and most memorable interviews of the year in hardtalk�*s review of 2021. hello, the chances of seeing a white christmas this year are very limited. welcome to a special year—ending edition of hardtalk with me, stephen sackur. this is our chance and yours to look back at some of the drama, the passion, the emotion generated by our interviews in 2021. when the precedent is established against bad people, it then is used against good people. if afghanistan sinks into chaos, that will be a stinking spot in the conscience of the global community. if you want to sit behind a computer and write i terrible things to people, you're a coward. - this is hardtalk, right? your view of the american political system, i think, is not right. i think you're missing the elephant in the room.
2021 began with the world gripped by events in washington, dc. donald trump had lost his bid for re—election, but he didn't slip away quietly. he claimed without foundation that the election had been stolen. 0njanuary 6, a trump—supporting crowd — fired up by a defiant trump speech — invaded the us capitol. was trump guilty of inciting an assault on us democracy? democrats sought his impeachment for a second time, but one of the president's former legal advisers — himself a democrat — said they were wrong. if president trump had made the same speech and no—one had marched to the capitol, would it then be a crime? of course not.
and the fact that people marched to the capitol is irrelevant in judging whether or not the speech itself is protected by the constitution. we should not be compromising free speech in the interests of ending a term four or five days earlier. it will stick with us forever and ever. this will be a horrible precedent, and mostly it will be used against the left. it will be used against radicals, it will be used against civil rights activists. it will be used against women and african—americans and others who are protesting for good things. remember, when the precedent is established against bad people, it then is used against good people. that's why i'm fighting for the first amendment. joe biden entered the white house promising a fresh start for america, but on one key policy, he followed a path set by his predecessor — a commitment to get all us troops out of afghanistan. no more american blood to be spilled fighting the taliban. it was time for afghans alone to step up and defend theirfreedom, mr biden said. it was a strategy based
on wishful thinking. months before the us pull—out was complete, i spoke to afghanistan's first vice president, amrullah saleh. we will not stand in the way of the us government to withdraw its troops from afghanistan. it will be their legitimate sovereign right. we will not be able to stand in their way. they are a global power. but if afghanistan sinks into chaos, that will be a, uh... that will be a stinking spot in the conscience of the global community. we should not be denied peace. we should not be denied stability. we have suffered too much and we have suffered for global causes. so the world is not paying us charity. they owe us. the intention was never to be there forever. we have, over the last years, gradually reduced our presence from more than 100,000 in the combat
operation to now ending the mission. but we are not ending our support for the afghans. we will continue to provide funding for the afghan security forces, which we have trained and built from almost nothing to now around 300,000 professional security forces. second, we will work on how we can provide out—of—country training for afghan forces. and, thirdly, we are looking into how we now can maintain critical infrastructure like the airport and also some medical facilities and other ways to support continued civilian presence in afghanistan. but there are risks, absolutely, and it's a very difficult situation in afghanistan.
but to continue an open—ended mission in afghanistan would also have entailed risks for more fighting, more casualties and even a need for increased nato presence. us intelligence assessments - that the government will collapse in 6 to 12 months — - what do you say to that? you know, assessments, for whatever reason, are assessments — they get published. but, you know, every time there has been predictions about afghanistan from the outside, they have turned out to be wrong. in 2014, over 100,000 foreign troops left afghanistan, and the assessments then were too that kabul will collapse. it didn't. the taliban are not reformed. they're not new. they have a view of the world out of sync with modern times. they're going to impose a lifestyle on the afghan people that i think is going to make us all sick to our stomach. but most importantly, they're going to give safe haven to al-qaeda, who has ambitions to drive us out of the mideast writ large and attack us because of our way of life. we will be going back into afghanistan as we went back into iraq and syria to the brink...
