Renewables in the Post-COP21 Agenda

Transformation of the global energy system forms the backbone of climate action. Without significant movement towards decarbonisation, the chances of keeping global temperature rise below two degrees celsius are low if not impossible. For Energy Day at the UN climate change talks in Paris, IRENA brought together scientists, policy-makers, business leaders and civil society to explore the future of renewable energy.

Arthouros Zervos, Chair of REN21, confirms the upscale in renewable energy deployment around the world and most importantly in developing countries. This is not surprising given the rapid drop in the cost of solar and wind power. According to the latest study by Lazard, a leading financial advisory firm, the cost of solar and wind power have dropped by 82% and 61% in 6 years:

Fossil Fuel Subsidies

One obstacle remains the massive fossil fuel subsidies of some $500 billion (IEA). These figures increase to $5.3 trillion or 6.5% of global GDP if externalities like pollution are included (IMF WP/15/105). In some countries, energy prices are kept artificially low by policies that can cost up to 40% of total government spending. This is why Kuwaitis get to pay $0.22 per liter of gasoline (Feb. 29 2016) and that electricity costs as little as 1 cent per kilowatt-hour in Saudi Arabia.

Private sector and civil society leadership 

ikea-solar-panelFor Peter Agnefjäll, CEO of IKEA, it has become clear that we must grow within the limits of the planet. This positive impact on planet and people is behind IKEA’s decision to invest in renewables with the objective of becoming totally energy independent globally by 2020.

Civil society can help propel this transformation with initiatives for entire sectors of the economy. For Jules Kortenhorst from the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Carbon War Room,  is working on scaling up to reduce costs and accelerate the uptake of renewables  like sustainable jet fuels for the aviation industry, improving the efficiency of maritime shipping and also in buildings, thanks to IT solutions and big data.

Tapping onto geothermal  

Iceland provides a powerful business case for geothermal energy to heat and cool buildings in cities. For President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, such solutions have proven profitable without subsidies and provide a cost-effective path towards lower emissions. In 2010, 24 countries generated electricity thanks to geothermal power while some 70 use it for heating.

COP21 a turning point

AdnanZ-AminAdnan Z Amin, Director-General of IRENA, recognises that ParisClimat2015 represents a decisive moment for renewables. From now on, the connection between clean energy, the de-carbonization agenda and the safe climate imperative are inseparable.

Cooperation between civil society, the private sector and policy makers is key to accelerate this transition.

Other resources: UNECE Sustainable Energy

Happy 85th Birthday Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev!

The book "Gorbachev in Life" is on display at the launch ceremony for a book about former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow, Russia, on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. Mikhail Gorbachev turns 85 on Wednesday, March 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

The book “Gorbachev in Life” is on display at the launch ceremony for a book about former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow, Russia, on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. Mikhail Gorbachev turns 85 on Wednesday, March 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

A few days ago in Moscow, Mikhail Gorbachev launched his latest book, “Gorbachev in Life”, a 700-page collection of memories and documents from him and others about his life experiences and the way his glasnost (openness) and perestroika (reform) policies have transformed the world hoping that the book would help Russians better understand their current history.

The Gorbachev File

As he celebrates his 85th birthday, the National Security Archive at George Washington University (www.nsarchive.org) has just released this morning a series of previously classified British and American documents with Western assessments of Gorbachev starting before he took office and until end of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Manifesto for the Earth

5195AFR1PJL._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_But one book that sheds light on Gorbachev’s commitment to the environment and social justice is his “Manifesto for the Earth”. Few would know that when he became Secretary-General of the Soviet Union in 1985, he got access to information about the scale of pollution coming from chemical plants and factories that were poisoning the environment and sickening people. One of the consequences of the glasnost reforms was access to previously classified information. As a result, the soviet people demanded action and over 1,300 of the most polluting plants were closed.

This is how President Gorbachev understood the power of civic engagement and the need to change the relationship and reconcile humanity and nature. Well before the fall of the Berlin Wall he called for the creation of a “Red Cross” for the environment. This idea was then raised during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Given the mounting crises of climate change, environmental degradation and social inequality, civil society leaders called for the creation of a Green Cross and for Gorbachev to lead this effort.

Green Cross International

This is how Green Cross International was launched in 1993. Today, Gorbachev is still at the helm of the organization as its chairman and Green Cross continues to work on addressing the challenges of security, poverty eradication and environmental degradation. With offices in some 30 countries, activities around the world and initiatives like the Earth Charter International and the Earth Dialogues, Gorbachev’s Green Cross story is still in the making.

