The Shift Project is a French think tank advocating the shift to a post-carbon economy. As a non-profit organisation committed to serving the general interest through scientific objectivity, we are dedicated to informing and influencing the debate on energy transition in Europe.
Creation of The Shift Project
A window of opportunity
The financial crisis that has gripped the economies of Europe since 2008 has opened up a breathing space in which to consider step change scenarios. Governments have shown themselves capable of injecting several thousands of billions of dollars (between 15% and 25% of global GDP, according to sources) to save the struggling global banking and financial infrastructure, which they believed crucial to their economies.
Since our planet –the source of all the resources that ‘make the machine work’– is even more crucial to the economy, it is now becoming acceptable to envisage step change scenarios of a size at least equivalent to that implemented to save global finance. Repeated crises have created the widespread feeling that the old recipes are working less and less effectively, which in turn is creating a major opportunity to suggest different ways forward.
The positioning of The Shift Project
The Shift Project wishes to promote a sustainable economy that is neither anti-capitalist in principle nor out of step with scientific fact. Although we share certain characteristics, we do not define ourselves as a scientific body or as a ‘traditional’ environmental NGO. Neither do we represent a particular strand of business.
- The role of the scientific bodies, representing the academic world is to identify the contours of the problem to be solved, but their mandate is not despite widely-held confusion– to suggest a solution to the problem they identify and highlight (which will form part of what The Shift Project does)..
- Historically the first to have brought the debate into the public arena, the Environmental Non-Governmental Organisations (ENGOs) are often the most active in specific sectors (pesticides, nuclear power, transport, etc.), but rarely study those systemic changes that require a global overview of the possible trade-offs, and especially economic trade-offs. Added to which, they do not in all cases reflect the reality of the science involved, which makes them less influential amongst certain types of decision-makers.
- Some of the industry bodies that defend the interests of particular sectors of the economy are capable of being simultaneously in agreement with the scientific facts and in a position to make constructive economic proposals. But this is not always the case and, generally speaking, they are rarely promoters of an overview on economic reorientation. More specifically, they often have the habit of thinking that traditional economic indicators take precedence over physical approaches –which is not TSP’s point of view. As a result, they are sometimes tempted to repudiate facts whose logical conclusions would impose constraints on the areas of industry they represent.
There is one last point that should be noted: historically, those concerned with climate change and those focused more on energy have more often been opposed in their views than united. A joint approach to the two problems – which is that adopted by TSP – is a very recent development and remains far from complete.
The goal of The Shift Project is to borrow the best from each type of stakeholder to put forward global and constructive overviews, charting the way forward to a carbon free economy – overviews that do not assume a fundamental change in human nature before they can be applied.