Gérard Mestrallet: “There are jobs to be created by the energy transition”
Appearing on Les 4 Vérités (The 4 Truths) as part of the France 2 channel’s Télématin show on August 26, the ENGIE Group Chairman & CEO talked about the Group’s commitment to job creation in France. He also explained the resources the company is putting in place to counter climate change ahead of the 21st UN Climate Change Conference to be held at the end of this year in Paris.
Gérard Mestrallet’s interview with Jean-Paul Chapel for Les 4 Vérités on France 2 (extracts)
Jean-Paul Chapel. You’re the Chairman & CEO of ENGIE, which used to be called GDF SUEZ, so let me ask you first why the change of name?
Gérard Mestrallet. Because the world of energy is changing. Energy is going through a revolution that is sometimes referred to as the energy transition, and ENGIE is changing too. So we have a new name, and with it a new direction.
MEDEF opens its youth-themed summer school today with the slogan Formidable jeunesse. Looking beyond the slogan, what have you got to offer young people listening to our conversation today?
The first thing companies can offer is jobs, and before there can be jobs, there have to be business opportunities for expansion. The President asked me to prepare a report on employment, with particular emphasis on youth employment, and I have responded with a series of proposed measures for work/study apprenticeship (…). I think we must also look at apprenticeship on the European scale, so in conjunction with Pascal Lamy, we are now working on an idea we call an ‘Erasmus pro. The Erasmus program is for international students exchanges in Europe, whereas ours will be for trainees on training courses (…).
Turning to the Responsibility Pact (…), companies must also uphold the commitments they made in return for the €41 billion reduction in corporate taxation. What are those commitments?
Clearly, companies hire, grow and invest when business opportunities for expansion exist, and when the markets are there (…). So I believe that trust can be built and grow on condition that the commitments are met, and that is the reason why I have no doubt about the fact that the commitment made under the terms of the pact will be upheld.
Yes, but how many jobs have been created or will be created as a result of these tax breaks?
ENGIE will, for example, hire 9,000 people in France this year on full-time open-ended contracts. We have a five-year program to hire 45,000 more people in France, because in the service sector and in the energy transition, there are jobs to be created (…).
You’ve referred to the energy transition, and the COP21 climate change conference will be held in Paris at the end of this year with the aim of containing global warming to a further 2 degrees. What can private companies do to help in achieving that target?
For a long time, people thought that companies were dragging their feet over this issue as a result of constraints that were partly political and partly ecological, and it’s true that in Copenhagen – and I was there at the Copenhagen summit which was essentially a failure – companies were dragging their feet, but things have changed since then. They’ve changed because companies now see a real ecological risk, a real climate risk and a considerable level of climate imbalance that could lead to an ecological catastrophe that would turn into an economic catastrophe (…).
So what are they doing in practical terms?
Companies are entering into commitments – each at its own level, of course – to reduce their CO2 emissions. CO2 is the enemy, because it’s CO2 that contributes to global warming. And where are most CO2 emissions coming from? Essentially energy. Energy is responsible for more than half of all carbon emissions.
So take your company, for example: are you playing your part?
Yes absolutely, we produce energy, and we are changing the energy mix used by our own business…
In favor of renewables?
Yes, in favor of renewables, which is another way of saying we use nature. We’ve used water for a long time to generate hydropower, we use air in the form of wind to drive wind turbines – we’re France’s leading generator of wind power - the sun, because we’re also the country’s leading generator of solar power, and then there’s thermal energy for heating. We use subterranean heat in the form of soft geothermal technology to provide heating. We also use subterranean heat to generate electricity… not in France, but in Indonesia, for example (…).