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Albert Dubler – Adaptation Vision Europe

January 4, 2011

From November 29th to December 10th delegations for all the countries of the world have met in Cancun for the 16th United Nations Climate Change Conference, shortly COP 16. The Summit has produced significant results that, at least in my country, have not been widely enough reported by the press. To understand what was going on oin Cancun I followed the sharp reports of Emilio D’Alessio on his Blog “Sostenibilitalia” – that  I can recommend to the italian speakers.

Vice-President of the International Union of Architects UIA Region I Albert Dubler took part to the COP 16 in Cancun and was invited by the mexican colleagues to explain how European countries are preparing to adapt to climate change and mitigate its consequences. The presentation took place on November 30th and I am very glad to publish hereafter the original text.


I have been asked to express here the UIA Region I’s vision of adaptation to Climate Change. Before this, let’s consider two «details» about Region I’s edges, and some evidence of the effects of Climate change.

In Lebanon, Jordan and Syria the current precipitation measurements show a decrease of 30 to 50% compared to mean levels of the 70s. The result of lack of precipitation during the last consecutive three years is a drought that had never been previously observed in the Middle East. The small rivers have dried up, the dams starve, and the wells become intermittent. In Syria one has to drill deeper than 600m to find water (Homs) and cattle have decreased by 85%. Cattlemen and farmers compete for the land; fruit trees are cut since they do not produce enough fruit due to lack of water, and all this takes part to the transformation into desert. As a result, 1 million people, nearly 10% of the total population, have left the rural areas in the two past years, creating pressure on the towns. And this is certainly not the best condition to bring back peace in this very sensitive part of the world.

Further north, in Siberia, the melting of permafrost will have two effects:

1.discharge a tremendous amounts of various Green House Gases, among them methane, a GHG many times more dangerous than CO2

2.become a threat for the nuclear waste stored there by all our virtuous good thinking governments.


Svante August Arrhenius In an essay of 1896  Svante August Arrhenius (19 February 1859 – 2 October 1927) highlighted the relationship between the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the temperature at the heart surface. The publication «On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air Upon the Temperature on the Ground» aimed at explaining the ice ages and formulated the so called greenhouse law that reads as follow « if the quantity of carbonic acid increases in geometric progression, the augmentation of the temperature will increase nearly in arithmetic progression» and is still used today.

Signed in Paris on April 18th 1951, the Paris Treaty has set up the European Community for coal and steel for 50 years. Treaty was signed by German Federal Republic, France, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands and was the starting point of an entirely new form of international cooperation. It is worth to notice that it was about energy.

The jointly sharing of coal and steel production has ensured the establishment of a common basis of economic development that constituted the first step of the European federation. It has modified the destiny of these regions which had been for a long time dedicated to the production of weapons, and which had also been the most constant victims of that.

On the 25th March 1957, Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg and Netherlands have signed in Rome two treaties: the first established the European Economic Community (EEC), and the second created the European Community of Nuclear energy (EURATOM). Energy, once again…

In 1965 the EEC institutions have merged with Euratom and ECCS into a unique Commission and Council. When the Paris Treaty came to its end, on July 23rd 2002, coal and steel were integrated in the European Union.

The EU is rather optimistic and has worked more trying to solve the problem than on the measures of mitigation and adaptation of the effects of the Climate change.

In some less optimistic countries, like France, we do now try to implement former regulations and laws more strictly, in order to adapt the country to the climate change. Last summer, after some people had died in western France, the decision was taken to demolish illegal houses along the seashore.

We also have an «initiative» of architects, the emergency architects, created in 2000 after the flooding in North East France. This initiative has grown, is now the Emergency Architects Foundation, and the profession is proud of it.


The European Union, to meet its commitments, has to set up very large investments in energy savings. The 2007 3 x 20 target is to get by 2020 a decrease of 20% the Green House Gas emissions, to provide 20% of renewable energies and to save 20% of energy thanks to the improvement of energy efficiency. The European Council has also announced that the 27 need to reduce from 80 to 95% their GHG emissions by 2050.