Through his Manifesto for the Earth, Gorbachev describes how the story began and his quest for peace, social justice and a sustainable future for all.

Happy Birthday President Gorbachev!

Photo by Pavel Palaychenkoi

Photo: Pavel Palazchenko, Earth Dialogues in Geneva (2013)

The unfair battle of Man vs. Machine

After an article about the role of science for good and evil (Bronowski on Science and Human Values) I now explore how robots will take over most jobs and ask myself why this takeover needs to be subsidized by our taxes.

The old debate about automation and employment (ref. Luddites in 19th Century England) is taking new proportions as most jobs, including white-collar jobs are now at risk. In the US close to 50% of the workforce is in danger of being replaced by computers and robots. In the UK 35% of jobs could be gone within two decades.

Humans, Robots and the Tax Code

Robots can work 24/7 and during holidays (excluding maintenance and repairs – the equivalent of our holidays and sick leave). But a more perverse advantage is granted by the tax code through generous breaks link accelerated and even bonus depreciation as well as various credits that help reduce the upfront cost of robots. Labor in contrast is hit by punitive taxes through social security, unemployment, medical, pension, insurance and other forms of taxation that discourage employers from hiring people and paying decent wages.

With a global workforce of 3 billion and 200 million unemployed (2012), the robot revolution will exacerbate inequalities between owners of capital and those who rely on wages for their livelihood and dignity.

A controversial revolution

HDWALLPAPER.IN

HDWALLPAPER.IN

Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have joined 1,000 eminent scientists in a petition warning about the dangers of developing robots and artificial intelligence that can learn emotions and develop a conscience. They fear this could be our last invention as robots, having developed a Darwinian instinct would then turn against us.

Subsidising the transition to unemployment and misery

The robot revolution may be inevitable but I wonder why this transition to mass unemployment and human misery must be accelerated by government policy and funded by us, individual and human taxpayers (mostly through employment and personal income tax ). In 2010, 82% of US Federal Tax revenue came from individuals and payroll taxes, only 9% from corporations…

Science and Human Values

It is not the tragedy of scientists that their discoveries are used for destruction; it is the tragedy of mankind.  Leo Szilard, Hungarian-American Physicist

Jacob Bronowski’s “Science and Human Values” was recommended to me by Garry Jacobs, CEO of the World Academy of Art and Science. The book came to mind as he was preparing a conference at CERN in Geneva (November 2015) on proper governance to ensure that science, technology and innovation serve human progress for the benefit current and future generations.

Bronowski was a Polish-born mathematician, historian of science, author, poet, inventor and accomplished chess-player who grew up in England. He worked for the UK Ministry of Home Security during World War II to incorporate mathematics into bombing strategies. At the end of the war, he was part of the British scientific team that visited Japan to document the effects of the atomic bombing on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The barren landscape of Nagasaki that he discovered prompted him to try and convince his colleagues in government and at the United Nations that this desolation should be preserved exactly as it was for future generations to remember the horrors of atomic warfare. In his mind, only “this clinical sea of rubble” would be capable of providing a context for statesman to take decisions with such implications. Regrettably, his colleagues did not agree.

Science and Human ValuesThe short essays that make up “Science and Human Values” were born in the ruins of Nagasaki in light of the “power of science for good and evil” and the dilemma of civilization faced with its own brutal implications.

“Science and Human Values” is just as relevant today as when Bronowski was standing in the ruins of Nagasaki or in Auschwitz after the war.

A thought-provoking book that I recommend to anyone interested in the future of mankind.

The author of this article is an Associate Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science. 

 

 

Solutions COP21: Business and climate change

Of the largest 150 economic entities in the world 59% are not countries but corporations.  And when it comes to climate change, the private sector is largely responsible for the problem but also suffers its consequences – most importantly, business can play a central role in addressing the climate crisis by rapidly scaling up solutions for both mitigation and adaptation.

Solutions COP21

COP21_GrandPalais_NuitInnovation_4Dec15Over the last 18 months, “Solutions COP21”, led by the Comité 21, the Club France Développement Durable, Hopscotch Groupe and Alliantis communications, developed a platform to showcase business solutions to the public with existing products, services, processes and innovations (and more on the way) to fight climate change and its impacts.

During the COP, the Grand Palais in Paris became the showroom for leading corporations, entrepreneurs and local authorities to put on display their solutions. It also became a center for discussion and exchange on the role of private enterprise can play and how collaboration with other sectors can be improved.

