COP21 – The birth of humanity

IMG_0188Here are some thoughts from Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber, journalist, writer and Vice Chairperson of the Human Rights Watch board, on the historical climate agreement announced on December 12 at Le Bourget in Paris. I was honored to join Jean-Louis and Corinne Lepage to speak at the Conference on Youth (COY) that preceded the climate talks to present the Declaration of Rights of Humankind and its importance to youth and future generations. FRENCH VERSION

COP21 – The birth of humanity

The memory of the media will keep this joyful scene at Le Bourget when the announcement of the agreement at the COP21 was made. Since then, objections, criticism and analysis of its shortcomings abound. They were inevitable and many are warranted.

But the most important when it comes to the future of humanity could not be rational. The collective emotion, even fleeting, gave the world images of what has inspired us to come together. In this digital era, we will see these images again and again, so as no to forget that what unites us is ultimately more powerful then what divides us.

To meet this challenge, a snap of fingers will not be sufficient. It will take decades of effort by activists, governments, scientists, associations, artists and others. But most of all, it will be for each new generation to discover the world in which it lives.

This moment of unanimity gave existence to humanity, beyond nations, beliefs or interests. We felt for a few minutes how this little flame, nascent, fragile, still wavering, was for us and our children so infinitely precious.

The emotion of this final between negotiators exhausted and radiant is already listed heritage. 

Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber

 

 

Smartphones explode power bills!

I was intrigued yesterday morning when I heard the Virgin Radio (France) host saying that mobile owners pay €70 a month to power their smartphones, ipods, tablets and laptops. It turns out this number relates to the annual cost but the point is no less alarming. The average household spends around €1,400/year on energy of which some €900 relate to electricity. According to the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), 14% of this electricity relates to recharging phones and other devices – a very high figure which exceeds even the share of lighting that comes to 12%.

Smartphone

The agency warns that most of this power is wasted when the phone is left to charge overnight, even when it is turned off. The residual power that is wasted when devices are plugged in represents a pure waste equivalent to two nuclear power plants operating permanently at full capacity and a cost of €2 billion.

Imagine what could be achieved if such funds were invested into speeding the transition to a clean energy future.

Some smart ideas:

  • Most phones can be charged in two hours – leaving them to charge overnight is costly and wasteful.
  • Get an external battery to provide more autonomy when needed.
  • Go for a solar or wind powered charger!
  • Charge your phone as you ride – Check out CITYCYCLE.COM at LINK for great Christmas ideas for your favorite cyclist!soporte-finn-de-bike-city-guide1

COP21: more than expected, short of what’s needed

After over 20 years of climate talks, 195 countries reached a “universal, fair, dynamic and binding agreement” to “save the planet” by keeping global average temperature rise well below 2 degrees. The mood was euphoric and some delegates were in tears after the three sleepless nights that concluded ParisClimat2015. Having followed the preparations of this global forum, I was impressed by the efforts of the city of Paris, the French authorities and particularly by the personal engagement of the French President for an ambitious and historic outcome.

1.5 degrees target

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1.5 degrees target

I am proud that Canada, after a decade of obstruction and denial under the Harper administration, has come out in favor of a 1.5 degree objective under the leadership of newly-elected Justin Trudeau. Staying “well below 2 degrees” is now the stated target of the world community and Canada is back as a constructive force on the world scene. This leadership will be needed to if we are to turn this lofty objective into something meaningful in terms of climate action.

“Aspirational” Objective

The 1.5 degree goal reflects calls of small island states, climate scientists and civil society but the new ambitions do not yet translate into commensurate actions that would even have a remote chance of meeting the original so-called “safe” target of 2 degrees, let alone 1.5 – which would require much faster reductions in green-house-gases and methods of taking back some of the carbon that has already been emitted.

Growing science and reality gap 

Scientists have been warning that there is a time lag between the moment when carbon is released and the resulting temperature increase. This means that on top of the 0.9 degrees of warming that we are already experiencing, there is an extra 0.6 degrees that is already pre-programmed for the future – Dr. Thomas Frölicher, researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has produced some interesting work in this area. For these reasons, in time we will reach the 1.5 degree target and beyond as we continue to burn carbon.

On track for 3 degrees and more

Commitments by member states for COP21 put us on the 3 degree or more path. Well above the 1.5 degree goal. It is therefore urgent to transform this new target into meaningful policy, to change business models and make sure that we all change our behaviors – something that is far from achieved and which implies much deeper emission cuts then was is currently planned.