However, the means do not yet meet these ambitions. On November 10th 2010 the EU Commission drew a first outcome evaluation of the achievement of its targets. « The European energy systems is adapting itself too slowly whilst the challenges increase. The next widening of the Union will amplify these difficulties, as the Union will include countries with outdated infrastructures»

To face this, the EU will have to invest more than 1 000 Billions Euros within the next decade. Decisions are confronted with existing policies. As long as there will be subsidies for lignite, the utilities in Germany, Spain, Poland or Czech Republic will not consider to have any valid reason to replace coal-fired power stations with wind farms.

In order to achieve its commitments and secure its energy supply, the EU will need to set in a very serious political and economic speed-up.

The Commission proposes to endorse the efforts towards energy savings in the fields of transportation and buildings. « In order to help the building owners and the local authorities to finance the refurbishment and energy savings measures, the Commission will propose by mid 2011 incentives and innovative financing tools. The public sector is invited to take into consideration energy efficiency in its procurements for works, services and products. In the industries, efficiency certificates could motivate the companies to invest in more sober technologies.»

The Commission also states that the public consultation procedures last too long for the main energy infrastructure, and suggests to simplify and speed-up the procedure of permit delivery, by setting up a maximal deadline for the final authorization as well as the EU funding. A single office should allow coordinating all the necessary permit demands of a project.

After two major gas crises with Russia, the EU wants to coordinate the relations between the 27 member states and the major provider of the EU. The Commission proposes to reinforce and extend the Community Energy Treaty in order to fulfil the integration of all the candidates of the European energy market. Cooperation with Africa should also be reinforced to ensure renewable energy supply for the whole continent (Desertec).

To reinforce its technological leadership, the EU will launch several research and development programs on smart grids and energy storage, on second-generation biofuels and energy-saving systems in urban areas. But to meet these targets, we will have to act very fast. So the current team wants to speed through the ranks. Brussels wishes all its proposals to be accepted during the first EU summit on energy, which will be held next February 4th.  The aim of this being to allow all the political and regulatory evolutions to be launched within the next 18 months. To try to adapt, we also have to look further away. From our over-developed countries, we irritate our less wealthy neighbours, with the lessons we pretend to give them. Sometimes, we tell them to save what we have often stolen from them. We should try to become examples while addressing our own problems. Poor people do not live only in the poorest countries. Within the EU we have millions of them. In the sole field of energy savings, let’s address first the poorest, the victims of exclusion. A project which is not linked to a specific location is called a UTOPIA. Let’s imagine new Utopias, the one of mobility, not the one of de-localisation. The one of freedom, not the one of absence of rights. The one of the cultural wealth and not the one of accumulating gadgets. The one of locations supporting diversity and not the one that produces exclusion.

The ecological and financial crisis will cease only after poverty has been eradicated. The planet has limited resources, and today the only justification not to share these resources is our current exploitation model.

If we do not do so, we can build as much «walls» as we can, put as much control devices as we want to our borders, we will never make sure that the very numerous poorer will not be not numerous enough to break all our borders. Statistics establish that they are in constant increase.

If we keep on «penning» them in unworthy tenements at the edges of our cities, we will cut our links with the surrounding nature.

If we keep on depriving them from everything, we will have to defend more and more our illusory assets.


France, in Chinese is designed as the «Land of the laws»  (Fa gua). In France everything happens through the law. The right of a safe environment has been included in the French Constitution. The so-called «Grenelle de l’Environnement», according to everyone has been an extraordinary endeavour. The achievements are now written down in laws and regulations. The thermal regulations have been given ambitious goals, such as a first step of a drastic cut down to 50 kWh/m2/year, and a positive balance from 2020 away. The renewable initiatives are in constant increase, and in spite of the rear guard quarrels, they are coming close to the European targets. Corsica is exemplary with a 23% share of renewable.

With 257 articles modifying 34 different codes, 10.000 amendments and 160 awaited implementation decrees; the Grenelle law II of July 12th 2010 is a « legislative monument». And forensic inflation means also complexification of the law.

In France, the law addresses mainly energy issues, but not only. It also handles governance. «A new way of addressing public affairs, of working out the decisions, which involves an increased participation of the public».

