Speech by French Ambassador at IIT Gandhinagar

Leveraging the climate change challenge: new technologies and opportunities for sustainable growth, Speech by H.E. Mr. François Richier, Ambassador of France to India at IIT Gandhinagar

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Speech by H.E. Mr. François Richier, Ambassador of France to India at IIT Gandhinagar

- To download the copyright free images of the event, visit Flickr page of the French Embassy.

Gandhinagar, 25 March 2015

1) Climate change is a challenge and a threat to economic development

As far as science is concerned, the old “climate scepticism” is no longer an option. The last IPCC (Integovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report released last November confirmed that climate change – or rather “climate disruption” – is an obvious threat. And we must all thank Dr Pachauri, Chairman of the IPCC, for his magnificent leadership on this. The scientific community has done its job. Now, governments, local authorities, the business community, and the civil society, need to act.

Climate change is a developmental challenge. As the President of the World Bank put it, “If we don’t confront climate change, we won’t end poverty”. This is why it is very relevant to link the subject of climate change with the discussions that are being held at the UN on sustainable development goals. The climate threat constrains possible development paths, and sufficiently disruptive climate change could preclude any prospect for a sustainable future. Thus, a stable climate is one constituent of sustainable development.

2) What is, in this context, the aim and the purpose of COP21?

France will host the COP 21. I remember when France was chosen – the choice was made easier by the fact that we were the only candidate. And many people came to us to tell “good luck”.

Negotiations among 195 countries on such an essential matter are a challenge. Achieving an outcome that can genuinely be considered a success will require a shift in our economic models toward low-carbon pathways. And, we all know that it will require strong political leadership and a collective spirit of responsibility and solidarity.
So far as the Presidency is concerned, we want to be transparent, impartial and ambitious.

We will make sure that every voice is heard. This agreement should be an agreement among all and for all.

This agreement will need to be ambitious and respond to the scientific call for urgent action.

And equally, it will need to fully take into account each country’s right to development. An agreement that would lead some countries to consider their growth hampered by its provisions would not be acceptable.

What do we propose to achieve in Paris?

Four pillars:

  • The first one – a major one - is a universal and differentiated agreement, that demonstrates that we are taking action today and that we shall take additional strong measures in the long term to achieve our common objective of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius. And we hope that we shall be able to agree on the major issues even before Paris.
  • Second, national contributions by each country. We hope that they will be announced as early as possible, so that we may gain a full and shared understanding of where we really stand.
  • Third, a financial package. No significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved without equitable access to sustainable development. The initial capitalization of the Green Climate Fund amounting to over 10 billion dollars is a first step. But beyond that, we need increased financing from both public and private sources to reach 100 billion dollars a year starting from 2020, while shifting investments from high-carbon to low-carbon technologies and activities.
  • Fourth, besides governments, we want the COP 21 to gather all initiatives from other stakeholders – private businesses, local and regional entities, and civil society. We call on private companies and businesses to contribute to this “Agenda of Solutions”.

3) Opportunities

We must change the way we grow while maintaining the same endeavour and the same ambition on poverty alleviation, which is at the core of the sustainable development goals. Finding new drivers of growth is key, be it in India or in Europe. It is clear that innovation and new technologies are the only drivers of growth in the long term. At the same time, we need to keep in mind that not acting against climate change has costs. These costs are becoming higher and higher.

As Prime Minister Modi recently said, global awareness on climate change is an opportunity to improve the quality of life of our citizens. This is valid for developing countries as well as for developed countries. We must change the way we consume and move towards sustainable consumption. Let me take a commonplace example. In France, we have decided to completely phase out plastic bags by 2020. This sounds simple but actually requires a lot of changes in daily habits.

There is a very close link between climate action and economic development. The agreement that we hope to reach in Paris at the end of the year is by no means an anti-development agreement. An agreement that would lead some countries to consider their growth hampered by its provisions is not, in my view, a satisfying agreement. France will not support any proposal that would aim at lowering the growth prospect of any country. The world needs growth, both in developed and in developing countries.

This is where technologies are keys to the global endeavour on climate change. The way forward, indeed, is to ensure a sustainable growth which creates wealth, jobs, social progress. Climate disruption is not only a threat and a burden. It is a source of opportunities as well. Just as fossil fuels yesterday enabled our economies to develop, technology will tomorrow ensure a new cycle of sustainable growth and development. India is in a position to put itself at the edge of innovation leading to a fast growing economy that produces more with a lesser carbon footprint and pollution.

India has already made tremendous efforts to adapt to and mitigate climate change. This must be acknowledged, bolstered and actively supported. I am impressed with the efforts that have been made. The development of renewable energy, especially wind, hydro and solar energy, has been remarkable. The targets set by the new government are ambitious. India is already the world’s fifth largest wind energy producer. Efforts are also being made to achieve energy efficiency. India might become a leader in renewable energy in the near future, especially in solar energy.