Timing is critical

Delegates and politicians still think that climate change is a slow, gradual and linear process. This is not supported by science. In fact, the process is not-linear and there is now a real risk of hitting tipping points that could accelerate climate disruptions with catastrophic consequences. This is why the 2020 entry into force and the 5-year reviews that would start in 2025 are disappointing.

Common but differentiated responsibilities

All countries will have to participate in the carbon reductions but rich countries must help to finance this transition in the developing world by contributing a minimum of $100 billion per year starting in 2020 – a figure that will be revised upwards in 2025. The good news is that new powerhouses like China and South Korea will contribute to this effort. It is also encouraging that countries like India will adopt a low-carbon path for their development, something that was far from achieved just a few days ago.

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Wind Energy Tree at COP21 in Paris

The end of the fossil fuel era

One message from the COP is  that the good days of the fossil fuel era are behind us. Fossil fuel subsidies should be phased-out and we will move towards a price on carbon to speed up the transition to a clean energy economy.

Just the beginning

As Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the opening of COP21 on November 30th, this agreement is just the beginning of a process, echoing warnings from British Climate Ambassador, Sir David King, that carbon reduction targets must be reviewed regularly to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future. From where we stand today and despite decades of work, it sure seems that we are still at ground zero.

Searching for Endurance – Part 2

Part 2 of In Search for Endurance at COP21

Chamonix-based glaciologist Luc Moreau kindly agreed to speak after the screening of Luc Hardy’s “In Pursuit of Endurance” at the Rochexpo Naturelia fair in La-Roche-sur-Foron near Geneva. Chamonix, home to la “Mer de Glace” (sea of ice), the largest glacier in France and the winter vacation destination of choice for nature lovers, is at the forefront of climate change – warming 2 to 3 times faster then the global average.

Passionate about defending his playground, Luc made a provocative plea for action and I hereby summarize his most interesting perspective:

When the stewardess on an airplane explains how to use the oxygen mask she first says you should put yours first and only then that of your child. 

YES, let’s be selfish and we can then also save our children, give them fresh air and a climate they can live in!! and also then save others… If we don’t do it for ourselves then our children are doomed anyway. That is the only way forward. Selfishness!

We are so smart, all this science and knowledge and the only way we can find to save this environment that gives us life, air to breathe and water to drink is to be selfish. Only our selfishness can save us because that is the only thing we are really good at. We know how to do it, let’s be selfish now and let’s do it together…. and future generations will also benefit!!

Why slowly destroy the environment that we live? wildlife, plants, oceans, biodiversity, air, water… We can reverse this destruction if each and everyone does something and then a little something more. Carpooling, cycling, reducing and sorting waste, push for better regulation that taxes what destroy and supports what restores… We blame China? But China produced all the products that we love so much…

We cannot fix everything but we must show some direction, we must show that we care. Even if we sometimes make mistakes, we must change course, focus on what works and move forward. Just like in Aikido we do not try to counter evil, we deflect it and reverse this force to turn it into a positive.

So let’s be selfish together!! We have caused a global problem and we must therefore unite our forces globally to fix it together. Create a political party with all parties involved! Without labels but with all the smart people, their experience, philosophers and humanists, economists and financiers and why not a few community organizers with the spirit to do well for everyone!

Ernest Shackelton, if he were alive today, would give this leadership to steer humanity on the path to sustainability because he was a real leader – he was a real captain!

So, Luc (Moreau), who are you to give advice? 

What have I done? not much, carpooling, biking, public transport… it’s nothing! a drop in the ocean. But the ocean is made of individual drops!! And if we all do this then we will soon breathe more easily…

We are at our last crossroad, our last chance to change course. Let the spirit of Shackleton inspire our most selfish instincts to save ourselves …and our children too.

By Luc Moreau

 

The Illusion of Cheap Oil

oil-pricesThe media were all over the “dramatic” increase in oil prices that rocked the markets last week. But at $40 a barrel, even the biggest one-day increase in five years (10%) only is a meager $4. Not even a blip in the decline that has took crude prices from $146 in 2008 to the low forties (down $104 or 70%+). As expected by analysts, the downward pressure soon returned and oil finished the week only $2.66 or 6% up (image source: ValueWalk).

Cheap oil for car drivers?

