Interview with Philippe Charlez*
04 April 2019
At the last Zero Carbon Club event, which was attended by investors in our Carbon Impact Global fund, we were delighted to interview Philippe Charlez, an energy expert at the Institut Sapiens with some striking opinions on the links between growth, energy and the climate. We took the opportunity of his visit to interview him, and you will find his main comments below.
Last December’s COP24 in Katowice was considered a failure. Three years after the enthusiasm of COP21, progress seems to have stalled.
Why so much reticence and difficulty?
I would call it "Flop 24" rather than COP24 given that nothing was decided. I would even say that we’ve taken a step back since Brazil has taken the decision not to host the COP25 next year. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, COP21 may be compared to a framework agreement without an annex. It is a catalogue of good intentions but without a precise programme. The second big problem is the wrangle between rich and poor countries. The greatest need for an energy transition is in poor countries, which consume most of the world’s coal and 60% of its oil, while the rich countries have the resources. Will the rich countries agree to fund the poor countries? I doubt it, and this is clearly a major obstacle.
The energy transition is not only about electricity. What other sectors do you think are essential to reducing greenhouse gas emissions?
Naturally, when we talk about energy transition, we think of it in terms of electricity and the transition to renewables, whereas there are many other crucial factors. At the top of that list, I would put transport, where 92% of the energy used is oil. Next would come homes, which consume considerable amounts of energy. Renovating homes to stop them leaking energy like a sieve could save vast amounts of energy.
What do you think will be the main issues concerning energy in next May’s European elections?
Behind energy, I would say that nationalism will be one of the biggest issues in the European elections. As for the energy transition, there are three key areas: energy security, the environment and the whole economic side of things. In terms of these three key areas, nationalism will only be interested in the economic aspects and energy security, at the climate’s expense. Nationalism can therefore be considered a major threat to the energy transition. To my mind, the more the election results favour nationalism, the less progress we will see in the energy transition in Europe.
* Philippe Charlez is an energy expert at Institut Sapiens. His latest book is called "Croissance, énergie, climat: Dépasser la quadrature du siècle".