May 17, 2021

"It is vital that Europe is now resisting the fight against climate change" | Society

"It is vital that Europe is now resisting the fight against climate change" | Society

Laurence Tubiana (Oran, Algeria, 1951) assisted Lionel Jospin in the gestation of the Kyoto Protocol of 1997. And in 2015 she was one of the architects of the Paris Agreement. This economist was the special ambassador of France for climate change at that summit in Paris. Now, go to the summit that since this Sunday the UN celebrates in Katowice (Poland), the COP24 call, as director of the European Climate Foundation. Three years after the conclusion of the Paris Agreement, Tubiana admits that it is difficult for her to be "optimistic".

Question. Spain is looking for the end of gasoline and diesel car sales in 2040. Is it successful?

Answer. I think it's late. In France and the United Kingdom it is the same. India has said that 2030, although I do not know if they will be able to do it. 2040 is a too long term because a car has 15 years of life. But, for example in France, the theory is: if we say that in 2040, in reality the transformation will happen sooner. It's okay to put the dates, but you have to explain how you're going to get there, otherwise people will wait until the last moment. Now we must look at China, which is going at incredible speed.

P. Is Europe running the risk of being left behind?

R. Yes. If we do not prepare ourselves in a very active way, we will lose the opportunity. China is preparing for electric cars in 2022 or 2023 to be as cheap as combustion cars. In Europe, will we wait until 2040? Thus we lose the battle.

P. And why is the European automobile industry resisting?

R. It is very rare, because all the European car companies are investing in China, all of them. And they are seeing the speed at which everything goes there. Surely, they want to stop the movement in Europe to buy time and that is not fair for the workers and it is not right for the European economy. Maybe for them, as companies, yes, because they will use the two markets, but for the European industrial sector it is crazy. That's why governments should push more and talk to companies. If not, we will import cars from China and where will the job be?

P. What do you think about the strategy of the European Commission that aims to eliminate greenhouse gases by 2050?

R. Very well. I am obsessed with 2050 strategies, in the long term, because it is the only way to point out the kind of transformation that must be done and prepare people. The plan of the Commission is likely to be a shock for some countries … But now each member of the EU will have to do their strategies by 2050 and all must be consistent with the Paris Agreement. We must go to a greater implementation of renewables, to clean transport and to a greater effort in efficiency.

P. In the rest of the world, greenhouse gases are growing and the US has been absent from the war against warming. Is it hard to be optimistic?

R. It is difficult, but there is no choice. In this battle there have always been ups and downs and now is a very difficult time. The US is against, now we have to see what the Brazilians do, the Mexicans are not clear … The whole is not positive. And China always says that it remains in the Paris Agreement but its emissions continue to grow. We are at a very adverse moment and that is why Europe is superimportant, because of its market. If the EU is very serious on climate policy issues, it will guide the rest of the markets. We are still the most important market in the world. Bolsonaro [Jair, presidente electo de Brasil] He said he was leaving the Paris Agreement, but then he rectified because of the fear of commercial consequences. Everyone watches what Europe does and it is vital that it resists. Now the political importance of Europe is even greater than when the Paris Agreement was signed, when there was a balance because it was also in the US struggle.

P. What can be expected from the Katowice summit?

R. It is important politically. Technically, I think it's not complicated. Problems can be solved, there are not so many differences between what one defends and others. Actually, the Paris Agreement gives you the general framework and what you have to do now is develop it and interpret some elements. What is sought? Transparency to be sure that countries are serious and do things. Those technical aspects can be solved. But politically it is important because the development work of the Paris Agreement needs to be completed and because by 2020 there should be national contributions [planes de recortes de emisiones de cada país] revised upwards. And that is, for the moment, very difficult. But you can give a positive signal in Katowice of pressure for the next two years.

P. Are you worried that the presidency of the summit is in the hands of Poland?

R. Of course, it is a country that has many transition problems due to its dependence on coal. But I think that the current Polish government uses the summit to tell its population that the transition is positive and advanced. They insist a lot on the electrification of transport, in just transition and in renewable ones. Katowice is in Silesia, a mining and thermal region, and that region wants to escape from that. I'm not pessimistic about this.


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