The president of the Les Républicains party calls, in a forum in the “World”, to bet on technology, rather than on degrowth, in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The latest IPCC report confirms that the ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets brandished as victories in 2015 are proving unattainable and ineffective. Previously, IPCC experts suggested global warming of around 2.5 to 5.8 ° C by the end of the century. Today, they envision a median rise of 3 ° C. Even the almost total shutdown of global production, due to Covid-19, has not changed this curve. Whatever efforts are imposed on populations, they have little effect on global emissions.
We often forget this obvious fact: reducing greenhouse gas emissions is neither a Franco-French affair, nor only a European one. If it were, the forecast would be more optimistic. The European Union produces only 10% of global emissions (including less than 1% for France), the United States 15% and China 30%. Instead of imposing divisive measures, it would be better to promote our results, be pragmatic and diversify our approach on a global scale.
We are one of the countries with the most carbon-free energy mix, with only 51% fossil fuel, compared to an average of 85% worldwide and 76% in Europe. French electricity is 89% carbon-free thanks to nuclear power (71%), which, moreover, guarantees our energy independence. We still need to drastically reduce the share of carbon in transport, housing and industry, but without hampering growth.
While the world population will increase by 1.5 billion inhabitants by 2030, the decrease would further worsen the situation of inhabitants reduced to famine and exodus by climate change. On the contrary, agriculture will have to produce more to feed the planet. Which is our first duty. Environmental and societal issues remain, but they cannot prevail over these strategic food security issues.
It is essential to maintain our energy independence. Betting everything on electricity – as this government did, even more than the previous one – is dangerous, because we will become dependent on China, which has certain essential components in this area.
More than 20% of our renewable energy is of agricultural origin. The cultivation of raw materials intended to produce biofuels allows, at the same time, the production of vegetable proteins for animal feed, thereby reducing our dependence on foreign countries. The production of biogas could be a lever for the entire transport and agricultural sector. Unfortunately, for the time being, there are only 900 biogas production facilities in France, compared to more than 9,500 in Germany.
To counter greenhouse gases, we can reduce their emissions, but we must also offset them by developing techniques for capturing and storing CO2. Conservation agriculture, which should be encouraged, increases carbon storage through permanent cover and non-tillage between two crops. It would still be necessary to remunerate the producers who contribute to the fight against global warming and to better support them at national and European level.
We will not be able to meet these challenges without the contribution of research and innovation.
Bet on human intelligence
In France, as everywhere in the world, farmers need scientific research to resist future climatic disturbances and their share of diseases. We still need to know how to keep the researchers we have trained in agriculture, pharmaceuticals or new technologies. We were unable, for example, to retain the French Emmanuelle Charpentier, Nobel Prize for chemistry 2020, who works on genome engineering.
The organization of research at European level must make it possible to advance more quickly: “new breeding techniques” cannot be dismissed out of hand under the pressure of decline activists. This process does not introduce any external DNA into the plant, but it does produce more resistant varieties much faster than conventional plant breeding methods. These techniques are an essential aid for producers by enabling them to better adapt to global warming. We must bet on human intelligence, a source of progress and improvement of our living conditions for centuries.
Contrary to what defenders of degrowth claim, progress has never ceased to improve our lives. It is enough to consider the energy intensity – the ratio between its energy consumption and its GDP – of a country to understand it. To produce the same amount of wealth, a Chinese or an Indian consumes three times more energy than a European. In addition, the energy efficiency of a country increases sharply with the increase in GDP per capita. The margins for significant improvement in global efficiency are to be found in emerging countries, which we must encourage through research and innovation. We must get out of the regressive logic to follow that of progress.