Sadly, nuclear energy has not yet followed the same trend. For a fast-growing industrial country, nuclear energy is and will remain a valid option. This focus on nuclear and other renewable energies is the most appropriate mix to address energy requirements in a low-carbon economy. It also contributes to the goals of energy security and autonomy. Indeed, France shares similar objectives. The instability in oil- and gas-producing areas and fuel price volatility have shown us the associated risks: inflation and lower growth rates.

It is well known that power generation in India will remain based primarily on domestic coal in the near future. It is therefore of utmost importance for the world that India rapidly expands its renewable and nuclear power production, along with energy efficiency, to make her future growth as carbon neutral as possible.

For her part, France has embarked on a large-scale environmental transition. France is today among the industrial economies with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions, both per inhabitant and per unit of GDP. In order to continue on this path, we have set ourselves the target of reducing our emissions by one-fourth by 2050. This outcome has been achieved by sourcing a high proportion of electricity – the cheapest in Europe – from nuclear energy and hydropower. We will continue to increase the share of renewables in our energy mix and reduce dependency on imported fuel. France also holds a good performance record in energy efficiency.

4) France and India. What we do and what we could do together

I see at least five areas of possible concrete cooperation between France and India, using our long-standing bilateral cooperation in the field of new technologies:

  • Cooperation on carbon-free energy, with particular stress on new technologies. For instance, in Normandy, France is developing off-shore wind energy. We are also working on ocean thermal energy conversion, a technology we are ready to experiment with India.
  • Developing our partnership on civilian nuclear energy: Nuclear energy provides carbon-free electricity to meet the growing Indian demand. France, with its cutting-edge technology, is committed to deepening its partnership with India in this field, with the highest safety standards.
  • Water: Prime Minister Modi is committeed to cleaning up the Ganges and other rivers of India. The Indo-French Water Network – established exactly two years ago – could facilitate exchanges. The conservation of Himalayan ecology is another example of our shared agenda.
  • Urban development: We are ready to share technology and know-how to make existing or new Indian cities greener and more energy efficient.
  • Space: the Indo-French satellites launched in 2011 and 2013 are helping us gain a better understanding of climate change and its consequences on ocean, coastal areas and monsoons. We stand ready to expand this cooperation.

Private companies have a central role to play here, by providing capital and technologies. Indian and French companies already have substantial cooperation in key sectors like energy, water and transport. Some of the leading French companies in these sectors accompany me for this visit. They have solutions for India and most of them have already built up a strong partnership with India and made an important contribution for our common endeavour.

5) Higher education cooperation

Higher education cooperation, which is important to build capacity in the long term to effectively address climate change. I am happy to see that IIT Gandhinagar itself has decided to take proactive steps on this subject, with a new campus which I heard will be eco-friendly.

France and India have a long-standing cooperation on higher education. There are more than 400 tie ups between French and Indian institutions of higher learning. Among those, more than 30 joint degree and twinning programmes. 3057 Indian students are enrolled in courses in France in the year 2014, a 15% increase from the previous year.

Science and technology are amongst the fields most sought after by Indians studying in France. More than 800 hundred programmes are taught in English in France (MBAs, Msc in engineering etc.).

Development of green technologies will be keys for the years to come. Countries are already competing between each other to develop the most efficient technologies, be it for fossil fuels (energy efficiency of coal power plants for example, which an imperative for countries like India) or renewables.

France has a number of high level higher education institutions having set up degrees on sustainable development and green technologies. This is because we believe that green technologies will be amongst the most efficient drivers of growth in the long term.

Furthermore, Paris was recently voted the best student city in the world in the 2012, 2013 and 2014 in QS ranking.

Campus France is the official French government agency in charge of promoting French Higher education. Indian Students who are curious about what France has on offer, or who have already found your institution of choice, may go to one of the 10 Campus France desks located throughout India will help you find out about courses, and complete your application and visa formalities. There is one desk in Ahmedabad.

To sum-up, I have four key messages:

  • 1. Climate change is happening right now; India knows it best of all, there is no need to lecture India on what it faces;
  • 2. There are solutions. The conference that France will organize in Paris at the end of the year aims at bringing together those solutions, be it from governments, of course, but also businesses, academics, experts, scientists.
  • 3. Innovation and technologies not only help us to effectively address the issue of climate change but are also key drivers of growth.
  • 4. Cooperation in higher education is important: we need to build the capacity to face the challenges of climate change in the future. This capacity-building process is happening, be it in Europe or India. France is ready to partner with and to accompany India on this endeavour.

Last modified on 09/04/2015

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