French Ambassador’s speech at the climate change conference by ASSOCHAM

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New Delhi, 18 June 2015

As you may know, France will host a global conference on climate change at the end of the year, with the aim of achieving a global agreement to maintain the elevation of temperature below 2°C by 2100. This is the target set by the scientific community within the framework of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

Climate disruption might though be a better term to describe what is happening worldwide and what India is experiencing this year: heat waves and a prospect of a deficient monsoon. It is heartening to notice that the debate with climate-skeptics is now over: such extreme weather events clearly show that climate change is there and that we have to act, globally and locally.

This issue was one of the topics of discussion of the visit to France of Prime Minister Modi in April. We have an understanding of the challenges of climate change, the necessity to act at the global level and, above all, to find concrete solutions to address the issue while ensuring economic and social development.

I choose a particular angle to address this topic with you: the role of the business sector. Private corporates hold part of the solutions to tackle the issue of climate disruption in an efficient and sustainable way. For a part, private businesses are in the real world, which may be, sometimes, far from what is happening and decided in a negotiating room.

1. Climate change is a challenge and a threat to economic development. What is, in this context, the aim and the purpose of COP21?

- France has its own views on the matter. We think that we have to act. We have a specific situation in terms of carbon emissions. We will be chair of COP21. We have a specific status. We do not act as France, we act as the chair. We will be impartial, opened to everyone’s views. Our role is to help shaping the final result. We try to find the good solutions and examples, everywhere there are. We stimulate the debate. This is the reason why I am here.

- What would be the shape of the agreement we aim at reaching at the end of the year, without prejudice of the undergoing negotiation?

  • 1. A universal and differentiated agreement. Key element. It cannot be a “one size fits all” agreement. We should aim at capping the temperature raise to below 2°C. Beyond that, the consequences will be very difficult to cope with.
  • 2. National contributions: all countries have to provide their national commitment to limit carbon emissions and to adapt to climate change and requirements in technologies and finance. They will be compiled before COP21. To date, nearly 40 countries have submitted their contributions - that is, their commitments in terms of reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to climate change.
  • 3. Financial package: it is clear that developing countries will need financial support. A Green Climate Fund has been established to this aim. It will be constituted by contributions from developed countries. There is more than 10 billion in the fund. France, along with Germany and some other countries, has already translated its commitment (1 billion dollars) into actual disbursement to the GCF so it can be operational as soon as possible.
  • 4 Contributions from other stakeholders: scientists, subnational entities, NGOs, civil society; and of course, decisively, the corporate sector, which could contribute to produce solutions and put new ideas – if possible out of the box ideas – on the table, including technological ones.

2. Tackling climate change is compatible with economic development. They go hand-in-hand.

- It is not about pro-development and pro-environment fighting against each other. There are a lot of benefits to draw from a strong agreement in Paris at the end of the year. Coping with climate change will be an engine for growth. Something is already moving: companies are investing in green businesses and technologies, like in the solar industry. Public opinions are moving as well. If we want to address the issue of poverty, we need to take into account the issue of climate change.

- Energy is key. India has set itself ambitious targets in terms of renewable energy. Prime Minister Modi announced 100 GW of solar by 2022 which is very relevant to tap India’s potential in this sector. French corporates are ready to pursue their contributions to this endeavour, as well as in other renewable energy sources such as wind and hydro.

- Nuclear energy technologies are part of the solutions. Prime Minister Modi described nuclear energy as a key element of India’s clean energy strategy. It represents 11% of global energy production. 1GW of nuclear energy avoids 6.5 million tons of C02 emissions per year. Recourse to nuclear energy worldwide has prevented the emission of 1,6 billion tons of CO2 in 2013. The contribution of nuclear energy in the energy output of India is relatively low today (4% roughly), but is set to increase, with the government’s plans to triple the installed nuclear capacity within the next 10 years. Nuclear energy cannot be ruled out for an industrial country. France has confirmed its commitment to the nuclear option, which, today, provides 75% of its electricity production). The cost of electricity in France is half of what it is in Germany. France is the country which has the less carbon emissions amongst western developed countries, and among the cheapest electricity in Europe, and probably beyond.

- There are fears about nuclear energy. Ruling out the use of a technology because there is a risk is irrelevant and inconsistent with any scientific thinking. All new technologies are associated with a risk. Even coal represents a risk: people are dying in the mines and by the pollutants emitted by coal based power plants. How many people have actually died because of nuclear energy? Very little, and certainly far less than those who are working in coal mines. The role of science and technology is to reduce the risks and to find solutions if the risks do materialize.

- In India, coal will remain an important part of the energy mix. There are risks associated with this, but we can find solution to address these risks. If coal based power plants are to be built in India – and this is the case and will remain the case for a long time, at least technology should provide solutions to address and reduce these risks.

- In France, we are undertaking an energy transition. We are entering in a new phase and we are investing in new renewable technologies, including cutting edge technologies in the solar and wind sectors. We also aim at reducing our dependence to imported fossil fuels. In the long run, that will rebalance our energy mix, we will have more renewables that will replace fossil fuels.

- Coping with climate change necessitates a change in the daily habits of people as well, particularly in the West. We need self-limitation in terms of consumption. This applies to energy efficiency for example. In France, we decided to ban plastic bag completely by 2016. That will be a big change in the habits of shoppers.

- Climate change and economic development: the agreement at the end of the year is being negotiated as a pro-growth agreement. I will give you three examples on the link between coping with climate change and ensuring economic development and growth:

  • 1. PM Modi wants to develop ‘Make in India’ with, in his own words “zero defect, zero effect”. This is very important: it is a completely different view on economic growth. It is about a different path of growth compared to what has been done in developed countries since the industrial revolution or in China for that matter.
  • 2. ‘Make in India’ implies that one should produce nearby customers. If you produce goods far away, and transportation creates an additional burden on climate change.
  • 3. Tourism is an important aspect as well. India has a huge potential in this respect. France is the first destination of tourists in the world (more than 80 million people every year). Tourists won’t come if a country looks polluted. A clean country is an attractive country. Some companies are taking initiatives in this regard. ITC Hotels are shaped to be environmental-friendly in their activities.

3) Private businesses have a key role to play.

- Until recently, action against climate change was trapped in a sort of vicious circle: many businesses were waiting for political decisions before taking action, while governments, for their part, were waiting for a mobilization of the private sector.

- Many businesses now include climate action in their long-term strategy and their daily activities, including in India. Major corporates have taken ambitious actions in this regard: the ITC Group, Hindustan Construction Company, notably. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a key element as well.

- The efforts made by businesses - along with those made by cities, regions and civil society - are obviously no replacement for the crucial measures that must be taken by states, whose action is decisive, but they will strengthen these measures. The central - and fair - idea is that governments should not be the only ones combating climate disruption.

- Private companies have the investment capacity and they own technologies needed to make growth sustainable. They have some of the solutions we need to tackle climate change effectively. There is a long-term interest for private businesses to build on sustainable growth. They are central to creating wealth and jobs. At the global level, governments need to send a clear signal to private businesses on their commitment to provide a positive and stable business environment. We ask all stakeholders to gather their ideas and initiatives for them to be showcased in Paris at the end of the year.

- I would encourage the private sector to speak up on the issue of climate disruption. One of the issues in the climate change debate is that stakeholders do not talk between them. The crowd that is attending Davos every year is not speaking to the climate activits, the NGOs or the think tanks.

- As Prime Minister Modi recently said, global awareness on climate change is an opportunity to improve the quality of life of our citizens. We must change the way we consume and move towards sustainable consumption. This sounds simple but actually requires a lot of changes in daily habits.

- France, as chair of the climate conference, is convinced that a large number of public and private stakeholders are ready to commit, in specific ways, to building a more sustainable world. The time for climate action has therefore come, and businesses need to play their full part.

Last modified on 19/06/2015

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