What is biodiversity ? What are its links with the climate? What can we do to preserve it? What is man’s responsibility? To address this complex subject, Trends Shaker Live invited two experts: Pauline Millot, CSR & Innovation project manager at ENGIE France Renouvelables and Bruno David, naturalist specializing in paleontology and evolutionary and biodiversity sciences, and president of the National Museum of Natural History.
According to the latest IPCC reports1 and IPBES2, climate change and the erosion of biodiversity are two intimately linked crises. If climate change exacerbates the risks to the diversity of living species, in turn, ecosystems are essential for capturing carbon and slowing global warming. The good news is that nature is very resilient and we are able to reverse biodiversity loss extremely quickly. By restoring degraded ecosystems, protecting 30-50% of land, rivers and oceans, the IPCC tells us, we can benefit from nature’s ability to absorb and store carbon.
Reconnect with nature
For the naturalist Bruno David, it is urgent to reconnect man to nature. “We have long thought of ourselves as separate from nature, with humans on one side and nature on the other. Today, we realize that we are interdependent with the rest of life, and that we are a bit like on a football field: we are neither referees nor coaches, but we are part of the players”, explains he. Eco-optimist, he considers that the future is in our hands: “we have significant room for improvement to preserve biodiversity, whether at the level of citizens, States and businesses. And the best margins of progress that we have, it is there where the situation is the worst. Because that’s where you can make the most progress! ».
Better understand to better protect
Companies have their role to play, as Pauline Millot explains: “We are making strong commitments to understand our impact on the living world and on the climate,” she says. Creating, promoting and designing renewable energy projects that are ever more sustainable over time is part of ENGIE’s DNA. For each new renewable energy production project – wind, photovoltaic solar, hydroelectric and biogas – we work in collaboration with ecologists, design offices, environmental associations and territories to fully understand the behavior of species and better protect them. It is thanks to this pool of expertise and complementarities that we manage to define the project that is the most respectful of biodiversity, the most efficient from an energy point of view and the most adapted to the territory.”she says.
“In concrete terms, we carry out impact studies in the field in order to identify the major issues, the natural habitats and the species, but also the interactions and the ecological functionality of a site. This allows us to better implement what is called the Avoid, Reduce, Compensate (ERC) sequence, which aims to avoid damage to the environment, to reduce those that could not be sufficiently avoided and to compensate for significant effects that could not be avoided or sufficiently reduced. After examining this sequence, we may be led to abandon projects. In the Grand Est for example, two large wind farm projects which were at advanced stages of reflection have been abandoned to preserve a local raptor, the red kite, which is a protected species, listed on the International Union’s red list. for the conservation of nature (IUCN). »
Inspired by nature to innovate
We have everything to learn from biodiversity. And biomimicry proves that nature can be a source of inspiration. “A few years ago, says Pauline Millot, following complaints about the noise of wind turbines, we looked for a way to reduce the impact of the blades when they feign the wind. What could be better than taking inspiration from nocturnal birds of prey which have a very gentle, very silent flight because it is necessary for them to hunt at night? We were therefore inspired by the feathers of barn owls and eagle owls to design small combs that we placed on the trailing edges of the blades in order to break the small vortices that form at the level of the blades and which are the cause of the noise. »
All biodiversity observers
A better understanding of biodiversity is within everyone’s reach. Just open your eyes says Bruno David: “Walk around with a magnifying glass, be attentive to what surrounds you, look at what is very small. Biodiversity is everywhere”. If the naturalist deplores our lack of curiosity and our lack of knowledge in natural history, he reminds us that schools are a tremendous lever for promoting wonder and the ability to observe. In the same vein, Pauline Millot and the ENGIE France Renewables teams created a biodiversity observatory in December 2021 with Vigie-Nature (the participatory science unit of the Natural History Museum), the French committee of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Paris Saclay University. The goal? “Allowing students in ecology training to come and observe biodiversity within ENGIE’s industrial sites producing renewable energies. Students can thus put their learning into practice and train for a potential profession. For our part, we are inspired by their ideas to go ever further in the preservation of ecosystems. It’s a win-win exchange! »specifies the ecologist.