Climate policy and enterprise risk management

IMG_20151204_155056That global warming is real and having serious impacts is no longer debated. Increasingly,  responding to this reality is becoming part public policy according to Anne Ged, Director General of the Agence Parisienne du Climat, adding that Paris has been working on its adaptation strategy since 2012. It is also increasingly part of the risk management processes at all levels. The French ministry of sustainable development assessed that a one-meter sea level rise would flood over 15,000 km of local roads across the Republic. Similarly in the private sector, Stefano Bonelli, senior consultant at the Environmental Resources Management consultancy (ERM), says that climate related risk management for corporations is one of their fastest growing business segments.

The urgent realities of climate change

For SNCF’s Director of sustainable Development, Christian Dubost, climate change  is already impacting its activities with extreme temperatures during heat waves deforming rails and igniting bushfires that result in delays and extra costs. He warns that by 2050, the  2003 heatwave will be the norm – a reality the SNCF is already preparing for now. Facing this future requires a better understanding of the challenges and improved cooperation between sectors. This is part of EPE’s (Entreprise pour L’Environnement) mandate, explains its Delegate General, Claire Tutenuit. We need platforms to share knowledge, experience and foster cross-sector cooperation, she adds. Such partnerships have allowed Veolia to recycle up to 98% of the water for industries in Durban, South Africa, benefiting industry and the environment explained Hélène Lebedeff, Director of Sustainable Development.

Partnering with nature

Leveraging ecosystem services by working collaboratively with nature can provide important co-benefits according to Philippe Thiévent, Director of CDC Biodiversité, explaining that we are only beginning to discover the value of wetlands as hotspots of biodiversity and their benefits in terms of water filtration, aquifer recharge and exceptional flood mitigation capacity. Harnessing such co-benefits can play an important role in mitigation and adaptation strategies and be very interesting from a social, environmental  but also from a business perspective.

Clearly an important consideration for business to become a force for good when it comes to climate action.

This article is based on the conference “Comment les entreprises s’adaptent aux dérèglements climatiques” organized on December 4, 2015, as part of SolutionsCOP21 at Le Grand Palais, Paris – Espace de conférence, by EPE (Entreprise pour L’Environnement). http://www.epe-asso.org

Participants: Agence Parisienne du Climat, Anne Ged, directrice générale, CDC Biodiversité, Philippe Thiévent, Directeur de CDC Biodiversité, ERM, Stefano Bonelli, consultant senior, Green Cross International, Adam Koniuszewski, Executive Director, SNCF, Christian Dubost, Directeur de l’environnement et du développement durable, Veolia, Hélène Lebedeff, Directrice adjointe du développement durable. The event was moderated by Claire Tutenuit, Entreprise pour l’Environnement. 

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

 

 

COP21 – La naissance de l’humanité

IMG_0188

Voici quelques réflexions de Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber, journaliste, écrivain et membre du conseil d’administration de Human Rights Watch, sur l’accord sur le climat annoncé le 12 Décembre au Bourget à Paris. Avec Jean-Louis et Corinne Lepage nous avons présenté la Déclaration des droits de l’Humanité durant la Conférence sur la Jeunesse (Conference on Youth – COY) qui a précédé les négociations sur le climat. ENGLISH VERSION

COP21 – La naissance de l’humanité

La mémoire des médias gardera cette scène de liesse au Bourget dès l’annonce de l’accord climatique à la COP21. Depuis les objections, critiques et analyses de ses insuffisances ne manquent pas. Elles étaient inévitables et beaucoup sont fondées.

Mais le plus important quand il s’agit de l’avenir de l’humanité ne pouvait pas être que rationnel. L’émotion collective, même fugace a offert au monde, les images de ce qui nous rend tous solidaires. Grâce au numérique, nous les reverrons encore et encore, pour que personne ne puisse oublier que ce qui nous lie est plus impératif que ce qui nous divise.

Pour transformer cet essai, il ne suffira pas, comme au rugby d’un coup de pied magique. Il faudra, des décennies durant, les efforts des militants, des gouvernants, des savants, des associations, des artistes. Mais, plus que tout de chaque nouvelle génération découvrant le monde dans lequel elle va devoir vivre.

Ce moment d’unanimité a donné existence à l’humanité, au-delà des nations, des croyances, des intérêts. On a senti, pendant quelques minutes combien cette petite flamme naissante, fragile, encore vacillante, nous était pour nous et nos enfants si infiniment précieuse.

L’émotion de ce final entre négociateurs épuisés et rayonnants s’est déjà inscrite patrimoine de l’humanité.

Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber