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Interview with Bertrand Piccard

How can new technologies be reconciled with the need to control the development and growth?

Bertrand PICCARD, doctor-psychiatrist and aeronaut, has successfully completed the 1st round-the-world tour by balloon without stopover and then with the
Solar Impulse aeroplane. President of the foundation humanitarian Winds of Hope and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, he shares here his vision of an ecology compatible with innovation.

- What is the technical difference between yesterday's and today's ecology?

Until recently, technological solutions to protect the environment were very expensive and were therefore not implemented because they generated too many reluctance. The guiding idea was to decrease mobility, comfort, growth, the consumption... And it wasn't very popular! We then tried to reconcile ecology and growth, but without success because in the past, solar energy, electric mobility house insulation was too expensive... Industry and ecology were not good cleaning.Today, most of these technologies have become not only affordable, but most are profitable. The price of solar energy has been divided by ten, as is the price of wind energy. All the new technologies of mobility, home insulation, heating, air conditioning, lighting, smartgrid, distribution, have, broadly speaking, become profitable.

- Isn't growth the opposite of what should be done?

It depends on what you mean by that. A growth that would use more and more natural resources in order to have more and more disposable objects, it is obviously impossible. But economic growth, based on quality and not quantity, it would be to replace what is polluting, inefficient, wastes energy, water, and natural resources, through efficient, energy and resource-efficient systems that use little energy and raw materials. And this is the industrial market of the century!Introduce smart-grid infrastructures that enable a city to be carbon neutral rather than wasting all the energy it consumes, it is cost-effective. Having mobility electric, it's profitable. If you look at the whole chain, you can see that a lot of things allow us to transform and improve what we have, without having more, but better. And that financially is profit and it's jobs. I work with my foundation solar Impulse on this type of solution.

- For example?

If we just take combustion cars, one of our members has proposed a box which contains a liquid that is mounted against the engine of the car. This box electrolysis of the liquid to put some hydrogen into the combustion chamber of the which improves combustion and reduces particles by 80% and engine emissions by 20% fuel consumption. In my opinion, this is a breakthrough technology, which enables enormously improve what exists, even without immediately switching to the car electric. This can reduce particle emissions in the city by 80%. It is very profitable.

- So we're changing the paradigm?

For me, the big change is that environmental protection has become the industrial market of the century. The fact that we believe in human origin for the climate change, or that one does not believe in it, whether or not one has respect for environment, empathy, or not, for humanity, does not change the fact that these technologies will protect the environment and that they are cost-effective. And even climate change deniers can adopt them, because it is an economic advantage. And I could give you other examples. An industrial process that makes it possible to produce stainless steel with 99% less water, and 91% cheaper!Desalination sea water with solar energy. Storing heat in blocks of ceramics, to transport it where it will be useful. There is also the seawater air conditioning, where water is collected at a depth of900m at 5°C, to be assembled in the surface, passing air through this water to cool hotels or hospitals and we put the water back in the ocean: the trick is done and it does not change the temperature of the ocean water, but on the other hand saves a lot of energy for the air conditioned. In a big hotel in French Polynesia it saves one million euro per year, and it costs four and a half million euros to manufacture, so in four years and half is refunded. These are examples of qualitative growth.

- It is still necessary to have confidence and it seems that this one is rather eroded…

I think we are right to lose confidence. The leaders of this world do not inspire no trust. Large companies today do not inspire confidence. And this is a of their major challenges than to build anew vision and explain it. If leaders political, economic or industrial, dare to take this step, they will become heroes. For at the moment, they are rather considered as parasites... And this is what makes the bed of the populisms.

- How can this inertia be overcome?

You won't change everyone at the same time, but you can introduce some change in certain companies or countries. Take Sweden for example, it has introduced a carbon tax of €35 per tonne. At first the industry screamed to death by warning of the loss of competitiveness that this would entail. Today, thanks to this carbon tax, Swedish export industry is more competitive than before. Because this carbon tax has forced them to use new technologies. Yesterday I was inVienna at a big conference called "How to use new technologies cutting-edge technologies to reindustrialise Europe? "I would point out that research is fantastic and that the EuropeanCommission is doing a lot; but once there are patents, these inventions do not pass into the public domain, finally they do not reach the market and are not used.

- Why ?

A need must be created to bring these innovations to the market. And it can only be regulatory, legislative. If there is a CO2 tax, CO2 takes on a value, so the CO2-related technologies will develop. In addition, there is an obligation to be more efficient in terms of heating, air conditioning, engine... But if there is no CO2 tax, nobody is going to do it. Therefore, if we really want to re industrialise Europe and to help companies with inventions to break through, a framework is needed to help which includes very ambitious environmental targets and regulatory policies, which include very ambitious energy efficiency targets.

