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BREAKING (RE)NEWS FROM OCTOBER 13, 2023: THE TRANSITION TRILEMMA 

For once, this week's news on economic and environmental transition is marked by a word. Not just any word: the trilemma, dear to the economists of the International Monetary Fund, who have been using it for several decades. In its latest opus, the IMF refers to "the transition trilemma": climate, debt and politics are ultimately three objectives that cannot be achieved at the same time. One must be sacrificed to achieve the other two. If we choose politics and climate, debt explodes. If you choose debt and climate, politics implodes. And if we choose politics and debt, then it's the climate that suffers. Without going back to the Greek philosopher Epicurus and his trilemma over the existence or otherwise of a benevolent, omnipotent god - current world geopolitics does suggest an answer, but that's not the point 😉 - the project management triangle is a classic example of a trilemma. "Fast" and/or "good" and/or "cheap". Don't look for it: there's no common central area, no intersection between the three... You have to choose!

Les Echos believes that this trilemma analysis is " very enlightening about the situation in France ": "the left promises a rose-paved climate fight and promises purchasing power to households, it doesn't care about the debt (...); the far right gives up on the climate (...) and swears to improve incomes; Emmanuel Macron, who loves the "at the same time" wants to hold the three objectives together despite the IMF trilemma." To resolve this trilemma, Les Echos tells us, we must therefore attempt a "triple en même temps", the only strategy that works: "Climate, debt and subsidies, the three together." In Le Monde, Jean Pisani-Ferry also evokes the magic of the en même temps sought by the government. For his part, he warns against putting too much faith in " the performative power of words ". How well these things are said...

In the meantime, this squaring of the circle, to stay with complex geometric figures, seems to have inspired the drafting of the 2024 Finance Bill, especially in its "expenditure" section and singularly its "green budget" section, presented yesterday. This budget shows a sharp rise in "green" expenditure and a clear drop in so-called "brown" expenditure. With certain optical effects. For example, the sharp decline in so-called "brown" spending: spending harmful to the environment will certainly fall by two-thirds, from €33.6 billion to €13.1 billion. However, tariff shields alone, which had a major impact on spending in 2023 (8.9 billion forecast for electricity and 9 billion for gas), will fall from 22.6 to 2.2 billion. As a result, Bercy admits that "apart from these exceptional expenses, brown expenditures remain stable overall". A movement with little structure, therefore 😉. In addition, the breakdown of the main items, as shown in the graphs below, shows that the bulk of the efforts are focused on fossil fuels, which are, need we remind you, faithful readers of "Breaking (RE)NEWS", only part, and not necessarily the "heaviest" part, of the challenge posed by the transition.

And even there, a blind spot has already been pointed out: fuel. Because, precisely, we're not touching it, yellow vests oblige. Ah, the trilemma 😉.

To kick off our weekly columns, let's stay in France with this week's "hunt for waste ", which reminds us that, contrary to appearances, "winter is coming": aid for the purchase of thermostats to control temperatures, reduction of light pollution, promotion of cycling and telecommuting, etc. On Thursday, the Minister for Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, announced new measures, always "incentive and not coercive", supposed to reduce energy consumption in France. Details of these measures can be found in Le Monde.

This week's bill is well known to Breaking (RE)NEWS readers: we've been keeping you informed for several months now of the measured progress made by the "green industry". Now, white smoke has risen from a room of senators and deputies meeting in a CMP (commission mixte paritaire), where they have reached agreement on this famous bill. A development that delighted the Senate, which was able to add its "local government" touch. Welcoming the agreement, Dominique Estrosi Sassone, the new chairwoman of the Senate's Economic Affairs Committee, warned, however, that "this is only a small step towards the reindustrialization of France. We now need to open up the structural areas of vocational training, corporate competitiveness and the mobilization of venture capital, because it's the entire productive apparatus that needs to be put in marching order towards the ecological transition". A small step indeed, to the extent that Le Monde describes the text as "pale green". Some attentive observers believe that the two flagship measures respond to demands made "in every tone by manufacturers, for a long time". The first is to halve the administrative time required to open a site, from seventeen to nine months. The other measure is a tax credit of up to 40% of the investment for battery, solar panel, wind turbine and heat pump factories. The law's thirteen other measures - creation of a savings account, site rehabilitation, creation of a label, training, etc. - are also in line with the demands of industry.

This week's summary report concerns French-style ecological planning, which has been mentioned many times in this Breaking (RE)NEWS, with a very well-done document containing a wealth of interesting figures, which can be downloaded here.

The somewhat technical controversy of the week, and one which we at (RE)SET, who love the concrete, aren't sure is a leading topic in the transition, concerns "materiality", double or not double. We warned you, it's technical 😉. On the one hand, you have Emmanuel Faber, the charismatic former CEO of Danone, who in an opinion piece asserts that it's "simplistic" to wish for materiality to extend beyond the economic realm." Now Chairman of the ISSB, the international body responsible for extra-financial accounting standards, he contests the criticism levelled in Europe at the body's proposed project. Some of these criticisms have been vehement, with Jean-Marc Jancovici (among others) arguing for the "double materiality" promoted by Europe. Behind this gobbledygook lies a difference in philosophy between Americans and Europeans when it comes to what a company owes to third parties. Faber argues that the only environmental information a company should make available to its shareholders is that which is likely to have an impact on share value. With this approach, a company needs to disclose whether one of its assets is likely to be affected by global warming, but it doesn't need to say what impact it is having on the environment. Double materiality" means doing both. Faber/Janco, round eighteen, place your bets! In practical terms, words aside, it's action that matters: let's get going!

