Laurence Monnoyer-Smith, Chief commissioner for sustainable development, is convinced of the relevance of the Energy Observer project. This senior official supports a technical, ecological, and inevitably human challenge. Interview.
Laurence Monnoyer-Smith, what is your role in the government?
I am Chief commissioner for sustainable development, which means I serve as executive director of the Ministry for the Ecological and Solidarity Transition. It is an interdisciplinary administration in the ministry that touches on a series of issues related to the environment, transportation, and housing. I am also an inter-ministerial delegate for sustainable development, under the authority of the prime minister. In this role, I am notably responsible for implementation, in France, of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as adopted by the UN.
What is the role of the Chief commissioner for sustainable development?
The commission produces a large number of studies, statistics, data, and regulations on certain issues that the ministry oversees.
How did you learn about Energy Observer project?
It’s a great story. It was actually a bit of an accident. Which is surprising since Nicolas Hulot is the vessel’s ambassador. In fact, I didn’t know that. I met Victorien at a Paris reception hosted by Synergie Solaire, an investment fund financed by the solar energy network. Victorien was there to give a presentation about Energy Observer. I saw my minister in the video he was showing!
When I went to work the next day, I decided to go see the vessel in Marseille! Fifteen days later, we met once again in Paris as part of the One Planet Summit One planet summit an event that discussed solidary transition, where Victorien presented Energy Observer. Two months later, I had established a partnership.
What attracted you to Energy Observer project?
It’s an extraordinary project because it has several dimensions. I got pulled in by the vessel’s technical innovations. The challenge of integrating a mix of energies on a single vessel is really groundbreaking. The use of hydrogen also interested me as we were preparing Nicolas Hulot’s hydrogen plan. This ministry is fascinated by technological innovations that will allow us to implement the ecological transition and help to achieve zero net emissions by 2050. That is the rocket’s first stage.
We have to get out of our consumer society and into a sobriety dynamic
Apart from the technical challenge, what are the other aspects of this ecological transition?
This transition is also a significant human challenge. The message that Victorien and Energy Observer carry provides the motivation we need to address these major issues. They show us that the ecological transition is possible. It is already a work in progress. It’s a commitment from all the populations to rise to this challenge, which is a humanitarian challenge. Most importantly, it’s a human challenge and a societal challenge.
In order to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,we have to organise a real transformation of our society. With its trip around the globe, Energy Observer is showing that people are taking action all over the world. It’s not easy. The stakes are huge. Energy Observer brings a message of hope. The project shows that through actions of solidarity, accompaniment, and innovation, we can succeed in this transition. We have to step out of our consumerist society and into a dynamic of sobriety. It’s crucial in order to accompany this transition in a peaceful process. Accompaniment solutions must not ignore the most vulnerable sections of the world’s population.
What tangible contribution does the Ministry of Ecological and Solidary Transition bring to Energy Observer project?
Nicolas Hulot asked Victorien to be an ambassador for the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and to spread the word about the ecological transition. The ministry is helping Energy Observer in its Odyssey by providing support with documentation and logistics, and also by sharing contacts so that Energy Observer can be welcomed appropriately at each stop. The vessel has also received funding from the Agency for the Environment and Energy Management (Ademe) and will apply to the funding program for the future to ensure that this pilot is perfected. There is also institutional support. I am making sure that there is a whole series of networking that takes place. It’s a partnership built to last.
What advantages do you get in return from Energy Observer?
Energy Observer adventure is a real beacon for environmental issues everywhere it goes. The films produced by Victorien and Jerome show the very tangible implementation of solutions encountered in the field and give us proof that these initiatives can be disseminated more widely. We need to step up implementation for the ecological transition to become reality. Energy Observer serves as a powerful link between public policy decided in Paris and its deployment in the field. Victorien and Jerome are like modern day explorers, and we need this ray of hope in order to make progress.