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The gravity of the climate situation is quite obvious

H.E. François Hollande, during his time as French President, committed USD 1 billion towards UN’s Green Climate Fund to reduce the impact of climate change. A year later, in 2015, he brought in the Energy Transition Law to reduce France’s dependence on nuclear power. Hollande spoke to Susannah Streeter, Anchor for the BBC, during the World Green Economy Summit, which took place on October 24 and 25 in Dubai. Excerpts from the on-stage interaction, presented by Surendar Balakrishnan…

| | Dec 4, 2018 | 2:42 pm
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Susannah Streeter: It is three years now since the Paris Agreement. How far have we come?
François Hollande: In December 2015, we gathered in Paris. It has been three years, and we have become aware of how serious and how urgent the climate situation is. There have been a large number of disasters that have happened in the past few years. Tornadoes and flooding, and all continents have been impacted, and if there were any doubts anywhere, these doubts, I don’t think, exist anymore. The gravity of the climate situation is quite obvious. Regarding the climate agreement, all the countries have made a commitment within the framework of the Paris Agreement, but have they followed through? My answer is ‘no’. They have not complied fully. This despite the fact that a consensus was reached to take decisions. Have we reduced CO2 emissions? In the past two years, the emissions have increased, which have had a disastrous effect. Are these commitments being followed through? I believe China has carried out what I can only call a revolution within its economy, and China is trying its best to meet its commitments.
Another continent that is doing its utmost is Europe. Some continue to use coal, others are using renewable energy. Europe has taken a very important decision relating to renewable energy. In Dubai, there is a demonstration that there is a will to create a green economy. Finally, the USA has decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which is a disaster. Its impact has not been felt yet but will be felt in the future. Even within the USA, many states and towns have continued to increase their efforts to fight climate change, and many companies have implemented standards and norms, which means there will be a strategy to limit emissions.

What has France done?
France organised the Climate Summit. France has a very specific mix. With the presence of nuclear energy, France believes in the reduction of [the use of] fossil fuels. We have decided to close down coal facilities, and those initiatives have to be launched in other countries, as well. Many countries have decided to reduce their use of coal, which is the most polluting and the most widely used fossil fuel. France wants to set an example by closing down coal by 2020 at the latest. Regarding renewable energy, the example of Dubai is very interesting. On renewable energy, we must reach one third of energy mix with renewable energy. Nuclear energy does not produce CO2 emissions. There could be nuclear waste, but we want to reduce fossil fuels. The reduction of energy consumption is important. The best energy is what we don’t consume.

Hulot [former French Minister of Ecology] said France wants to reduce nuclear energy by 50% by 2025. This has been dubbed unrealistic. And furthermore, jobs are threatened by this.
France gets 70% of its electricity from nuclear energy. In the world, nuclear energy represents 10% of energy production. So, France has a very significant nuclear energy programme. Under my presidency, we decided to reduce by 50% by 2025. Given the larger share of nuclear energy, it may have been difficult to make an effort on renewable energy.
In Dubai, there is one source of energy here – gas and oil – so, one may not be tempted to make an effort on renewable energy. In France, nuclear energy is majority.
One kW/hour of nuclear energy compared to renewable energy is more or less the same. So, it is important to reduce the share of nuclear energy.
What is the timeline… 2025, 2030, 2035? If you wait too long, we won’t be able to do much on renewable energy. We need to reduce nuclear energy in France’s energy mix. France believes that it is important to have nuclear energy in the energy mix, because it allows us to generate electricity and does not produce C02 emissions, so it contributes to our goals to reduce climate change.

You said in South Korea that richer countries need to do more. Do you see improvement?
During the Paris Agreement, we saw some goals. One of them was the reduction of temperature increase by two degrees centigrade to avoid reaching levels that would be unsustainable. We reached 1.5 degrees centigrade. Each country came up with a strategy to reduce, and we have reached 1.5.
We arrived at a figure of USD 1,000 billion to make this transition happen. This fund has not been put in place. Therefore, during COP 24, which will take place in Poland, southern countries will probably voice their disappointment about the lack of this fund. The richest countries understand what is at stake. If they do not make the contribution, the developing countries will follow the same model of the developed countries, which will have a disastrous impact on the climate. So, it is very important that developed countries take into account that they are accountable for the creation of necessary funds, so we can help developing countries in a sustainable manner.

How can developing countries contribute to mitigating climate change?
There is a fund. In our own interest, developing countries ought to develop their technologies. Thanks to the green economy, developing countries can offer a new model to go faster on development without exploitation of their natural resources. We need to create more electricity, and we can create all those networks that are more efficient. In rich counties, they will have to change their entire model of construction. All modes of transportation will also have to be changed to follow this vision of saving energy. We have to innovate in road traffic. The car-sharing mindset is important. Cars will not be used in cities and people will have to rely on public transportation. Public opinion agrees to this.


Surendar Balakrishnan is the Editor of Climate Control Middle East magazine, and Co-Founder and Editorial Director of CPI Industry. He may be contacted at surendar@cpi-industry.com

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