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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Climat : Les entreprises privées lancées sur les rails du vert

by Marie-Noëlle Bertrand

Global Climate : Private Companies Launched On the Green Track

Translated Wednesday 1 October 2014, by Isabelle Métral

Ikea, Barclays Bank, McDo sitting round the table last Tuesday next to the nations’ representatives: summoning the heads of state summit on climate Ban Ki-moon had laid the cards on the table. Organized as a sideline meeting off the official round of negotiations on global warming to be held in Paris in December 2015, in order precisely to facilitate their smooth progress, this unusual rendez-vous was to bring together heads of State, industrialists and civil society. The objectives were to incubate alliances in order to elaborate a series of operational measures towards the decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.

The message that UNO’s General Secretary wanted to get across was that transition to a low-carbon society will not ruin economic growth. Nor the profits of the private sector, which is pushed on to the green turf in exchange for new facilitating cadres.

Climate-compatible initiatives

Among these, the emergence of a new market of climate bonds that was approved last Tuesday. Its actors are public and private banks and other investors – among them Barclays, the European Investment Bank, or again GDF Suez - and it has soared exponentially: from 5 billion dollars in 2011 it jumped to 13 billion dollars in early 2014 and now stands at 25 billion with the objective of reaching 300 billion by 2020. “The idea is to offer a kind of bonus for green investments,” explains Pierre Forrestier, head of the Climate Change department of AFD (the French Agency for Development). And so, shortly before the summit, the development bank issued a one billion euro “climate loan” that carries a guarantee for lenders (companies, shareholders) that the money will be used to finance climate-compatible initiatives. This market is not for free, and it brings in the same yield as any other. “But 70% of investors that responded to the offer declare their motive was environmental,” Pierre Forestier maintains.

To make speculation serve the planet, those were François Hollande’s very words. “For this we must create a new system of carbon prices, new fiscal mechanisms, new financing mechanisms,” the president of the Republic explained. If no concrete proposals have been announced as concerns the first two lines, the list of marketing initiatives made public at the end of the summit had dollars chinking: a hundred billion promised by a coalition of investors; 84 billion for the insurance sector or again 31 billion invested by three major pension funds.

Nothing on gas and shale oil

Admittedly, the fields where money can be made are boundless, and the summit made a point of promoting them. Eight large public-private partnerships, with oil and gas companies among them, agribusiness multinationals, or again the wood industry, were concluded last Tuesday, and cinched with enticing promises – the promise, for example, to reduce methane emissions, or to put a stop to deforestation by 2030.

But if the ambition of the heads of State to lure the industrial and financial sectors in this way, they will not go so far as to attempt to control them. No legal cadre so far guarantees those financial commitments. Likewise, hardly any concrete announcement was heard that projects with the heaviest impact on the environment must be given up. Nothing, for instance, about shale gas or oil gas, whose production emits more methane than the normal production. The craze for green investments does not dry up the others… François Hollande’s position on this point, especially, was expected since France finances several “coal” projects abroad.

All in all, if several heads of State have, in their speeches, developed a definitely encouraging long term vision, with a clear commitment to a concerted plan of action against global warming, the general message to industrialists has been in the main that “change” does not means giving up the old ways.

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