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 Bern, 16 October 2011IPU Logo-bottom


Other interviews, speeches and press releases in this series

Clean technologies can spur economic growth

Interview with Mr. Bertrand Piccard, aeronaut and inventor of Solar Impulse together with André Borschberg

Mr. Bertrand Piccard Q: What was your message to the MPs from 130 countries present at the 125th IPU Assembly in Bern?
B.P. Parliamentarians have an extremely important role to play in the development of new technologies and the gradual replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energies. If we wait for the situation to change on its own, nothing will happen. Clients are ready to purchase new technologies, but they are not on the market. Manufacturers are willing to produce them but they need clear direction for their investments and a sound legal framework. Who will change the world? It is legislators who will be making laws and establishing the legal framework for saving fossil fuels and developing renewable energies. When we speak to MPs, we speak to people who can make a change in the world.

Q: Do you think your message was heard?
B.P. When I consider the number of questions I fielded from the audience, I have a feeling something clicked. It's a good sign.

Q: Who are the political counterparts of Solar Impulse?
B.P. The vast majority of events organized around Solar Impulse are intended for the political sphere: parliamentarians, European Commissioners, ministers, heads of State and government, kings and princes. Solar Impulse is not just a solar-powered plane that flies without fuel, it is a above all a message for politicians that can change our world's energy policy, provided that we have the courage and pioneering spirit to do so.

Q: What is your next challenge?
B.P. It is one that will keep me busy for a good while: not only having a plane that can fly around the world without fuel thanks to the Solar Impulse programme, but using this programme and this demonstration of technology to encourage as many people as possible to use in their daily life the technologies we use in our plane. If a plane can fly day and night without fuel, these same technologies can power cars, heat homes, etc.

Q: Do you want to see a change in culture or mentality regarding green technology?
B.P. I am a psychiatrist. I have always felt that one should not create resistance and wage unnecessary battles. We should show the interest anyone can have in this new technological development. It's like when we wanted to protect nature and lower CO2 emissions, we were met with resistance from the manufacturers and the economic sector. The aim is to create jobs, to use these new technologies for new products and to open up new markets. Clean technologies can spur economic growth. That will help the environment and drive not only environmentalists but also lots of other people to embark on this new industrial, economic and technological challenge.

Q: Nicolas Hulot sensitized men and women politicians during the presidential election campaign in France. Are you doing the same thing in Switzerland and elsewhere?
B.P. A month ago, I launched an energy chart that was presented to all candidates to the Swiss federal elections. A total of 530 candidates signed it and undertook to attain clear objectives in terms of energy savings and the development of renewable energy. It might be nothing more than a pipe dream, but my goal is for all those who signed the chart to have a better chance of being elected than the others. That is why we published the names of all those candidates on our website and in the newspapers. If they indeed have a better chance of being elected than the others, that would mean that in four years, all the parties and candidates will have to incorporate an energy message in their election campaign. In four years we can change the country's energy policy to a large extent.

Q: Are you interested in changing things through politics?
B.P. That has interested me for a long time, but I don't want to be a member of any political party. Because even if I were in the largest political party in Switzerland, we would have a 30-per cent audience and 70-per cent of opponents. It is better to remain outside the parties and see to what extent each of them is willing to play the game. This energy chart was signed by candidates from all parties - leftist and right-wing. That shows that there is a possibility and a chance to be taken there.

Q: In Bern, you met briefly with the Speaker of the Moroccan House of Representatives, Mr. Abdelwahad Radi, who is the new IPU President. Solar Impulse is scheduled to fly to Marrakech in 2012. Can you tell us more about this next flight?
B.P. We are in fact looking at the possibility of flying to Morocco next year, but nothing has been decided yet. It will depend on the infrastructure we can find there for our huge plane.

Q: Why have you chosen Morocco, and Marrakech in particular, as your next stop?
B.P. With Solar Impulse, Andre Borschberg and I want to support the efforts of countries that want to develop renewable energies, which is exactly what Morocco wants to do. It is admirable to see such a pioneering spirit at the country level.

Interview: Luisa Ballin (IPU)
Photo: Swiss Parliament/Christof von Waldkirch

Established in 1889 and with its Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the IPU, the oldest multilateral political organisation, currently brings together 159 affiliated parliaments and nine regional assemblies as associate members. The world organisation of parliaments has an Office in New York, which acts as its Permanent Observer at the United Nations.
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