As COP28 continues, it’s estimated that the world needs to invest $5.9 trillion to stave off climate change. “The big question now is … who’s going to pay for all this,” says USIP’s Gordon Peake, adding that “we also need to tamp down the use of fossil fuels” to prevent the bill for growing even more.

U.S. Institute of Peace experts discuss the latest foreign policy issues from around the world in On Peace, a brief weekly collaboration with SiriusXM's POTUS Channel 124.


Laura Coates: Well, joining us now is Dr. Gordon Peake, a senior advisor for the Pacific Islands and United Statess Institute of Peace's Asia Center. He joins us now, Dr. Gordon Peake, how are you?

Gordon Peake: Good, Laura, how are you? I've got my kids getting shipped out to school in the background. So hopefully not too much background noise.

Laura Coates: Oh, I welcome it here. I believe me and my kids at some point in time will come in and tell me to go pack their lunch and I'll go, Yeah, I'm doing a radio show right now. They're going to go, "Nah can you go ahead and do it for us, thank you so much." So, believe me, any background noise I welcome. Well, listen, there's a lot happening right now, including the fact that Vice President Kamala Harris is obviously overseas. She's at that COP28. Summit. And at first, by the way, President Biden was not going to attend at all, then they sent her. Can you give me a little bit behind that? I know you are not a political partisan in that area. But was it surprising that we weren't going to have a representation there?

Gordon Peake: I mean, sorry. Yeah, I mean? Yes and no, and you've got the climate envoy, John Kerry is over there, you've got a very, very high-level delegation from the U.S. coming. I think the Vice President's presence there is a sign that the U.S. like all countries, Laura, are really starting to take climate change seriously. Because what's gone, I think, for being a kind of, you know, lower order news story is moving into probably the biggest news story of our time, it happens to the it's happening in the U.S., it's happened in the U.S.'s Pacific Island like Hawaii, we all need just remember you know, the fires that took place in Maui. Earlier on this year, you're right the years moves so fast, we sometimes forget about these things. And it's a real concern to Pacific Island countries that probably do the least to contribute to climate change but are probably getting the biggest brunt of it. I mean, 50,000 Pacific Islanders each year are displaced, $1 billion in damage each year, the countries don't really have the capacity to absorb these changes. And the fact that Vice President Harris is coming to COP, I think is a powerful sign that the U.S. and all countries are taking it seriously. The big question now is we recognize it's a problem we recognize the world is, is heating up too quickly for all our liking. The big challenge knows who's going to pay for all this.

Laura Coates: Certainly, and of course, as you mentioned, those who contribute perhaps the least to climate change, are getting the brunt of it. You mentioned 50,000 in terms of displacement annually, due to climate and disaster related events. That's a pretty large number that people don't necessarily realize is happening. When they're being displaced, what is the cause? Is it very direct? Or is it over time? Is it water level? What is it?

Gordon Peake: I think it's a whole bunch of things. So, it's like water level. So, if you're living by the sea, and the water is rising, that's going to impact upon the place where you live. I spent a bunch of time in the Marshall Islands earlier on this year and there's whole swaths of those these pretty small islands where you see abandoned houses because people are actually no longer living in them, because the sea has risen so much. It's also to do with the fertility of the soil. So if you're not able to plant your plant your crops like breadfruit something that people have been traveling over the Pacific Islands, you know, Captain Cook, and the people from the bindi used to go over in order to bring it back in the day, like you can no longer plant breadfruit and lots of the Pacific Islands because of the of the salinity levels of the water. And also, people, our cultural heritage sites are going are going under as well. So, it's a real whole host of reasons. And one of the things, Laura, is that in a lot of Pacific Island countries, particularly as these kinds of atoll nations where you if you're standing in the middle, you look left and you look right, you can see the sea on both sides. There's not a lot of places for people to go.

Laura Coates: And who is going to pay for that? And that's the, when you think about that the powers that be are likely the ones who have a extraordinary incentive to continue whatever they're doing that might cause climate change to be increasingly desperate and detrimental for those who are less powerful than them. So who ultimately pays?