With 60% of global oil consumption used for transport (70% in the USA), it makes sense to focus on what cheap oil mean for drivers. But a closer look shows that little of the crude oil fall has trickled down to the price at the pump. Only 20% in the UK, 18% in France and just slightly more in the USA, but still only 32%.

Taxes keep gasolines prices high

Taxes makeup the largest chunk of gasoline prices in most countries – 60% in the UK and France. Even in places with lower fuel taxes like the USA, Canada and Australia, the decline at the pump was only a fraction of the crude oil price drop (32% in the USA). Because of taxes, cheap oil only resulted in marginal savings for households and business.

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There are exceptions. Some countries keep fuel prices artificially low. Iran and Saudi Arabia spend up to 9% of their GDP to subsidize fuel and offer fuel at 7 cents/liter. But with their state budgets under pressure from falling oil revenues, these policies are being phased out in Gulf countries but also in Indonesia, India and Venezuela. Drivers should get ready for hefty price hikes in the near future.

Major incentive for fuel efficiency

High prices at the pump provide individuals and industry with compelling reasons to improve fuel efficiency. In Geneva, in just a few years, the number of hybrid taxis (mostly Toyota Prius) has grown from close to nothing to 400 (out of 1,400 taxis in total). Most of them run on multiple shifts so they are on the road 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are reliable, typically reaching 300-350 thousand km with little maintenance. But the main reason behind this phenomenal explosion is economic. With a consumption of 5 l/100km, taxi drivers claim that fuel savings pay for the car.

Similarly, Amsterdam Airport bought 160 Teslas because the economics of electric cars are so compelling. Even in the US where fuel is cheap ($0.76/liter), taxi companies are opting for electric cars boasting patriotism as they lower America’s reliance on foreign oil.

Fuel Efficiency Standards and other Incentives

Mandatory fuel efficiency standards are speeding up the revolution. France gives FEE-BATEs on new car purchases (rebates for clean cars of up to €10,000 financed by fees on dirty vehicles). Such schemes are boosting fuel efficiency of new cars in Europe by about 3% per year.

In the USA, fuel efficiency also improves (more slowly) despite a lack of regulations:

EDI_CAFE_July-2015

Now federal legislation will speed this up. Under CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) corporations must double the miles/gallon of their fleets (car and trucks) within a decade:

light_duty_vehicle_standards_1978-2025_0

Private Sector Leadership

walmart concept semi truck

Truck of the Future by Walmart (2014), Peterbilt

But the private sector did not wait for regulators. 10 years after committing to double the fuel efficiency of its 6,500 strong truck fleet, Walmart has achieved a spectacular 84% improvement in fuel efficiency over its 2005 baseline.

Transportation companies are also  innovating in ways that go well beyond cost reductions. Thanks to UPSgermanyits e-bike service, UPS increased the number of daily pickups and deliveries because they can ride on pedestrian streets, zip through traffic and find parking anywhere – avoiding many of the frustrations of city driving. In addition to the cost improvements and the leap in productivity, their staff have never been happier.

Even the military, guilty for 1.9% of US oil consumption, has joined the efficiency race committing to get completely of oil by 2040, and pushing Detroit to supply electric vehicles with no compromise in terms of price, safety, comfort and performance.

Carmakers are speeding ahead

Just a few years ago Detroit and most manufacturers were dismissing electric cars as a distant illusion. But the landscape has changed dramatically, largely thanks to the Tesla revolution. “Hybridization, plug-in hybrids, or pure electric vehicles – this is a must for everyone… and the car company not able to keep up will disappear” said Rupert Stadler, Chief Executive of Audi earlier this year.

The end of Oil?

“The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone, and the Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil” declared Sheikh Zaki Yamani, former Saudi Arabian oil minister three decades ago. Ali al-Naimi, the country’s current oil minister, said that his kingdom will eventually not need fossil fuels and planned to become a “global power in solar and wind energy” and export electricity instead of fossil fuels. With a glut in oil supply, fuel efficiency that will shrink demand and Mr Naimi’s belief that “solar will me even more economic than fossil fuels”, the end of The Oil Age may be closer then we think.

This is the first in a series of articles on Cheap Oil and its implications.

Une stratégie maritime pour le 21ème siècle

photo-4Le premier ministre du Québec, Philippe Couillard, a dévoilé une stratégie maritime ambitieuse pour la province qui façonnera le transport et la logistique de l’expédition outre-Atlantique pour le Nord-Est de l’Amérique au 21e siècle. Montréal pourrait devenir la porte d’entrée maritime pour lier un marché américain (Nord-Est) de 135 millions de personnes d’avec la plus grande économie du monde, la zone Euro et ses $18,000 milliards. Cette annonce suit la nouvelle d’Octobre 2014 d’un accord de libre-échange (AECG) entre le Canada et l’Union Européenne qui donnera un accès préférentiel à ces marchés, possiblement dès 2016.

