Lévy: Biodiversity 'deeply relevant' to climate change fight

02 December 2020

The experience of the coronavirus crisis has highlighted the crucial role of electricity in our lives but will also spur a transformation, with society being more outspoken in its demands for forceful action against climate change and threats to biodiversity, Jean-Bernard Lévy, chairman and CEO of EDF, said during today's plenary session of the Global Impact Conference - Energy for Impact.

Jean-Bernard Lévy speaking in the GIC plenary

"Many voices are calling for transformation but we will not achieve it using the model of the past - we need to ask ourselves what will tomorrow's world look like?" Lévy said, in a session titled Energy for all.

"I am convinced we are heading towards a world of greater solidarity. We will view our needs, our emergencies, our priorities, in a different light. We will speak differently about progress and prosperity. These changes will place public utilities and more specifically our own EDF at the heart of the social model in the countries where we operate, " he said. "We are ready to help build a new model that will place those without these advantages in a better position.

"Secondly, I am convinced that society will be more outspoken in its demands for forceful action against climate disruption and against the extinction of biodiversity. Obviously, no clear link has been established between environmental disruptions and the COVID-19 epidemic, but expert opinions, while diverging on this issue, lead us to believe that the frequency with which the disease has spread … is linked to changes in land occupancy and to pressure on biodiversity."

We have, so far, probably underestimated the effect of climate change, he said. "We know that climate change will result in losses of water and agricultural resources, in human migrations and in serious impacts on biodiversity. This should prompt a more aggressive approach to the fight against climate change."

"Ever since the industrial revolution social development has largely relied on the use of fossil fuel energy sources which are not renewable, and do emit greenhouse gas. In today's world 81% of the energy we consume comes from fossil resources. Within just a few decades, this situation has reached a point where if we do not act, global warming will reach well above 1.5 degrees just for the 20 years from 2030 to 2050. And some scenarios even suggest a 5 degree increase by the end of the century.

"Faced with such a prospect, we can't give up. We cannot resign ourselves to negative growth. But fortunately, as human development also goes hand in hand with an incredible spurt of innovation, we have the solutions at our hands."

This premise lies at the heart of EDF's CAP 2030 strategy, Lévy said, and the company's raison d'être to build a net zero energy future with electricity and innovative solutions and services, to help save the planet and drive wellbeing and economic development. The rasion d'être was in May written into the company's Articles of Association, so is a commitment the company is now legally bound to respect, he said.

"Spurred by this raison d'être, we at EDF have undertaken to support our residential, business and municipal customers on their common journey towards carbon neutrality. So we are offering our clients innovative solutions based on the use of carbon-free electricity including as an example electric mobility. We are on our way to reaching our ambition to become France's leading energy supplier for EVs [electric vehicles] by 2022. Climate targets are within our reach. In France we already have a low-carbon electricity mix thanks to the nuclear and renewable - including hydro, solar and wind power - energy resources that we have built and operate."

Highly decarbonised countries such as France and the UK will speed up the transition from fossil fuel usage to electricity especially for transport and for heating. In countries that still have a high carbon electricity mix, EDF intends to support the energy transition by offering low-carbon solutions and innovative services, he said.

For example, EDF has delivered or is building hydro projects in countries such as Laos and Cameroon, with the support of the World Bank. For such countries, these large-scale projects are a very high priority. EDF brings its experience as a low-carbon operator to such solutions, but must also pay heed to environmental and social aspects, and to ensuring that the benefits of such projects are experienced by the whole population, he said.

"I'm personally convinced that there should be no competition between supporting biodiversity or climate change. I think biodiversity is deeply relevant to climate change and that it is hence deeply relevant to the EDF group. Our sites are close to areas which are very rich in biodiversity, with all types of ecosystems - estuaries, marine, land, freshwater."

EDF is lucky to have nuclear in its production mix, he said. The energy density of nuclear "considerably limits the "artificialisation" of soils, which is one of the major concerns for biodiversity: "Nuclear ticks, positively, that box," he said.

EDF is already "totally committed" to implement a positive approach to biodiversity, but intends to do even better, Lévy said: "When we build, when we operate, we can avoid irreversible damages to nature. And we will not limit ourselves to a defensive approach by only focusing on reducing the impact our industrial activities may have on the ecosystems."

Recent experiences of lockdowns have highlighted the crucial role of electricity in our lives, enabling us to keep in touch, to continue to engage in social activities and to continue our professional lives, and in the provision of medical treatment, he said.

"I'm sure that the following months will further highlight electricity's vital role in helping to drive wellbeing and economic development and to save the planet."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News