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Alain Boublil Blog


Glasgow : The lessons of a failure

Never-ending discussions between thousands of delegates of near two hundreds States and international organizations, a compromise text whose interpretation is confusing and vague commitments, so is the result of the COP 26. Yet, everything is not negative. This conference has shown a turnaround in the world public opinion and the skepticism about climate warming, about its causes and its consequences, has strongly retreated. No more major country, as during the Trump mandate, today dares to dispute the importance of the phenomenon and its challenges. But the track is long between the expressed intentions exposed by everyone, the conclusion of an agreement about the solutions and their put into practice. And the track is even longer to reach to an indisputable checking by the international community.

The main obstacle to a real agreement and it has not been overcome in Glasgow lays in the situation inequalities between the countries. There is first the historical point: the accumulations of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere which are at the origin of the climate warming; is not a recent phenomenon. It comes back to the beginning of the industrial era more than two centuries ago. So it is the developed countries which are the main responsible of it and even if the countries which have started their growth only some decades ago contributes more every year than the historical emitters, these countries will not accept to be considered as the only culprits.

Then there is an economic issue. Emerging countries have as an ambition to offer to their populations a level of life and a social protection which are nearing these which exist in developed countries. The adoption of restrictive measures regarding electricity consumption and production constitutes a brake if not an obstacle for these countries and it is an illusion to believe they will accept the principle of that under international agreements as the one the COP 26 had as a project to conclude. It is already important that a consensus exists and is validated about the necessity to fight against the climate warming. But to imagine that an agreement including the same track for every country, independently from its history and its current development level, was possible is even more an illusion. The lack of precise and significant results in Glasgow has just brought the confirmation of that. But tracks exist on which points of view can converge and it is important that, in the future, the debates will be concentrated on them.  

The first track on which collective commitments are easy to get is the electrification. The economic development as the new technologies need more and more power. So the stake is related to its production modes. All the countries have used coal to start their industrial revolution. So the case examined against emerging countries as India and China, which have turned to it, is unjustified. The debate and the commitments to be taken must be about the calendar, which would not be the same for everyone, of the transition toward less emitting production modes. There, natural gas has a strategic role. The American example is convincing. Thanks to the shale gas production increase, the U.S. for near ten years has succeeded in stabilizing and then in reducing its emissions. It is why the condemnation and the restrictions which accompany it regarding in the same time coal and natural gas, as they have been proposed at Glasgow, had no chance to receive an unanimous support and, atop of that, were counter-productive. To the opposite, the lack of commitments from countries like Germany and Poland regarding their utilization of coal and brown coal would much more merit to be denounced because they have at their disposal alternative solutions.

More slowly and with a much longer term, the dissociation between economic development and energy consumption can occur, but there too with very different rhythms between the countries. The mobility electrification will depend from the progress made on the vehicles autonomy and the adaptation of the power network to the recharging needs. Private buildings isolation will be even slower because the investments to be done carry high costs and with a very low return of the investments. Regarding public buildings, they have never been in the developed countries a priority and it is quite regrettable.

On a longer term, nuclear power and the installation in the dams of equipments able to pump water to stock it in order to have a power production more consistent with consumers demand, must be privileged. Renewable, before a very long time, because they are intermittent and because, due to their occupation of the territories, they will face a growing hostility, except in the countries with large desert zones, would not constitute a panacea. The announcements effects with big production capacities are not any more convincing anyone. In fact, we need, due to their intermittent character, three times more capacities for wind farms and until eight times more for solar panels than for a classical power plant to cope with demand. And the current economic and sanitary crisis shows to which point the power security is a major necessity.

France, in this context, is looking like a good pupil, to the displeasure to these who have a persistent preference for the perpetual denigration. Our greenhouse gas emissions per inhabitant are among the lowest in the world and our power production plants guarantee the country both with the safety and with the lowest cost of its power supply thanks to nuclear power. But the plants are ageing. Investments to prorogate their life duration are indispensable but they won’t be enough. It is why the announcement of the construction of new plants is justified and welcomed. But we don’t have to lose time and to fall into procrastination. Our power production can also contribute, on an economically base, to satisfy the needs of our neighbors.

France, for six months is beating records for its power exports, both in quantity (23,7GWh during the 3rd quarter, i.e. the double of the average of the previous years) and in value : during the last two months, the financial balance reached a surplus of 1.4 billion euro, i.e. more than during the full 2020 year. A power line with a 700 MW capacity to supply Ireland is currently under study and would allow to increasing even more France exports. At last, the current environment affecting the natural gas market has not had consequences until now on France supply. At the end of September, the inventories level to cope with winter was 140 GWh, as in 2020 and 15% above the last ten years average.

The lesson to be drawn from Glasgow is that, now, regarding climate, this kind of international conference has no use, except to provide political leaders with a stage where they are valorized toward their public opinions. It would be much more judicious to organize every year an international ceremony where would be awarded congratulations based on concrete and checked realizations, to the leaders of the selected countries.

The prospect to obtain a prize would constitute an incentive to conduct actions in favor of the climate much stronger than to participate to the redaction of documents which will be read by nobody. Maybe France would then receive the fruits of its efforts


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