Word from the experts
Jean-Louis Borloo, French Minister of State for Energy, Ecology and Sustainable Development
What is your assessment of the Copenhagen summit?
Copenhagen was an important first step. For the first time, all of the world’s major nations, including China, the United States, India, Brazil and the European Union, participated in a common process to combat climate change. For the first time, all Heads of States and governments agreed to limit the temperature increases to 2°C, in line with the recommendations formulated by the IPCC scientists. For the first time, the developed countries have made clear, long-term financial commitments in favor of the most vulnerable countries. France wants to build upon this momentum to launch new initiatives, including the meeting of forest countries on March 11, 2010. We are also actively preparing for the next meetings in Bonn in June 2010 and Mexico in December 2010, roll out the Fast Start process to immediately start financing cooperation projects in the most vulnerable countries, etc. In short, the battle for future generations has only just begun.
Why should businesses get involved?
All economists will tell you: tomorrow, the most competitive companies will be the most carbon- and energy-efficient businesses. Behaviours are changing. Over the past two years we have implemented several major incentive programs to orient consumers towards the most energy-efficient products: continuance and extension of the sustainable development tax credit, introduction of the interest-free ‘eco-loan’ to finance private individuals’ energy efficiency renovations, with 75,000 such eco-loans already signed in less than one year, creation of a ‘green bonus’ on cars, greening of all programs to assist home ownership, etc. Finally, as part of the multi-party ‘Grenelle’ environmental conference, France has invested heavily in a new growth model, i.e. green growth, based on carbon- and energy-efficiency. Remember that the ‘Grenelle’ environmental conference has laid down plans for nearly 440 billion euros of investment and 600,000 jobs by 2020, in green growth sectors: building efficiency, renewable energies, carbon capture and storage, smart grid, carbon-neutral vehicles, batteries and energy storage, green chemicals, etc. We are currently in the process of structuring the French economy, branch by branch, to bring the players together and quickly position France in these emerging sectors. Tomorrow’s economic battle will play out over the next two to three years.
What do you expect from this International Year of Biodiversity?
The aim is to engage all players – businesses, government services, local authorities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and community organizations – on another major front, which attracts less attention but is critical for our future: the protection of plant and animal species. According to scientists, the rate of extinction of species is currently 100 to 1000 times higher than the normal rate. One-third of the known species are threatened and 60% of the ecosystems have been seriously damaged over the past 50 years. It is high time, to quote astrophysicist Hubert Reeves, to do something about the planet’s sufferings, that is the source of profound discontentment. Throughout 2010, we are going to increase efforts nationally and internationally. We have plans to develop a new maritime strategy, create a High Agency for Nature, launch a major plan to restore contiguous habitats, purchase more than 11.200 acres of wetland in the Camargue region, and much more. We are also going to fight, during the next Governing Council meeting of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), on February 24-26 in Bali, to set up an international group of experts on biodiversity as already exists on climate change. In short, human beings must realize that their fate is inextricably linked to the fate of all other living species.