Interview with Thierry Burlot – Vice-President for Environment, Water, Biodiversity and Climate of Brittany
In the framework of the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn last year, nrg4SD had the opportunity to hold the following interview.
nrg4SD: Brittany was always one of the leading regional governments on the global climate agenda. Accordingly, you are usually represented during the COPs on Climate Change. How do you see the evolution of the global climate agenda in the past years? Do you think the participation of regional governments has improved? What are your main thoughts and expectations for this COP23?
Thierry Burlot: The Climate COP has lately gone through different stages. The first one was Copenhagen and Bali, where nrg4SD was already actively participating, whereas Brittany started to participate regularly at COPs since 2006. Bali was held in 2007 and framed the Bali Agenda, probably a little later than it should have been adopted. After that, the famous COP 15 in Copenhagen was held, and meant a great failure, since it was not possible to reach any agreement. However, Copenhagen brought some interesting things that happened just after Cancun: first, it was stated that the process of climate negotiation was not dead; and second, that local and regional governments were included in the ad hoc long-term working group. The later was a very positive thing, mainly thanks to nrg4SD.
Another change took place in Lima and also especially in Paris, when it was showed that multilateralism was not dead and that we could still commit to do interesting things together. Besides, it was a moment where we realized that we would have one interesting COP each five years, and that in between those relevant COPs we would have technical COPs essentially. This year it is a technical COP and the next phase we will have, in my opinion a very interesting COP. In particular, I believe that we will be discussing the objectives to be put in action, especially with regards the NDC.
nrg4SD: One of the growing and fundamental topics of the climate dossier is adaptation. Brittany is one of the members of the nrg4SD platform to promote and support commitments on climate adaptation: the RegionsAdapt. Besides, Brittany leads a task-force on climate adaptation within the CPMR. Could you please comment on Brittany’s main actions on adaptation? Under this topic, how do you see the importance of platforms for exchange and mutual support among regions?
TB: I believe that Brittany has specific particularities that force us to face great challenges with regards to the environmental issues. First, we have a strong development of intensive agriculture, which led to problems related to water quality and water availability, which are necessary to ensure the development of the region. Second, we face issues related to energy availability and use, since we do not have industrial production of energy and we depend from external energy consumption.
For all the above, we have tackled the question of climate challenge adaptation in more qualitative than quantitative terms. We strongly believe that Brittany -like all the other regional governments of the world- has an important role to play in climate adaptation and mitigation. We face that responsibility with a classical perspective of the challenges to tackle, but also having in mind our own particularities: our peripheral and maritime features. Indeed, we have strong ties between the land and the sea, and we are conscious of the risks related to littoral areas since Brittany has 2700 km of littoral. However, we still do not have the climatic urgency of other territories in that sense.
In short, we have decided to mobilize on those questions since we believe that, as well as all the other regions of the world, Brittany has to be focused on raising awareness and on climate mitigation and adaptation. Our proposal is the creation of a Conference of the Parties in Brittany aiming at creating ownership of the issues of climate adaptation and mitigation, including wide topics, such as accessibility, transport, energy or water and waste management, which are currently the major competences of French regions. The idea is to create a white book of the initiatives developed in Brittany, since we have a lot of interesting and successful initiatives and we want to disseminate them to show that Brittany really plays its role in tackling climate change and acting under a solidarity basis with other territories of the world.
Besides, my will is to create an important link with the biodiversity agenda and the CBD COPs, since I strongly believe that all fields are intrinsically connected. So the idea is that through the competences, voluntarism and results of Brittany to contribute to combatting climate change and to ensuring a crosscutting approach to all agendas and challenges.
We also need to take into account that weaknesses can also be opportunities. For instance, in the case of Brittany, our energetic dependence and fragility –we import 90% of the energy we use- can be used as an opportunity to developing renewable energies.
Where I identify we are all still weak is with regards to the transverse perspective of policies in our territories, we cannot speak globally of a territory to date. Therefore, one of the most important challenges to face at this moment is to be capable of working together and setting common goals to be dealt with jointly. We have listened to this along these days in Bonn: habitat, housing, transportation… the common challenges of living together and respecting each other, and especially future generations. Therefore, there are many things to do still, and speaking from a political perspective, this is the political project of the region of Brittany. Indeed, this is what our citizens expect from us and from their local authorities.
With regards to the RegionsAdapt, it is true that the initiative has had a strong impact in the region of Brittany, but also in another network to which Brittany belongs: the Conference of the Peripheral and Maritime Regions (CPMR), which is a solely European network and has 160 members. In fact, thanks to RegionsAdapt, a program for the cooperation on climate adaptation was established in the CPRM and strong links with nrg4SD have been created (i.e. participation of nrg4SD in CPRM meetings to present results and highlights of RegionsAdapt).
nrg4SD: This year, nrg4SD achieves 15 years since its foundation. Brittany is part of our family since the beginning, and has always played a crucial role to raise the stature of our Network, not only as Steering Committee member, but also as President for the North. How do you believe being part of nrg4SD has contributed to more sustainable policies in Brittany? Looking back to the exciting history of nrg4SD, how would you like to see the Network in the next 15 years?
TB: First, and checking our history, I would like to highlight that in October 2008, Brittany hosted in collaboration with nrg4SD a summit in Saint Malo to prepare the Copenhagen COP that gathered 70 regions from 58 countries amounting a total of 600 people. And this was an important milestone since as long as I recall it was the largest meeting ever held with regional governments on climate change. For us, it was a landmark for all public policies to be oriented towards climate change. And since then, Brittany follows regularly the works of the UNFCCC and attends climate COPs.
Besides, from the internal perspective, it is always extremely interesting to meet regions that despite their differences have common points of views with regards to tackling climate change. The mutual learning have helped us to find partners and launch our operations regarding energy transition or climate change.
From the global and sustainable perspective, having a network such as nrg4SD, allows us to assess what we do and learn what the other regions are doing. Besides, the nrg4SD helps us to have access and voice before the global agendas and UN bodies, such as the climate agenda and the UNFCCC. When planning our European climate policies or creating our energy package, it is crucial to be align with the climate global agenda and with the experiences developed by other regions of the world. The nrg4SD brings us that added value.
nrg4SD: Would you like to leave a special message to nrg4SD members?
TB: We need to convey an optimistic message to our citizens. We need to show that the politicians, the territories, and other authorities are engaged with tackling climate change and are present in Bonn doing their job and assuming their responsibility.