OF INTEREST: Entering the Low Carbon age

For its fourth edition, the Low Carbon Earth Summit confirmed its role as a major annual event attracting an international audience concerned by—and involved in—the issue of sustainable development. About 1,000 participants from all over the world, two Nobel Laureates, and a hundred of presenters were present from 21 to 23 September in Qingdao, China; from a quantitative point of view the event was clearly successful.

And from a qualitative point of view as well, as the conference convincingly showed that we have entered a new age. Many examples of technological developments were presented that result or will result in a net decrease in carbon emissions.

The diversity of low-carbon initiatives around the world is absolutely impressive. Adaptation and mitigation of climate change are now embedded at all levels at the society (technology, law, education) and in all countries. In Australia, for example, the government has begun approaching groups that will be affected by the rise in ocean level to explore the possible actions. In China, Oxfam is conducting pilot projects in rural areas in order to evaluate the resilience of the food system and the vulnerability of the poorest to climate change. Legislation and law also need to be adapted. Studies conducted in several countries by the Swedish lawyer Peter Lohmander show that forests can be exploited in a sustainable way provided that regulations are modified. Many initiatives have been taken across all countries in educating people and raising public awareness. Hence the diversity of the participant’s profiles: there are not many conferences today where you can find at the same table a lawyer, an economist, a farmer, a physicist and an entrepreneur.

Against this backdrop, I presented ITER as a genuine disruptive and innovative technology that is likely to change the course of our civilization.

As the world’s most populated country and a key economic actor, China was obviously the focus of many discussions. During the opening session two Nobel Prize winners in economics, Edward Prescott (2004) and Sir Christopher Pissarides (2010), showed that the future of the Chinese 'economic miracle’ will depend on the government’s capacity of reforming the country’s economic institutions and significantly deregulating its services industry.

In this respect, said Sir Christopher, China has a historical opportunity 'not make the same mistake as many European countries.’ The 2010 Nobel Prize winner added that he saw 'China’s opportunities in the globalized world as high technology manufacturing. Its research system is now mature enough to really start innovating.’

-Michel Claessens, head of ITER Communication & External Relations