“Innovation is ahead of legislation, so the latter must be modernized”, insists Bertrand Piccard

"Innovation is ahead of legislation, so the latter must be modernized", insists Bertrand Piccard

Why choose between the protection of the environmentpurchasing power and development economic ? Bertrand Piccard decided to combine the three through the “Ready to vote” campaign, initiated by its foundation, Solar Impulse. A corpus of several dozen proposals to accelerate the environmental transition in France thanks to already existing solutions. On condition of retouching legislation that is often late. This is why the Swiss explorer will go, in September, to meet French parliamentarians to try to convince them. He explains his approach to 20 minutes.

What is the principle of your “Ready to vote”?

Over the past five years, I have collected from around the world, with my foundation, more than 1,450 technical solutions capable of protecting the environment, increasing the purchasing power and support economic development. So, theoretically, something that reconciles ecology and economy. It should appeal to everyone but they are, for the most part, not sufficiently adopted, sometimes not at all. Why ? Because there are a large number of regulations, laws, decrees, which paralyze their deployment within public markets, governments, consumers, sellers.

So we decided to create the “Ready to vote”, 50 legislative recommendations intended to promote the implementation of 50 solutions with strong positive effects on the environment. Innovation is ahead of legislation, so legislation needs to be modernized.

“We have become used to wasting energy using inefficient and archaic techniques”

We are experiencing multiple and intertwined crises: the war in Ukraine, inflation, energy, climate… And you are addressing a National Assembly where there is no longer a strong majority. Is this the worst time to act or the best?

It’s the best, provided we change our paradigms a bit. The war in ukraine creates, for example, a shortage of fossil fuels. Instead of filling this gap by purchasing from other countries, the first reaction should be: how can we save it by having more efficient infrastructures. That is to say, who need less energy, and for a better result. We have heaters that waste three-quarters of their energy, poorly insulated houses, combustion engines whose maximum energy efficiency is 27%… This is not an energy crisis specifically linked to Russia, but to the fact that we have become accustomed to wasting energy using inefficient and archaic techniques. It is also fundamental to develop more indigenous energies such as offshore wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, biogas, so many things that we do not push enough.

And the Assembly without a strong majority? This is also a good time to propose measures favorable to all parties. This reinforces energy independence, a theme dear to the extreme right. This creates jobs and develops the economy, a strong theme in the center right. This reinforces purchasing power, a strong theme on the left. And inevitably, this reinforces ecology, a theme dear to EELV. The “Ready to vote” are measures that meet the desires of each party.

You say that “no one should be rejected a priori”, and that “innovation rarely comes from within a system”. Is the debate on ecological transition still too compartmentalised?

For a very long time, the language of ecology scared the economic, financial and industrial worlds. I try to bring arguments capable of convincing the refractory. For that, I use their economic and industrial language, arguments that they are able to understand. I show them how ecology can become the driving force of the economy, how they can seize industrial opportunities in the protection of the environment, how energy efficiency can reduce their costs. The definition of realism is to achieve a result beyond one’s own ideology.

“Our common thread is what creates a big advantage for the environment and the economy, with a strong leverage”

Many of the 50 “Ready to vote” solutions relate to mobility and energy. Are these your two major focuses?

Regarding technical solutions, yes. Certainly, there are not only technical solutions: we can ask to eat less meat, that would have a very strong impact. But there are already people who say so, and everyone has their hobbyhorse. For our part, we took on energy, mobility, construction, etc. which creates a big benefit for the environment and the economy, with a strong leverage. It is our common thread.

Take the example of street lamps: public lighting represents up to 37% of the energy bill of a municipality. There are streetlights made in France, equipped with LEDs, solar panels and a battery, therefore totally autonomous. There are no user fees, it’s 37% savings on the town’s energy bill. However, the rules of public procurement mean that it is not possible to buy more than a very small percentage of innovative products, because there is a quota. We are therefore asking Parliament to remove the ceiling from this part reserved for innovation when it comes to protecting the environment.

Are all of your solutions already applied? In France ?

Some are produced abroad, the vast majority in France. And these are solutions that exist, already implemented, but not at all generalized. Example with Logikko’s HIS system. It is a hydrogen box to be installed on combustion cars, which costs a few hundred euros. You save 20% of your fuel bill, and that halves polluting emissions. We ask that motorists with this system have a Crit’air sticker allowing them to ride during pollution peaks.

It is therefore not a question of encouraging new regulations, new limitations or prohibitions, but of unblocking the legislation to authorize, to favor what exists.

Several proposals relate to water. A problem that we almost seem to “discover” in France…

The world, Western in particular, has lived for fifty years in an illusion of abundance. Water, energy, food, natural resources, minerals… Several crises combine and make us realize that we can no longer continue to waste as we used to, forcing us to finally become efficient. The perfect example is water. When we see how much we waste it, it’s absurd. However, many systems make it possible to recycle it, purify it, detect leaks, desalinate it, harvest it, etc.

Do you hope to be listened to by French parliamentarians?

I hope to be heard more by talking about the solutions than the problems, which people know. With the “Ready to vote”, we say to parliamentarians: “By your specificity as a legislator, you can promote the implementation of this solution”. It’s a positive, unifying, effective message.

Will France be the only country concerned by the “Ready to vote”?

I started with France because several French advertising companies asked me to take part in this campaign. I hope it will be a great success so that it can be replicated in other countries. I am already being asked the same thing in Belgium, in Germany and in Switzerland. But let France be a pioneer!

You warn against the term “degrowth”. Why ?

When we talk about decay​, we don’t say what we’re going to decrease, and that’s a big misunderstanding. We must reduce waste, inefficiency, excessiveness, pollution, but above all not the country’s economy, because it is what makes it possible to pay for social security, pensions, health and education. The redistribution of wealth is only possible through economic development. But this should no longer be based on the quantity of production, but on the quality of efficiency.

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