Université Total Kicks Off the Climate Debate

26/11/2014

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Christophe de Margerie wanted energy professionals to make their voices heard in the public debate about climate change and the energy transition. And that's just what happened on Friday, November 21 at the symposium sponsored by Université Total and partner BFM Business TV. New CEO Patrick Pouyanné, who delivered the closing remarks, reminded the audience how important it is to Total to engage in discussions of the issue with the rest of society.

"The 'Committed to Better Energy' campaign is more than an advertising campaign," he said to the many climate specialists at the Salle Wagram conference venue in Paris and to BFM's viewers. "It's an expression of Total's DNA: building the future by having all of us work together to make energy better." Patrick Pouyanné reminded his audience that Total had simultaneously pledged that same week to phase out routine flaring by 2030, cut its methane emissions and incorporate a carbon price when making decisions about capital expenditure. No other oil company has done that before.

In fact, several participants stressed the example being set by Total on climate change. Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, compared the decision of the United States and China to take the lead on climate discussions to Total's decision to move the oil and gas industry in the direction of "better energy." American economics professor Jeffrey Sachs agreed, saying he was thrilled "at the way the industry, and Total in particular, was standing up and being counted" and attempting to "find long-term solutions." "There's a cost, especially an innovation cost, associated with being in the vanguard of climate issues, but that is the direction Total plans to take," Jérôme Schmitt, Senior Vice President, Sustainable Development & Environment, assured him.

"For the first time in human history, the whole world has to overcome the same crisis — together — or perish," warned philosopher and sociologist Frédéric Lenoir as he attempted to answer the vast question of how to create a new model. "The fall of the Roman Empire, a major crisis in the history of the Western world, never kept anyone awake at night in China's remote reaches. But global warming will affect the entire planet," he hammered home, imploring both international organizations and all of us to do our part and start thinking in terms of "more well-being" instead of "more and more." 

Far from being alarmist, the symposium was a chance to imagine a rosier — or greener if you like — future. After laying out the facts, it did its utmost to suggest approaches for finding solutions. In the opinion of climatologist Hervé Le Treut, "A number of scenarios are possible, depending on the decisions we make and technological advances," but things could improve by around 2080. Provided, of course, that we make the necessary effort.

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