Why our future prosperity hinges on investments in renewable energies and e-mobility

Written by Andreas Thomann, Head of Editorial Office, Julius Baer

To stop climate change, we need to preserve our prosperity. E-mobility and renewable energies are steps in that direction. However, this means we have to redesign an infrastructure that is based on fossil fuels. Professor Anthony Patt of ETH Zurich and Norbert Rücker, an analyst with Julius Baer, discuss in this video how our society can master this challenge.

The share of renewable energies has increased considerably in the past 10 to 20 years. “It’s not the energy in itself that is the problem – it’s energy based on fossil fuels,” sums up Anthony Patt, Professor of Environmental Systems Science at ETH Zurich. “We are living in a world that has been hell-bent on utilising fossil energy. We need to break down this mentality, adapt our infrastructure.”

He does see a silver lining on the horizon, he says: “There is much more renewable energy around than we will ever need.” And that’s not all. It’s renewable energy that already is available at prices comparable to those for fossil-fuel energy.

“There is much more renewable energy around than we will ever need.”

The urgently needed energy revolution has already begun, we’re right in the middle of it. “It’s a development we would not have thought possible ten years ago, not to this extent anyway,” confirms Norbert Rücker, Head of Macro & Commodities Research at Julius Baer. Electric cars are the main driving force behind it, convincing us with their performance and the pleasure of using them. “They help us to solve environmental problems without having to sacrifice on prosperity,” says Rücker. What makes them such an asset for climate protection is the fact that these cars are powered by electricity. Their fossil-fuel-powered counterparts cannot make use of renewable energies.

“We are the decision makers. We can all decide where we want to buy our electricity.”

It would be all too easy to look for solutions to the energy problem in politics, to make politicians responsible for it, Rücker points out. It’s up to society itself, to each individual citizen, to bring about the energy revolution. “We are the decision makers,” he says. “We vote. We consume. We can all decide where we want to buy our electricity. We all decide how often we want to travel or how much meat we want to eat. If we take these decisions, we substantially contribute to the efforts to halt climate change.” The salient point, Prof Patt says, is that we import more than half of our emissions through the products we buy. “They have been produced abroad with fossil-fuel energy.”

“Switzerland could be Europe’s battery.”

Switzerland, with its ready access to an abundance of hydropower, is in an almost unique position. It also thrives on trading in electricity. “It could be Europe’s battery,” Rücker asserts. However, to cover its huge domestic demand for electricity, Switzerland also needs solar and wind power. “But that’s easy to import from the north or the south,” he says.

“A rapid spread of e-mobility is essential.”

Sacrifices are tough, especially for a society so used to steadily increasing prosperity. Rücker is optimistic: “I’m convinced that technology will provide the solution to a large extent.” In order to stop climate change – Prof Patt’s declared goal – we have to stop using fossil-fuel energy entirely within the next 30 to 40 years. The environmental systems scientist puts it in a nutshell: “We need a truly rapid transition, and we need to build up renewable energy sources. We also need a rapid spread of e-mobility.”

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