hang on. you seriously think the united states will once again... we'll have to. ..in a foreseeable future... yes. ..put troops back into afghanistan? we'll have to. we'll have to, because the threat will go so...will be so large. i lived in afghanistan until 2004. i was there during the civil war. i was there during the talibanl regime and i was a young girl. i remember the afternoon - when they came to afghanistan and the next morning when i heard from the radio that _ i cannot go to school. and keep in mind, for a young girl, for a young afghan girl coming - from a pashtun family, _ which the only hope to the outside world is your education, because this is the key. to your success. this is the key to your future. this is your key to greatness. and suddenly, one morning you wake up, it's taken from you. _ and that's hard. and i remember, as a young girl, . i would wake up at midnight and do prayers because ijust wanted i
to wake up to a miracle that that reality has changed for me. many of us hoped that 2021 would be the year that we put coronavirus behind us. here in london, life did get back to something closer to normal, but we also learned that covid is a global problem and it requires a global response. the successful roll—out of vaccines in the rich world left poorer countries vulnerable, and it gave the virus ample opportunity to mutate. science gave us the vaccine, but it didn't give us vaccine equity. when we made this plan of a fair allocation and equitable distribution, we knew there'll be limited supplies, and so we started prioritising the groups who should get it first. i mean, one group are clearly the health workers and front line workers. you know, we've seen they were disproportionately affected by this pandemic. they need to be protected
so they can take care of the sick and health systems don't collapse. and then come, of course, the elderly and others who are at high risk of infection and death. we are saying let's protect these people around the world first before we start scaling to beyond these priority groups. if you took the 2 billion doses that we've agreed to procure and you distributed them among the 50 highest income countries, you would reduce deaths around 31%. if you distributed it across countries equitably, you get to a little over 60% of death reduction. so there is no question that equitable access is the right way, and that's why we're leaning in to try to make that happen. we need to have - equitable distribution. we need to have access. we cannot wait until uk vaccinates |all of its population and then say, | |"well, then the vaccines "could be| made available to other countries." when nobody is safe, nobody will be safe. i if covid—19 demanded an urgent
global response in 2021, so too did a deeper, more existential challenge. that of man—made climate change. the world leaders gathered at the cop26 summit, made a bunch of new promises, but the window of opportunity to take the actions necessary to prevent catastrophic warming? well, that window is closing. 0ur planet as we know it is in peril, as i heard from the custodians of two of the great storehouses of biodiversity. do you fear a time when people, maybe only decades from now, might come to kew and might marvel at the diversity of plant life that we have destroyed and lost forever? and that is only now to be seen in a protected environment like this? sadly, that's already the case. we have plants in our collections here which are now extinct in the wild,
some of which will never be recovered. for example, there's a cycad encephalartos woodii in the temperate house. the only known examples in the world are male. it will never reproduce sexually. other plants are known to now be extinct. there are no examples left anywhere in the world. we do our best through the work of the millennium seed bank to gather these seeds to store them. it's an insurance policy against extinction, but i think the picture you paint is very real and kew will do everything it can to end the biodiversity crisis and to minimise the further species that we're going to lose through habitat loss. if you think about us as a museum, our subject matter is planet earth and the life here on planet earth. but the challenge, and there is a problem, and i think the pandemic has brought this home really starkly to us, which is that that life is under threat. you know, we can look back through the fossil record. we know that life has been on earth for about 3.5 billion years,
3,500 million years. but over that time, there've been five mass extinction events. that's moments when almost all the life on earth has disappeared, and all the data is telling us we're heading for a sixth. but this one is different because all the data is telling us that this sixth potential mass extinction event, the first mass extinction event since we lost the dinosaurs over 60 million years ago — this one is caused by the actions of a single species, and that's us, humanity. some of it's climate change. some of it is actually land use — nearly a third of the world's land serves other things. and some of it's pollution. so, that's the challenge. and that is what the museum is out to try and fix. this is a big part- of our colonial legacy. think about it — wildlife - and conservation stemmed from the hunting background, - and during colonial days, the only people who were allowed to hunt . legally were the colonial overlords. when things changed and hunting - was banned, those same people became the conservationists and them and their future generations.
are all some of the most fierce i conservationists on the continent. but africans, back in colonial days, were considered poachers, - and until today, it seems. like that is still the picture or the image or the way people feel about it. . |and so, telling people that it's 0k| for africans to be conservationists, it means really bucking a trend | and saying, "hang on a second. "it's notjust white people who do conservation, - "and doing conservation isn't about going backwards." - when i started, i was actually told by colleagues of mine _ that they would fight for me i in government to prevent them from sending me to the bush to do research because they thought - that was a very backward thing to do in those days. _ "we came from the bush. why would you go back there?" so, there is a lot of change that has happened in the last few. decades, but we still have quite a bit of work to do. _ we know that climate change threatens our way of life, but are we capable of making the changes necessary to avert disaster? that is the challenge facing all of us, and it's a question
that will increasingly define our politics. as with covid, here's a global challenge that requires a global response. citizens all around the world are going to hold the politicians accountable. this is happening and people see what's happening. i mean, fires, floods, mudslides, droughts, extraordinary changes in climate right now. food production interruptions, 10 million people a year die because of the pollution that exists — every single year now. that is happening at a rate and pace where populations are rebelling. it's part of the anger people feel about government generally, and i believe it is only going to grow and we are going to see us move in this direction. will we get there in time, steve?