Les années de gloire

montrealsummer-026Dès 1860 et pendant un siècle, Montréal était la vraie métropole du Canada, principalement grâce à son rôle de plaque tournante du transport du pays avec son grand centre portuaire et ferroviaire. En 1923, Montréal était encore le plus grand port céréalier du monde. Certains des silos à grains datant de cette période sont encore visibles, mais Montréal se classe aujourd’hui 97ème à l’échelle mondiale en tonnage, avec seulement un quart du volume qui transite par New York (26ème).

Positionné pour l’avenir

La voie maritime du Saint-Laurent et des Grands Lacs représente le plus long système de navigation profonde du monde et s’étend sur 3,700 km, au cœur du continent nord-américain. Cette situation géographique favorable signifie que l’expédition par Montréal fournit le plus direct, rapide et donc aussi le moins cher. Ceci, combiné avec une logistique plus efficace – un temps de transit de fret de 24 heures à Montréal contre jusqu’à 5 jours par New York – donne à la “Belle Province” un avantage qui pourrait aider Montréal à retrouver sa position de plaque tournante maritime en Amérique du Nord.

Moins cher et plus propre

1l-maersk-mc-kinneyAvec les plus grands navires transportant jusqu’à 600,000 tonnes de marchandises, le transport maritime est le plus efficace. Il se compare favorablement au train et au transport routier au niveau des couts, mais aussi en termes de réduction de la pollution. Son empreinte carbone est 3 fois plus basse que par train et 33 fois plus basse que par camion!

La sécurité d’abord

Les risques du transport routier et la catastrophe ferroviaire de 2013 du Lac Mégantic qui a fait 42 victimes font de la sécurité une préoccupation majeure. Même si le transport maritime a un bon dossier de sécurité, la stratégie maritime reconnait l’importance des préparations aux catastrophes et prévoit le développement d’un centre d’expertise des écosystèmes marins aux iles de la Madeleine.

Science et innovation

Compte tenu des opportunités liées à la croissance des activités océaniques à l’échelle mondiale, il y a un besoin urgent de recherches, d’innovation et de partage des connaissances. La mise en place du Réseau Maritime du Québec agira comme un catalyseur pour mobiliser les structures existantes et améliorer les échanges, en particulier entre le Québec et la France (qui possède le deuxième plus grand territoire marin du monde).

Protection de la biodiversité et tourisme

Reconnaissant l’exceptionnelle beauté et la biodiversité de la voie maritime du Saint-Laurent, la stratégie appelle à la création de zones marines protégées équivalent à au moins 10% du territoire marin. Ceux-ci, ainsi que l’amélioration des infrastructures à différents points le long du fleuve visent à stimuler le tourisme de croisière qui est déjà en forte croissance et qui a attiré 350,000 personnes en 2014 et prévu d’atteindre 400,000 cette année.

Propulsant le Québec au 21e siècle

La stratégie maritime de $9 milliards de Philippe Couillard et les 30,000 emplois qu’elle espère créer est comparable en ampleur aux grands projets de la Baie James de Robert Bourassa des années 1970 qui ont coutés quelque 20 milliards de dollars plusieurs décennies a être complétés. Aujourd’hui, cet héritage de Bourassa donne à la Province une énergie bas-carbone et peu couteuse qui fait que les Québécois ont la plus faible empreinte carbone du pays (9,7 tonnes d’équivalent CO2 par habitant en 2012 contre une moyenne de 20,1 tonnes pour les Canadiens).

Fait intéressant, 43,5% des émissions de carbone au Québec proviennent du secteur des transports qui utilise l’essence pour alimenter des voitures et des camions peu efficaces. Compte tenu de son accès à une électricité propre et fiable, le Québec pourrait devenir un leader de l’électrification des transports pour les véhicules de tourisme. A son tour, la stratégie maritime pourrait permettre une réduction importance de l’expédition par la route avec de nouvelles réductions de carbone, tout en stimulant le commerce et la compétitivité de la province.

