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08/12 - 2015

Ninth Day at COP21

Agents 001 and 002 are having dinner with two Parisian friends tonight, Thomas and Alice. They sit down in a one of their favorite bistros of the quartier Latin and order good meat and wine. Both of them are very eager to learn what the agents have grappled from the inside of #COP21.

 

Alice: So, tell us about COP21 guys. It must be so exciting to be there!

A 002: It really is. And this morning at the Sustainable Innovation Forum #SIF15 was particularly interesting.

Agent 002 takes a bite of his meal and Agent 001 takes over.

A 001: Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg were on stage with US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz for the opening discussion of the “Energy and Low Carbon Innovation” event.

 

Thomas: I watched that live this morning. He was really enjoying himself wasn’t he? At one point the mediator asked him if he still had a bit of time before leaving for the Bourget and he replied: “I’m having fun so I’ll stay!”

A 001: Yes they had a good discussion going. He also made everyone laugh when he quoted Indian entrepreneur Harish Hande who said ten years ago: “solar energy is too expensive for the rich, but very affordable for the poor”, before adding: “and now it’s even affordable for the rich!”

 

Thomas: For me, the best part was when Bertrand came on stage with his old helmet and telephone to prove the absurdity of still using ancient technologies to insulate our houses and build our cars. And when he declared: “The material that we need, we all have it but we don’t use it: it’s our brain.”

A 001: Yeah he takes the props of his latest video everywhere with him at COP21.

Alice: I don’t think I’ve seen that video.

A 002, with his mouth full: What? Oh we have to show her, the beginning is just epic!

Agent 001 is already a step ahead of him and sending Alice a text with the link to the video.

 

Alice: Neat. I’d never actually asked myself how old the energy technologies we use today were. 100 years, that’s kind of scary… But coming back to Moniz, I’m curious to know more about his vision on innovation. May I remind you all that the USA is the second most polluting country in the world.

A 001: I’ll let Agent 002 explain, I really want to dig in to this entrecôte!

Agent 002 takes a sip of wine before taking on.

A 002: He highlighted the need for innovation not only in technology, but also in business models, consumer behavior and policies. For instance, many policies in the US are still based on the energy situation of the 1970s, which doesn’t reflect the current world we live in.

Thomas: That’s for sure! And in terms of concrete innovations, I recall him mentioning something about energy kites. Does that ring a bell?

A 002: Yeah, he was referring to a Google project called Makani, which is developing energy kites, a new type of wind turbine that can access stronger and steadier winds at higher altitudes to generate more energy with less materials. Here, I can show you the video of how it works.

Agent 002 pulls out his phone and starts the video.

 

A 002: He also reminded everyone that with R&D we could double LED efficiency…

A 001, raising his fork to make a point: LEDs that are already projected to save Americans $26 billion a year, all while cutting their lighting electricity use by half, by the way

A 002: … As well as continue to reduce the cost of energy storage, which would allow a broader market penetration of electric cars.

 

Thomas: I completely agree that innovation is crucial, but I think Bertrand and André are right by saying we can’t wait to implement the clean technologies that already exist. Doing so would divide the world’s energy consumption by two! Speaking of which, I read Bertrand’s 7 principles the other day, and he makes you realize that tackling climate change is above all a question of positive mindset.

Alice: Sorry to interrupt your very serious discussion, but you have to check this out.

A 001: I love the way he illustrated this morning’s discussion!  

Thomas: Talking about cool content, I was checking out the US Energy Department’s website while Ernest Moniz talked, and came across an interactive graphic that lets you see how much CO2 each country from COP21 produces. The difference between developed and underdeveloped nations is really astounding. Here, I’ll send you it, it can come in handy.

Thomas sends both agents and Alice a text with the link.

All: Cheers!

Thomas suddenly notices Agent 001’s watch as he reaches for a piece of bread in front of him.

Thomas: Nice watch. Rollex?

A 001: Omega. They’re one of our partners, and, among other things, they built the smart energy dispatchers of Solar Impulse 2 as well as the precision instruments used during flight.

Thomas: Beautiful, does it do anything?

A 001, winks: It tells the time, and has a rather loud alarm.

Thomas nods approvingly (he obviously hasn’t seen the latest Bond movie) while Alice checks her Twitter feed.

Alice: Concerning your partners, have you seen that the insurance company Swiss Re is actively participating in COP21?

A 001: No, I wasn’t aware of that. What did they participate it in?

Alice: Apparently they were present at Action Day to underline the necessity of advancing climate resilience. 

A 001: Good to know. And while we’re at it, you two should take a look at the Flight for the Futurevideos they made about Solar Impulse. They really manage to convey the emotions of the adventure. 

Thomas: Can we watch one?

Agent 001 searches for the latest episode, turns his phone screen so that everybody can see and presses play.

 

A 002: It’s encouraging to see that so many of our partners are taking part in COP21. The pilots also met up with Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, CEO of Solvay, today.

 

Thomas: How did they help you with the project?

A 002: They created this incredible component that enabled us to optimize the energy density of our batteries, and managed to make the plane’s engines 94% efficient: a record rate!

Thomas: Which means 6% energy loss versus 70% in normal thermal motors. Astonishing…

Alice: I was listening to France Culture on my way to work this morning and heard something about reducing CO2 emissions in aeronautics. It made me think of you guys.

A 001: Oh yeah, can you remember what they were saying?

Alice: From what I understood, airports are becoming more and more congested which means that the time airplanes have to spend on the runway before takeoff and after landing is increasing. So Safran had the idea of implementing little electric motors to allow aircrafts to drive around the airport without using any fuel. According to them, that would result in a 4% economy of CO2 emissions, and a $200,000 economy for a plane that would fly around 2000 times a year and spend an average 17 minutes on the runway.

A 002: Why not, but as André always reminds us, only 3% of our CO2 emissions come from our activities in the sky. The other 97% are produced here on Earth, so that’s where we should concentrate most of our efforts. That’s why in his latest blog on what needs to happen at COP21, he insists on the importance of applying the technologies of Solar Impulse, like LEDs, efficient insulation, light materials etc., to everyday life.

While Agent 002 continues to present André’s thoughts on climate change, the others become distracted by the waiter arriving with their fondants au chocolat and crèmes brulées. They are quickly absorbed by their desert, and after having taken a few spoonfuls, the conversation switches to everyone’s plans for Christmas and latest episodes of their love lives.

A 001: The bill please.

Before heading off, they take a smoke on the sidewalk while admiring Paris by night.

Thomas: By the way, how is your Future is Clean campaign going?

A 002: We closed the votes last week, and during several events of COP21, the pilots talked about the five solutions to tackle climate change that were most voted for.

Thomas: Are the top solutions still on the site?

A 002, blowing a smoke ring: Yes sir.

A 001, yawning: It was great seeing you guys, but we should get going, we have to get up super early tomorrow.

 

The four friends bid each other goodbye and promise to give each other some news soon (even though they all know they won’t).

 

This blog has been originally published here.

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