The war of the week has been going on for years, and is not about to end. Over the next few days, the European Commission is preparing to approve the renewal of glyphosate's authorization for another ten years, despite the fact that scientists are up in arms against this herbicide, which is the most widely used in the world. Once again, a group of soil scientists alerted Le Monde to the numerous studies that "unequivocally" show the deleterious effects of glyphosate on earthworms, powerful allies in sustainable agriculture. Today, we also learn that the harmfulness of glyphosate has been recognized at least once, in the emblematic case of the Grataloup family (malformation of a child in utero as a result of exposure to glyphosate), and consequently compensated. But none of this is too serious, as Le Figaro dares to assert, and must have information that others don't, given its headline about the harmlessness of glyphosate. Meanwhile, an initial vote in Brussels today failed to produce a majority in favor of renewal. Some people must not have read Le Figaro 😉. But that's only part of the story...

This week's transition, which is going to be a long and complicated one, is that of the maritime sector: in the maritime sector, we're a long, long way off, and alternative fuels can only make their mark in the long term. Today, 3% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions come from sea transport. But without changes in behavior and heavy investment, this share will rise to 17% of global emissions by 2050.

In the series "Nothing's easy when you're making the transition", this week's stagnation unfortunately concerns recycling, for which global figures have just been released for 2022. Falling consumption has led to lower volumes of waste being collected, and competition with virgin materials (plastic, paper) is working against recycled products. All in all, the recycling market is stagnating at best. Even though it should be growing rapidly if France is to meet its recycling targets.

This week's editorial is to be found in Le Monde, where Stéphane Foucart takes a clever jibe at our "adorable" "cars". After the sarcasm about the "Amish model" and the "return to the oil lamp", after the wishes for 2023 marked by the now famous "Who could have predicted?", Emmanuel Macron has once again weighted his public words with a little phrase of which he has the secret. He "loves cars". Which brings up a subject that's not so much on the agenda as it is on the "company car ", a tax niche for 2.4 million French people who also love them. And while we're on the subject of "the car", the 2024 Finance Bill also tackles a vexed subject: the SUV ("Sport Utility Vehicle" in "good French"), which has accounted for 47% of the market for cars sold since January1, 2023. The "double-malus" will now be a real disincentive, unless you opt for 100% electric. Unfortunately, this good idea has not been taken to its logical conclusion, since we know, thanks to ADEME, that switching to electric power is only "profitable" in terms of overall carbon emissions if the "car" concerned is "small" and "light": even 100% electric, the SUV remains a poor choice!

This week's video investigation exposes the role played by some of France's biggest banks in the continued financing of fossil fuels, in this case Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil company, once again in contradiction with their commitments: $16 billion since 2019, all the same.

Speaking of unfulfilled commitments (just kidding!), the social network of the week is TikTok, which is everywhere, and particularly where we least expected it. According to the major social networking trends for 2023 unveiled in a report by Visibrain, companies are increasingly choosing TikTok to discuss their CSR commitments and, in particular, their transition commitments. Not that the format of this social network will help much in the fight against greenwashing...

This week's news, which doesn't really belong here, but we'll tell you about it anyway, concerns Onclusive, leader in media monitoring, which is going to replace more than half its employees in France with artificial intelligence tools, Chat GDP and its "colleagues". There's only one step away from the Breaking (RE)NEWS being written by software, a step that the author of these lines -in flesh and bone- living, we won't take 😉

This week's report concerns Mayotte, a French overseas department, whose water situation we hope does not foreshadow what could one day happen in France. Over there, "water really is blue gold, and it's almost as expensive as oil ", as Libération tells us. This is due to dilapidated installations - in other words, leaks - and a historic drought.

The week's other (!) report comes from India, around the Himalayas, and again it's Libération that tells us how the predictable rupture of a glacier that had "warmed up" too much caused a high-altitude lake to spill over a small mountain town, leaving a dozen people dead and 10,000 homeless. A picture is worth a thousand words:

In the same spirit, the figure of the week comes from UNICEF, and it's 43.1 million (children). " In six years, climate-related disasters have caused 43.1 million internal displacements of children in 44 countries", or "approximately 20,000 child displacements every day", warns the United Nations Children's Fund in a report published today.

Last week's riddle was a measurement: "4805.59 metres". It too made the headlines. But what was it? The clue was that we were talking more about height than length! So it's easy to guess that 4805.59 metres is the new official altitude measurement for the summit of Mont Blanc, some two metres less than two years ago. Altitude varies mainly according to the weather, with temperatures, which (almost) everyone knows are on the rise, melting glaciers in particular. The trend over the last 20 years is quite clear:

This week's riddle also comes down to a single number: 5 million square meters. But of what? The clue: this figure raises two questions. The first is whether or not something is "made in China". The second is whether or not there's a net zero in soil artificialisation. You've really got a lot of help here!

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