Un message pour ParisClimat2015

Réconcilier l’économie et l’environnement sur ​​la base de connaissances scientifiques solides pour la prospérité des Québécois au 21e siècle – un message urgent et inspirant que le Premier ministre Couillard et le Maire de Montréal Denis Coderre pourrons transmettre durant la Conférence sur le climat de Paris en Décembre. Cette aventure dure depuis déjà 40 ans dans la « Belle Province » et la stratégie maritime est son dernier chapitre.

A maritime strategy to propel Quebec into the 21st century

photo-4Quebec Prime Minister, Philippe Couillard, unveiled an ambitious and far-reaching maritime strategy for the province that will shape the transportation and logistics of cross-Atlantic shipping for North America in the 21st century. Montreal could become the preferred maritime gateway to link a Northeast American market of 135 million with the $18 trillion Eurozone, the world’s largest economy. This timely announcement follows the October 2014 news of a free trade agreement (CETA) between Canada and the Eurozone that will provide preferential market access as early as 2016.

Glory days

montrealsummer-026In the 1860s and for a century, Montreal was Canada’s true metropolis, largely thanks to its role as the country’s transportation hub with its major port and railway center. In 1923, Montreal was even the world’s largest cereal port. Some of the grain silos dating back to that period are still visible, but Montreal now ranks 97th globally for container tonnage, with only 1/4 of the volume that transits through New York (26th).

Positioned for the future

The St-Lawrence seaway and Great Lakes makeup the longest deep-boat navigation system in the world extending 3,700 km into the North American heartland. This favorable geographical situation means that shipping through Montreal provides the fastest, cheapest and most direct market access. This, combined with more efficient logistics – a 24 hour cargo transit time in Montreal versus up to 5 days through New York – gives the “Belle Province” a compelling advantage that could help Montreal regain its position as a leading maritime hub in North America.

Cheapest and cleanest

1l-maersk-mc-kinneyWith the largest vessels carrying up to 600,000 tons of cargo, maritime shipping is the most efficient form of transportation. It compares favorably to trains and trucks in terms of costs but also for pollution reduction. Its carbon footprint is 3 times lower then trains and 33 times lower then trucks!

Safety first

A poor safety record for road transport and the fresh memory of the 2013 unattended train with crude oil that derailed and exploded killing 42 people in Lac Mégantic makes security a major concern. While marine transport has a good safety record, the maritime strategy recognizes the importance disaster preparedness and will therefore develop a world-class marine ecosystem expertise center in îles de la Madeleine.

Science and innovation

Given the immense opportunities related to growth of oceanic activities globally, there is an urgent need for more marine research and knowledge sharing. The establishment of the Quebec Maritime Network will act as a catalyst to leverage the existing structures and improve exchanges science and technology, particularly between Quebec and France (a nation with a great expertise and interest in oceans given its control the world’s second largest marine territory).

Biodiversity protection and tourism

Recognizing the exceptional natural beauty and biodiversity of the St-Laurence seaway, the strategy also calls for the creation of marine protected zones equivalent to at least 10% of the marine territory. These, along with improved infrastructure at various points along the river aim to boost the already growing cruise tourism that attracted 350,000 people in 2014 and that is expected to reach 400,000 this year.

Propelling Quebec into the 21st Century

The $9 billion maritime strategy of Philippe Couillard and the 30,000 jobs it hopes to create across sectors is comparable in scale and ambition to the pharaonic James Bay hydroelectric plan of Robert Bourassa in the 1970’s that cost $20 billion and took decades to complete. Today, this Bourassa legacy provides Quebec with low cost and low carbon power and the lowest carbon footprint in the country (9.7 tons of CO2 equivalent per person in 2012 vs. a 20.1 ton average for Canadians).

Interestingly, 43.5% of carbon emissions in Quebec now come from the transportation sector that uses oil to fuel inefficient cars and trucks. Given its access to clean and reliable electricity, Quebec can become a global leader in the electrification of passenger vehicle transport. The maritime strategy in turn will allow a massive reduction in road shipping – with further carbon reductions – while boosting trade and the competitiveness of the Province.

A compelling message for ParisClimat2015

Reconciling the economy and the environment on the basis of sound scientific knowledge for the prosperity of Quebecers in the 21st century – a most urgent and inspirational message that Prime Minister Couillard and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre can now deliver at the Paris Climate Conference in December. This is an adventure that is already 40 years in the making “dans la Belle Province”. The maritime strategy is its latest chapter. Time will tell if the Couillard legacy becomes as transformational and as electrifying as Bourassa’s.