, Chatham House, Guido Schmidt-Traub, who worked with Jeffrey Sachs on deep decarbonisation pathways, and Thomas Schmidt, who very sadly passed away with whom I created, what's now Moving Mountains, a conference on sustainability in mountain regions and mountain communities. And Colin McKerracher, who is the head of automotive and transportation at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. So we're talking about five people who have really thrown themselves into enthroning... shown incredible leadership in this sort of transformation space. So I don't know whether that's representative. I mean, statistically, it may not mean anything. But it's very striking to me. There's something that United World Colleges are doing very right.

 

EHB  52:23

I have met people that weren't peers of mine, over in Canada, but I haven't realised, to begin with, that they went to United World College. But when you find that out, you can see why we're working on very, very similar projects, very similar sort of trajectories. And  it kind of explains it afterwards, why you've had this sort of natural affinity to them. So it is an extraordinary community, a lot of people working in the environmental space. But also humanitarian space, some end up being politicians. It is an extraordinary network.

 

ML  53:08

Well, so I did not have the benefit of that background, I went to a very standard, very competitive school, I was a scholarship boy, the UK, public, as we call it, public school or private school. So it was a longer journey for me to end up working on issues around climate action, using my network and my skills, hopefully, to try to work on the same sort of issues that you and your other United World  College alumni are working on. We've reached the end of the time available. And so it remains only to thank you for spending part of this evening with me. It's been really a tremendous pleasure. And I guess I just leave you with the hope that there isn't more heavy rainfall that leads you to  another flooding situation that have you out in the middle of the night, supporting your colleagues at the Environment Agency. So I wish you luck with that. And thank you very much.

 

EHB  54:06

Thank you. It's been great to have this conversation. I look forward to many more ahead.

 

ML  54:12

Very good. Thanks, Emma. Great pleasure.

 

EHB  54:14

Thank you.

 

ML  54:16

So that was Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the UK Environment Agency and fellow advisor to the UK Board of Trade. My guest next week on cleaning up is Greg Jackson, CEO of Octopus Energy, one of the UK's largest challenging utilities. Octopus Energy serves around one and a half million UK households, growing at about 30,000 households per month and selling them 100% green electricity. They're also beginning to expand internationally. Please join me at this time next week for conversation with Greg Jackson.