- But how to reconcile the development of appropriate technologies and the protection of the environment?

A regulatory framework must be established that maintains a balance. You cannot prevent people from travelling by plane. With a paraffin tax, insignificant on the ticket price, you restore the balance. If someone wants to go shopping in Barcelona rather than in Geneva, he may well pay a tax of 3 or 4 Swiss francs paraffin on his EasyJet ticket. As long as this is not done, CO2 is added in the atmosphere without adding the means to remove this CO2. If you have a tax the use of this carbon tax can be used to lower the carbon tax rate of CO2 in the atmosphere to develop solar power plants instead of fossil fuel power plants coal. There will be funding to do this. In the end, technology is what that we make it count. The same technology can destroy a city or turn it into a electricity. The same technology can be used to monitor people with artificial intelligence or finding missing people. So it is at the same time a social development factor or a dictatorial surveillance factor. It depends on of what we do with them.

- And who do you think is moving in the right direction?

Those who have cost-effective solutions for environmental protection. From here, politicians must take over, to impose standards - I am sorry to say this, but it is the legal framework that will change the situation - and then the finance, that they understand that it is absolutely profitable to invest in it. Because that when you have investments in fossil fuels, and you know that a share in an oil company is worth 100 - I take a figure like that - because that there is a number of reserves worth 100, and that we learn that these reserves do not will never be used completely because there will be carbon taxes, there will be solar and wind energy much cheaper than oil, that there will be a electric mobility, that there will be energy efficiency in buildings. Well what does that mean? It means that there will never be 100% of the oil reserves that will be used. We're going to stop long before the oil has been used completely. Therefore, if the company is valued at 100because it has reserves to 100, but that we will only use 30% of these reserves, well, that means that the shares will fall from 100 to 30. This will make the worst financial crisis, the most severe, the most major stock market crisis in the history of mankind. How do we avoid this? Well, oil companies need to diversify, they need to diversify, they need to diversify, they need to diversify, invest in energy efficiency and all renewable energy sources, in all the new technologies, to have alternative sources and assets that are worth something. Today, oil companies have rotten assets.Like subprimes in 2008. And when the population realises this, if they realise it counts quickly, it will make the stock market crisis. If oil companies have time to retrain, there will be no financial crisis. So we can see that even to save the financial system today, it is absolutely necessary to encourage these energy companies to enter into the logic of renewable energies. It is for their survival. But when you tell them that, they laugh. Except that all of a sudden their actions will be worth 30% less than they are worth today. So it's a stock market problem a lot more than an environmental problem, which should push them to diversify. You know, it there are always horses. But those who had carriage companies in the cities have still had to realise that we've moved on to the car. Well with oil it will be exactly the same. There will always be oil. There will always be a niche that will use oil, but we are moving on. It's a trend. It's a trend that we will not stop. So, either we oppose it and end up like Kodak. Or else, we embraces change and we do asLG did, divesting ourselves of the fossil for the sake of invest in energy efficiency services to their customers. This is how they win. It's a new business model where you earn a lot more by sellingless, because we are more efficient. And it is this value that pays off.

- Isn't that cynicism?

This is pragmatism. You can't change the world with good intentions. You don't change the world by saying that nature is beautiful and must be protected. Because many people don't care about nature, many people have wages to pay to the at the end of the month, they have quarter reports to provide to stock analysts, and if they do not don't, they get fired or their company disappears or their business suffers. So, we must give solutions to these people. They are the ones who change the world. A lot more than the housewife who goes to buy her fruit at the market.

- When did you become aware of this?

My father had the same message for the protection of the environment. But to his at the time, there was no cost-effective solution. And as a result, no one was following its advice. And it was when I saw how far we were getting into the wall, that I understood the need for a paradigm shift.And changing the paradigm of protection of the environment is to make it profitable. In 2002, when I started working with the on Solar Impulse, I have also started to publish the first articles on the cost effectiveness of environmental protection. This was fundamental. We made fun of me: "You're starting to make environmental capitalism, but the Greens are not to make money, they are there to save the planet. "But you won't save the planet if it costs you money. You will save the planet if it brings you money. And in fact, since 2002, I have been trying to show how much this protection of the environment can be profitable. I try to speak the language of those we want to convince.

Interview by Bogomil Kohlbrenner

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