The impact assessment is now mandatory for all projects with a risk of environmental or sanitary impact. The text refers openly on EU criteria to ascertain the projects submitted to impact study and deletes the exception of projects on the base of the lone financial criteria. The French Order of architects has made concrete proposals for the procedures of construction permit.

In Germany, the previous red/green government had made an end to the nuclear power stations by 2010. The current government has postponed this deadline.

But at the same time, Germany has been «an international beacon in terms of renewable energy job creation since the early 1990s» said Herbert Girardet in his impressive comprehensive study «A renewable World». The green jobs increased of more than 10 per cent, from 250 000 employees in 2007 to almost 280 000 at the beginning of 2009.

There has been a significant rise in the renewable share in electricity and heat production, around 10 per cent in final energy consumption, 14.8 per cent in gross electricity consumption and 7.7 per cent in the heat supply.

In 2008, the total investments and revenues from plant operation was around €30 billions, 4,5 billion more than in 2007. In plant construction the investments were in 2008 almost 20 percent above the 2007 figures.

The guaranteed payments for renewable electricity generation through feed-in tariff play a major role in sustaining industry confidence.

Denmark: the country with the most extensive use of cogeneration in Europe.

In 1979, after the two major oil crises, the Danish government set up the first legislation on efficient energy supply. In 1986 decentralized co-generated heat and electricity became a major policy priority. In 1988, the installation of electric heaters in new buildings was banned. In 1990, the law on heat supply was amended to support the use of cogeneration and environmentally friendly fuels.

The conversion to combined Heat and Power (CHP) was more or less completed in 1998, but a problem arose because of the too high increase of the electricity production, and surplus had to be sold to neighbouring countries at costs below production costs. CHP power stations were then exempted from the obligation to co-generate heat and electricity at all times.

In Sweden. On October 27th in Paris, a Swedish private initiative was presented as a new approach for the climate negotiations, more pragmatic and tightened around the EU, aiming at privileging the development of green technologies.

The idea? To create an «Investment Community for Climate» familiar with the idea of establishing a bottom price for carbon and carbon taxes

« The approach is complementary of the one of UNFCCC, but is willing to be more flexible and more ambitious », said Allan Larsson, former Swedish minister of finances, and co-author of this initiative, which should allow quitting the standstill of the climate negotiations.

A number of international reports point out the need of a strong transformation of the energy sector, in order both to address climate change, cut back the fossil fuel dependence, secure the energy supplies and set up a post-carbon economy. This has a price. The Swedish experts prefer the carbon price rather than subsidies. They propose the set up of a CO2 «technology-neutral CO2 price», high enough to allow the competitiveness of «clean technologies».

A «40€ bottom price» for the ton of CO2 at least in 2020, is recommended to render feasible the geological carbon sequestration and renewable energy. The current price of 15€ per ton of CO2 in the EU is not inciting enough. Contrariwise to ETS, aiming at decreasing emissions, this price could drag the development of the new technologies. This is a concept remaining open to betterment and to discussion, rather than an affixed position, the Swedish politicians say.

Steps could establish following the model of the European construction, the «Investment Community for Climate», leaning on a core of founding countries led by the EU.

The United Kingdom, has announced on October 18th the abandonment of the very ambitious project to produce 11000 megawatt power from tidal power. Instead, the Cameron Administration should give its support to the construction of new nuclear power stations. The project would have produced permanently 5% of the British demand and would have allowed the UK to meet its targets in the field of production of «clean energy» whilst securing its supply.

Supported in 2007 by the Sustainable Development Commission the project was about to succeed. But in a 75 pages document, the feasibility study states that such equipment would modify the water streams, the biotope, and probably the breeding of salmon. In reality, the main argument is the cost of the project: 32 billions pounds. The utility stakeholders are somehow reticent for such a sum, which is also too expensive for the government.

Nevertheless, London does not give up with the decarbonization of the power production and will have to invest very quickly in new and various sources of power production. The need for renewable, for nuclear and for fossil fuels with geological carbon sequestration and network systems is obvious since 25% of the British power stations will reach their age deadline at the end of the decade.


