The power of convergence in a 400 ppm world

The power of convergence in a 400 ppm world

Joel Makower and Phillipe Forestier by Ashley Lapin

Collaboration was a recurring theme during the second day of the GreenBiz Convergence Paris conference.

Philippe Forestier, executive vice president of global affairs & communities at Dassault Systems, explained how lack of collaboration between sectors creates silos and impedes progress across all industries.

Giving the example of how biologists, physicians, chemists and engineers often work together on the same project to achieve success, he said, “This is what we ought to do, to make sure that people can collaborate and innovate together.”

In an interview with GreenBiz executive editor Joel Makower, Forestier explained how Dassault’s 3-D platform technology can simulate situations in order to assist policy makers to understand the impact of their decisions and create sustainable solutions, long before ground is broken or major investments made.

In order to involve citizens in the simulation of their cities, he suggested social and collaborative apps.

“Society is critical,” said Forestier. “We need to give a voice to society and listen to them.”

Echoing Forestier’s sentiment of the need for collaboration were the panelists of “Scaling Energy-Efficient Buildings,” including Olivier Chaudet, vice president at Lafarge; Yamina Saheb, head of sustainable buildings center at the International Energy Agency; Peter Graham, executive director at Global Buildings Performance Network; and Philippe Fonta, managing director at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Chaudet gave an example of successful collaboration at Infosys Ltd. in India, when it came to creating energy efficient buildings. According to Chaudet, Infosys, a roughly $7.82 billion IT company, is growing at a rapid rate: there are 20 million square feet of buildings added to the company’s campus each year.

Infosys decided that it wanted to reduce its building energy usage. By improving the buildings’ energy efficiency, it managed to save $60 million over five years. The initial investment of $30 million repaid itself after fewer than three years.

“We have done that by working with all the stakeholders. We had a convergence of all of this expertise around them,” said Chaudet. “The project managed to change the way Indians design by default, to save energy. It made them responsible stakeholders.”

Fonta, who moderated the panel, asked each panelist for their opinion on how to put energy-efficient buildings into operation worldwide.

Saheb responded that both government and citizen mindsets need to be changed and adapted to allow the energy-efficient industry to do its job. Graham said that a more positive, bigger picture needs to be embraced, as opposed to what he called “incrementalism.” Chaudet said that the answer was simple: to work together.

The next speaker, Suman Bery, chief economist of Shell International, described the two possible futures resulting from his company’s latest scenario project. While the two scenarios, “Mountains” and “Oceans,” provided different looks at how the world will change by the year 2100, they both underlined the importance of human behavior and its effect on the world.

"It’s not technology, but human behavior and policies that are going to make the difference,” said Bery.

Similar to what Forestier said about the useful implications of simulation, Bery mentioned that the reason scenarios are so helpful are because they classify various situations and contextualize them for all parties concerned.

While he acknowledged that scenarios aren’t predictions, he also underlined that significant changes, while uncertain at this point, will likely roil business and society. He stressed the importance of building resilience — into business, cities and lives — and expressed confidence that the public needed only a push to do the right thing.

“Uncertainty and nihilism are not going to go away; 400 ppm [parts per million of atmospheric carbon] is not preordained,” he said.

Photo of Joel Makower and Phillipe Forestier by Ashley Lapin