Gordon Peake: Yeah, this is the big question. This is not the million-dollar question. This is the $5.9 trillion question, which is the amount of money that has been estimated that the world needs to put in in order to address climate change. That means adaptation to climate change means compensating some of the people in the Pacific Islands and elsewhere who have been affected by that. And it's a kind of tussle that I think we're all familiar with in all of our politics, which is the focus on the everyday the focus on what's happening today with the focus on kind of long range needs to pay. So, I said 5.9 trillion is estimated to be committed in order to kind of get the world a little bit back on track. Thus far, we put about 1.2-1.3 trillion in so even with that, we're, we're kind of we're off track. And it's that sort of dilemma that's we're both in Washington, DC is that dilemma that's familiar here, and also familiar in every world capital where politicians grapple with the politics of today, the problems of today and the problems that are kind of that are around the around the pike. And it's always that dilemma, but how do you balance the present term and the future term?

Laura Coates: So, the approach the U.S. is taking right now, in terms of climate change? Is it on the appropriate trajectory compared to other nations? And obviously, it has to be, it can't just be one country that's invested, it has to be a collective effort. Do we have the type of approach that will one, garner support from other nations and two, be effective in the long run?

Gordon Peake: So, I think you're right, I mean, it's this kind of like, we all need to hold hands together on this in order to make it effective, no one country can kind of go it alone, I think the Biden administration has put together a really good package of initiatives that relate to climate change. So it has a big Pacific partnership strategy that it announced last year where a lot of money is being put into climate adaption, then it gets kind of snarled up in, Congress and, and it's one of the sort of the tussles that's going on in Congress at present, for all funding, about how much is going to get how much the Biden administration has requested, that is going to go through, but it's also a kind of money can do a lot of things, as we all know, in our own lives, but also saying no to things is going to be really important, as well. So, putting money in is really important, but money solves all problems doesn't solve all of them. And one thing that United States and all other large emitters, like China, increasingly India, European countries, Australia, where I'm a citizen of, need to grapple with is it is fossil fuel use that causes that as a major contributor to climate change. So, we could put all the money in that we want. And that's really important, that's an important part of the equation, but you also need to try to tamp down the use of fossil fuels. And then you get into, interests of, you know, oil and gas and, and also the way that we're all used to living our lives that we can kind of flick, flick a switch in the electricity is it's gonna be it's gonna be on.

Laura Coates: When you look at, I mean, that's, I don't want to go backwards. By the way, since I've camped a lot in my life. And I really do like the flick of a switch. Let me just be very clear about that aspect of it. But let me ask you

Gordon Peake: I’m not a camper, but [inaudible].

Laura Coates: Trust me, I would like to keep things as is although I would like to think about the future, obviously, because I'm a mom, and I'm a human being and I want Earth to to be able to sustain and be here for a very long time and usable. But I just wonder how much the politics when you when you lay it out, it seems quite clear. And then you've course got that murkiness of politics that comes into play. I wonder really quickly do you think the fact that people are really having more tangible views of climate change. Will that change opinions?

Gordon Peake: I mean, yeah, I mean, you're right. I mean, the politics everywhere is murky as the ocean as the ocean depths. I mean, I think it is becoming more and more something that was in the rearview mirror, kind of way back down the highway that we sort of noticed but weren't paying full attention to is something is becoming really, really real, you know, that objects in the real rear-view mirror are closer than they appear? Well, it's right up to our rear view, mirror and I think the challenge for all of us for, for us as parents for for our elected leaders for everyone that kind of concerns about the future of this planet is to figure out how do we balance that short term that we all have with the kind of long term needs of our families and our future and on our planet once we're gone, but once that whether our children will still be around.

Laura Coates: It's really important to hear your perspective today. Thank you, Dr. Gordon Peake, you're free to go take your kids to school now. Have a great day.

Gordon Peake: Accepted, thanks Laura, great to talk to you.

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