The 2000-Watt Society. There is much evidence that it is necessary to define overall limits on energy use – both in terms of «what is sufficient for us» and in terms of «what is good for the planet»

In 1998, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich launched the significant proposal of the 2000 Watt society in which each person in the developed world would cut down his overall rate of energy use to no more than 2000 watts – 17 520 kilowatt-hours per year for all energy use, by the year 2050 – through a range of energy efficiency measures. Together with this energy limit, a 1 ton of CO2 emissions limit per person per year was also stipulated.

2000 watts used to be the average consumption of Swiss citizens in 1960, and is approximately the current world average rate, by comparison to around 6 000 watts in western Europe, 12 000 in the United States, 1500 in China, 1000 in India and 300 in Bangladesh.

To respond to concerns about climate change and energy security, the scenario further limits the use of carbon-based fuels to no more than 500 watts per person within 50 years.

Major bodies such as the Swiss Federal Office of Energy and the Association of Swiss Architects end back the proposal Engineers.

What does it mean in practical technical terms?

The challenge to use no more than 17 500 kWh equivalent per person per year and to discharge no more than 1 ton of CO2, for a private person, not including the consumption of the workplace means first to eliminate fossil fuels for heating and hot water production. To achieve that, passive solar collectors would be able to provide in central Europe more than half of energy in a well-insulated house, the rest being provided with a heat pump, and electricity from a renewable source.

A house (2 persons) requires 5 000 kWh for hot water and heating. Lighting, cooking and home devices such as computer require with the today’s most efficient appliances 3 500 additional kW.

A more serious challenge is the transport. Each of us could consume 1750 litres of gasoline in a small efficient car or 1750 litres of kerosene in an airplane. The «limited» Distance would be around 25 000 km. But 1 ton of CO2 lets us drive or fly only 6 000 km


What if we could link the most permissive position (Swedish) with some humanitarism?

If transport is considered as a «neutral technology» and each ton equivalent is taxed by 40 € and this money is used for financing reforestation where it is most needed?

In Haiti, people are cutting the last trees to produce charcoal to be sold to their neighbours in the Dominican Republic where charcoal production is banned. They cut the trees for not to die from hunger immediately. One ton of CO2 is equivalent to a cubic meter of timber. How long does it take, under Caribbean climate to «grow» one cubic meter of timber?


An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has this year been severely called in question.

The UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon has given the Inter Academic Council the task to check the work and the procedures of the Institution in charge to establish the state of climate knowledge. This included the audition of the main authors of the evaluation report, and the checking of the very complex writing and validation mechanism of the various versions of the reports.

As a result of the work done by the Inter Academic Council, a 113 pages report calls to a deep reform of the 2007 Nobel Peace Award winner, but does not argue about the validity of the 4th evaluation report of 2007.

IPCC is not a science producer and works in a very modest office in Geneva Switzerland, not well equipped, and its thousands of contributors write their reports from scientific articles published in journal with lecture committees.

This fantastic press review goes through the rereading of several experts from all over the world, who amend the initial texts. Further, the texts are validated by the political authorities of 194 countries and earn a double legitimacy, both scientific and political

The World Meteorology Organization and the United Nation Environment Program have launched the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988

It has not had any critical evolution since, and taking into consideration the size of its tasks, its staff is still ridiculous: only 10 persons.

The evaluation team’s proposal is first to increase the number of stakeholders within the organization, and not leave to a reduced number of experts the responsibility to address very complex scientific and methodological issues. Secondly they recommend the creation of an executive committee, open to scientific organizations, but also to the civil society.

IPCC should also have a CEO in charge of the running of the body.

The publishers should be given greater freedom and responsibility to address the comments and suggestions of the re-readers. The text of the 4th report has about 90 000 comments…

To be more coherent, the publishers are asked to back their ruling with a maximum of data and pieces of evidence.

At last the Inter-Academic Council militates for hiring somebody in charge of communication.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 24, 2012 6:43 am

    Informative post.thank you for sharing.
    marg swarnabhoomi

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