How to Protect the Environment and be Profitable at the Same Time 
Environment-friendly approaches: Health experts have called on global leaders to tackle environmental issues affecting health and health systems.

It is possible for industry to implement environmentally friendly approaches that are also profitable, Bertrand Piccard, chair of the Solar Impulse Foundation, told the Geneva Health Forum.

“I have been working on identifying solutions that can reconcile ecology and economy that means to protect the environment and at the same time create jobs and be economically viable for the industry, the economy and the financial world,” said Piccard.  

The Swiss organisation, Solar Impulse Foundation, works to identify sustainable, clean and profitable solutions for climate action and offers political and industry leaders a guide on implementing these solutions on a large scale. 

Replace, reduce and recycle

Some of its concepts include the solar-powered automatic irrigation system, electric cabinet with recycled batteries and the circular high-quality  furniture made from recycled materials.  

Piccard pointed out that are new business opportunities to be grabbed by leaders in the industry who can develop efficient solutions to protect the environment: “It’s clear that the environment has a huge link to (public) health…. efficient solutions improve the health of everybody.”

To back this argument, he presented the example of a French start-up that captures the heat from chimneys of factories for recycling to reduce the energy bill of the same enterprise by 20%. 

“It produces less carbon, less energy, and it’s a business opportunity that expands and creates jobs,” said Piccard.

“This is what I call qualitative growth. You develop the economy by replacing what is polluting with what is protecting the environment, so you can reconcile ecology and economy.”

Piccard also noted the importance of both sides i.e. businesses and environmentalists striving hand-in-hand towards this goal.

“You need the ‘green activists’ to move forward to push the politicians and you need the industry to produce the solutions. That will help us live in a more efficient way and be more environmentally friendly.” 

Climate neutrality ambitions  

Piccard praised the European Commission’s recent announcement that 100 European Union (EU) cities and 12 non-EU cities are participating in a program to become climate neutral by 2030

Bertrand Piccard, chair of the Solar Impulse Foundation.

According to the EU plan, the 112 participating cities – in which roughly 75 million people live – will prepare plans and contracts to set out action and investment plans in order to achieve climate neutrality in the coming eight years. 

The ultimate goal of climate neutrality, as defined by the United Nations (UN), is to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions by balancing the emissions so they are equal (or less than) the emissions that get removed through the planet’s natural absorption.

Piccard stated that problems brought about by pollution and greenhouse gases should be tackled incrementally to bring cities closer to becoming climate neutral. 

“You cannot take the big problems and find solutions. It doesn’t work because most of the problems are not identified correctly so you need to do the opposite. You need to go through the solutions and look at which solution can be implemented where and each time you reduce a little bit of CO2, a little bit of inefficiency, a little bit of pollution, but altogether you can solve the problem.”  

Protecting the environment requires everyone to rethink the phrase ‘changing behaviours’ and use the word ‘modernise’ instead when addressing climate change in low- and middle-income countries, he added.

“You have to modernise old infrastructures. You have to modernise all energy sources. You have to modernise the way to construct the buildings, you have to modernise mobility.”

When it comes to changing behaviours, Piccard said that few people made minimal changes with minimal impact, with a majority refusing to renounce their habits. 

“You will say yes, of course, I will renounce a little bit. I will take the aeroplane only three times a week instead of four. But it doesn’t change the world.” 

Speaking specifically about the stance of the developing countries on the contested issue of emissions, Piccard added: “We have to go from [a narrative of saying] protection of the environment is threatening our lifestyles, [which is] expensive and boring, to a narrative where protection of the environment is exciting, profitable, creative, interesting, and modernising.” 

The developing countries should use new technologies, said Piccard. “They want to reach our (developed world) levels of development. They want to be like Europe and North America. [In order to modernise] they can use efficient systems, use renewable energies in order to have local economic development.”

“It’s a question of narrative, because we need to take people with us otherwise they will not follow, they will resist.” 

As the developed and the developing countries continue to have contested viewpoints on this matter, the latest UN report suggests the emissions from fossil fuel combustion in the three regions of Asia and the Pacific, Africa and Latin America grew by 26% over the past decade, as compared to 260% growth in the prior two decades. The fossil fuel combustion emissions of developed countries shrank by about 10% over both of those periods. 

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