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Climate Consequences: ‘There Will Be Winners and Losers’

Philippe Joubert. (Photo Credit: Alicia Montoya)

Philippe Joubert. (Photo Credit: Alicia Montoya)

If each of his jobs was a hat, Philippe Joubert would be a walking haberdashery. The man is Senior Advisor and Special Envoy for Energy and Climate for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development; he’s also on the Advisory Board of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership; he chairs the Prince of Whale’s EU Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change in Brussels; and he’s working with the World Energy Council on their global electricity initiative. I asked Philippe how he was able to do all that and he just grinned and said he loved it. Meanwhile, I got winded just tying my tie this morning.

Despite meeting up at the very end of the summit, a whirlwind of hobnobbing and expostulating, Philippe was delighted to share his hopes for the planet’s future. For Philippe, the twenty-first COP has already set a clear delineation between the old energy world and the new. This was the first COP in which governments reached out to businesses, he said, and that set a promising tone right away.

Also changing matters? The fact that climate change is getting harder to deny. As examples, he pointed to California and Sao Paulo, two regions facing long-term and debilitating droughts. In the case of California, scientists speculate that increased carbon in the atmosphere contributed to the formation of the high-pressure ridge that blocks rain from hitting the Southland. In Brazil, deforestation is believed to be the reason that the country’s “flying rivers” are no longer flying over Sao Paulo. The latter case is especially egregious because the government spent so long telling its citizens there was no drought. Now the city is forced to ration water.

Aerial photograph of Sao Paulo Brazil, 2010 (Image: WikiMedia Commons)

Aerial photograph of Sao Paulo Brazil, 2010 (Image: WikiMedia Commons)

“Scientists were saying it, I was saying it, but Brazil said ‘shh, shh, you can’t say that. They denied it for years,” said Philippe, who is himself French Brazilian, “and now Sao Paolo has no water. You can’t hide from it anymore.

In the coming age, he said, certain companies will prosper and others will stubbornly refuse to bend. There will be “winners and losers,” but that doesn’t mean the losers need to be thrown away. One of the most helpful things governments can do is provide a means of relatively painless transition for fossil fuel-dependent companies.

Yet whether COP21 results in a binding agreement or not, most countries are aiming towards some kind of monetary component for carbon emission, such as a carbon tax. This is on its way, so the best thing to do is begin the transition now.

“This is the time,” said Philippe. “It starts now, in Paris.”

More tales from the World Climate Summit:

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