Copenhagen Was Not a Failure of Issues
Peter Brabeck assumed the top spot at Nestlé in 2008, after overseeing its strategic transformation into the world's foremost nutrition company. Since joining Nestlé in 1968, he has been in leadership positions in multiple countries, including Chile, Ecuador, and Switzerland. Since 1987, he has been based at Nestle's headquarters in Vevey. Mr. Brabeck is the Chairman of the board of directors of Nestle (since 2005). From 1997 to 2008, he was also the CEO of Nestle. Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe is a member of the boards of directors of L'Oreal SA, Paris (since 1997), and Roche Holding SA, Basel (since 2000). He is also a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum and a member of the European Round Table of Industrialists.
Question: The Copenhagen summit was widely recognized as a failure. Do you believe that sustainability is dead?
Peter Brabeck: I think the climate change issue has been politicized from the very beginning. And Copenhagen is not the failure of an issue; it's a political failure.
The climate change based on still not so much facts, but on computer models has led politicians to take several decisions, which I personally have a big problem with. The most important one, of course, is biofuels. Apparently to solve a problem of CO2, which was pointed out to be the most decisive aspect of climate change; which personally, I don't think it is. It is one of many; I don't think it's the only one. But by having concentrated on this only one, politicians took the decision that it was, for example, good to substitute oil through biofuel. Now, if you look how much water you need in order to produce one liter of biodiesel, it's 9,100 liters of water to produce one liter of biodiesel. it is 4,600 liters of water to produce one liter of pure ethanol. If you see those figures, if you then see that 130,000 tons of maze were transformed where at the same time people didn't have enough to eat, you start to ask yourself whether those are the right decisions. And I think as several of those decisions have been made on a political scene without really thinking it through what it means.
The whole process has come under questioning. And I think that's really what happened in Copenhagen. It was a political failure; it was not, for me at least an issue. I think the issue was there, I think it was wrongly presented. I think climate change is much more complex than just CO2 and you see that now for example, finally people understand that methane is almost 20 times more aggressive than CO2 and then you will see that a lot of other greenhouse gases, may I remind you that there was once a Montreal, agreement before there was a Kyoto Agreement where we also talked about the greenhouse gases. And then climate change has happened in the past and will happen in the future. So, if you look at the big ports of the Roman Empire, they are today, all of them about 20 kilometers inside. Okay, they are not anymore at the sea. So, one could even say, well hopefully there would be a little bit of an increase of the water level because, as I said, we lost about 20 kilometers down there.
Question: How do we remove the politics from climate change?
Peter Brabeck: Well, you know it has become very difficult when a subject like climate change has been entering the political arena on such a high level. It is very difficult for any politicians to stick their head out and say well, let's talk for a moment. Let's get the fact down and be absolutely sure. For me, it has been absolutely stunning to see that tens of thousands of scientists of this world make public statements, sign that and saying that they are not convinced that the data which is being used is absolutely correct and that there was manipulation of this data and that in spite of all of this, decisions are still being made. I mean, just because public opinion has been influenced so far by now that it's difficult for a politician to stand back and say, let's wait a moment. Let's have another look at this thing in order to be sure that the decision that we are taking is the right one. The one I can absolutely be sure is not the right decision is to use food for fuel. I think this is almost criminal.
Recorded on February 26, 2010
The climate change issue is much more complex than a low carbon economy.
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