Can we hope for a better future?

For URSA’s first sustainability report we spoke to Christian Michel, our CEO and Efrén del Pino, International Marketing Director. Christian is concerned with our overall corporate strategy and where sustainability fits with the direction we are taking for the future. Efrén is directly involved in sustainability actions, also caring about our perspectives on reaching the targets for 2050 and European energy efficiency in general.

Christian, let’s start with you. What is your perspective on humanity’s progress towards a more sensible attitude to sustainability?

We seem to be learning our lesson but doing it too slowly. 2012 was a frightening year. The nuclear power sector continues its downward spiral after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Also, nature has pointed her finger at us a few times recently. Look at ‘Sandy’, a storm of historic dimensions, floods in Russia and worldwide and wildfires in Spain which stretched for hundreds of kilometres and were the worst on record.

Interestingly, one extraordinary fact seemed to go pretty much unnoticed. On August 26th 2012, the extent of sea ice reached its lowest level since records began. Then, on the September 16th it established a new record low.

At the same time, the financial crisis continues to wreak havoc around the globe, leaving millions jobless, sweeping away governments and creating instability.

Energy security is also fragile, wouldn’t you say?

Recent events show just how fragile. Fukushima demonstrates yet again that nuclear power is very difficult to control and can be devastating in extreme situations. We need to ask ourselves if we want such a constant dormant danger in our backyards, not to mention the issue of waste. Also, most of the global oil and gas reserves are located in areas with quite unstable political life and dynamic changes. Think about all the recent unrest caused by the Arab Spring, or areas with issues related with gas supplies.

Recent studies show that we apparently have reached what experts call ‘peak oil’. The amount of oil can only go down and we should be desperately looking for alternatives. Yet securing energy supplies is not sufficient either. It’s comparable to a drug-addicted person finding a warehouse full of drugs. Maybe healing the addiction would be better.

What do you think is the answer? Is then renewable energy the key?

Renewable energy is the kind of solution that could be an aim. Yet we should treat the subject with maximum responsibility and realism. There is only so much land on this planet. Renewable energy has its disadvantages. Some forms compete with food production and require considerable space. What is environmentally unsustainable today will become socially unsustainable in the near future. The real answer is energy efficiency

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There is a lot of work to be done in the next 40 years if we want our grand children to enjoy their life. And URSA is right there, in the front line.