i don't know the answer to that. that's what makes these next ten years absolutely critical, and we do have the opportunity because of glasgow. we now have the opportunity to make it happen. the question is, will we? who will pay for the fight against climate change? who will pay for the climate transition? i really think that the lowest wages will never pay for the climate transition, and we have to take into account this reality. we have to put on the table hundreds of billions of euros to finance renewable energies, to finance nuclear energies, maybe new nuclear plants. and on the other hand, there is a need to find the funding. and if you explain to the poorest people in the uk, or in france or in germany or in italy, that the poorest people will pay for the fight against climate change
and will pay the climate transition, there will be new yellow vest movements everywhere in europe, and that's exactly what we want to avoid. in my home city, london, there is a constant cacophony of competing media voices. freedom of expression is taken for granted. that is not the story in many other countries. independentjournalism is criminalised and dissent, well, it can be deadly. in mexico, journalists faced threats and intimidation, and the list of countries where that is true is growing. one of the effects of impunity in mexico, after all this violence againstjournalists, in particular, not on human rights activists, it has a lot to do with the self—censorship. some of my colleagues, who i admire, that have survived violence and kidnapping and other crimes, theyjust stop investigating because they can't cope with it.
it's not easy to do it. you really need a big network in order for you to feel safe and you need mental health and many things in order to survive this pressure. it's a lot of pressure. i survived many assassination attempts in pakistan, and i never got justice. i was involved in many fake cases, and the pakistani courts, they cleared me. i was involved in fake cases again and again. i was threatened again and again. so, i said that whenever a journalist is attacked in pakistan, there is nojustice and the police and the law enforcement agencies, they always fail to identify the culprits. the organisation reporters without borders has clear evidence that the situation for journalists in pakistan is much, much more dangerous than most other countries around the world. you're clearly finding the situation deteriorating rather than improving. what are you doing about it?
i obviously would like to contest this claim again. the reason is that your question is without context. the situation in pakistan is not dangerous for journalists only. the situation in the past for pakistan was dangerous for every citizen because we were fighting this war on terrorism. and, yes, manyjournalists, especially the field journalists, have been killed in this war, but so are many other civilians. this year, the nobel peace prize recognised the bravery of independentjournalists confronting authoritarian power. i spoke to joint recipients maria ressa and dmitry muratov.
it's existential. this is the moment. the last time a journalist won this, he — carl von 0ssietzky — languished in a concentration camp, a nazi concentration camp. it feels like the nobel committee, by spotlighting journalists, are recognising a similar historical moment thatjournalists are under attack in ways that we've never experienced before.
in this world of massive, anxiety—inducing challenges, many of us find a refuge in sport. our love of sport has turned elite professional athletes into icons. we admire their physical prowess and their winning mentality. but this year we've seen that star sportspeople, just like the rest of us, are human, vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and discrimination. we've seen it in team sports like football and cricket, and also in individual sports like gymnastics. are you saying that throughout your amazing success as one of america's greatest gymnast 0lympians, you were driven by fear, you were competing out of fear? yes, absolutely. because i felt like nothing besides a gold medal... ..was enough, and i think that even sometimes the way that the pressure,
even from the media, orjust our society, is that it's this fear of if i don't win, it doesn't matter, it's not good enough. so, i definitely did it out of fear because it's so much pressure and it's terrifying — the fear of letting people down. in football, no—one cared about the mental health. like, no—one cared. is that true of you in your career, you know, in italy, in manchester? all through my career, you need to deliver. we are like toys — product. you need to perform if you're not feeling well, but you have different manager. like i had, for example, sir alex ferguson, he will spot, right now, straightaway if i'm not feeling well because you got some managers, they care about their players, but the club in general did not care about the mental health. if you're not good enough, they're going to buy another player. 0ne phenomenon that's more| contemporary is online abuse,
and we've heard a great deal about that, of course, - after the euro finals injuly... which was really... i sat there watching that. i was in los angeles, and i sat there watching it. as soon as that ball didn't go in, i turned around and i said, "i really hope that they give security to these boys," and i really hope it's not going to happen, but i knew it was going to happen. what, the online racial abuse? the online racial abuse, yes. have you had any of that? of course. you've got 12 million i followers on instagram. many times. what kind of things - were said to you online? just like, you know, for me, if you want to sit behind a computer and write terrible things to people, you're a coward. i don't have time for you, and i'm not going to make you silence me. i'm not a coward. hardtalk is challenging, sometimes confrontational, but it can be inspiring, too. my greatest privilege in 2021 was to spend time with the influential scientist and environmentalist james lovelock as he prepared
to celebrate his 102nd birthday. let me wish you a very happy new year and leave you with his life—enhancing words. your own mortality... ..colours your thoughts these days. you've described how being 100 has made you feel wonderful. yes. how do you cope with thoughts of mortality? one of the strangest things was that... ..before i reached 100, i was always kind of slightly depressed about the thought. "when i'm past that, well, i'm on the dust heap." finished.
if this is a dust heap, it's certainly a very lovely one. but the reality was so much better... ..that it's been a period of considerable happiness. i think. i don't know whether i'm taking sandy's thoughts in vain... you're looking at your wife who's sitting off—camera. ..but it's been a period of great happiness, not less, and i pass that on to others who are in the same queue that i'm in. i'm well aware that either of us might get taken at some time in the not—too—distant future, but, well, that's... and in the meantime, you appear to be intent on still thinking, writing, having big thoughts about... ..us all and this planet we live on. yes, very much so. with a smile on your face, despite everything we've discussed. of course. i think we'll get by all right.
is chilly and the breeze more noticeable on christmas day. a cold frosty start in scotland but sunshine to follow. england, wales and northern ireland, misty in places and outbreaks of rain pushing further north and east during the day. some snow later on. it is mild to the south—west. the oldest in scotland despite the sunshine and elsewhere feeling quite chilly in the breeze. quite windy particularly around the coast of northern ireland in south—west scotland as it will be going into boxing day and here we go overnight into boxing day wet weather moving north into the colder and snow breaking out into the pennines. the southern uplands. into the cold air by boxing day morning, some of that snow to relatively low levels and higher accumulations will be into the higher ground. blowing around in strong winds as well so travel can be difficult and we see that further north across scotland. many into the hills to boxing day. behind that, plenty of cloud and a
few showers. brighter skies in the south wales and south—west england where it is still mild. elsewhere still feeling quite chilly particularly in the breeze. as we look at the picture overnight and then into monday, between one offence. we do have an area of low pressure that mayjust push along southernmost areas of the uk particularly into southern england to the channel islands but some uncertainty about how far north on ebay will come. a lot of cloud around. mistand ebay will come. a lot of cloud around. mist and fog to start the day and that may be reluctant to clear so the mandate is looking rather grey in many places and top temperatures are a little higher in scotland compared with the start of the christmas weekend. this is the picture going into tuesday. it looks messy. an area of low pressure coming in from the atlantic will feed when offence north and east during the day. we may see a little snow. behind this weather system you can see the direction of the wind from the south—west and may be some brighter skies for a is the source
of the mild hour. into double figures and it is very much a sign of things to come because overnight and into wednesday driven by low pressure to the west of us one front moving in. that is going to take some rain. quite a bit of rain on wednesday. it looks very in places and it is behind that we start to bring that right the way north through the uk so quite a change in the feel of the weather and particularly in scotland wednesday into thursday but look at these temperatures by wednesday. reaching into the mid—teens in places and thatis into the mid—teens in places and that is very mild for the time of year. no pressure to the west of us. further spells of rain coming in as we end the year but we are in that mild air. no battleground between milder and colder as the start 2022. very much in the milder. for how long? keep watching. forthe very much in the milder. for how long? keep watching. for the weather for the week ahead. goodbye.
this is bbc news — broadcasting to viewers in the uk and around the world. our top stories: covid infections set new records in the uk — where an estimated 1.7 million people had the virus last week. it's onlyjust now that the cases are starting to tip into the older population, particularly 60 and 70 plus year olds, and there are a number of different reasons why we need to continue to look at this data further. at least 39 people are killed after a packed ferry caught fire in southern bangladesh. the most powerful telescope to ever be launched into space is due to blast off on christmas day. and, the queen is expected to give a very personal christmas message this year — her first since the death of her husband prince philip.