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To save our planet, we need to act now



We are living at a critical juncture in the history of our planet. The global agreement reached at COP21 in Paris last December is an unprecedented commitment to tackle climate change before a catastrophic rise in global temperatures. Now is the time to change fundamentally the way we use the world’s resources, and the opportunities are immense.


For the first time, governments have set clear targets, country by country, with a shared goal to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees. The agreement is binding on 185 nations, and adopts an aspirational target of 1.5 degrees, although the concrete measures required to meet that goal remain the responsibility of national governments.


Now is the time to demonstrate how we can get to where we need to go. Too often, effective action on climate change has been stymied by fear: the fear that threats to our climate are already too big to manage; fear that any remedy would be too little too late; fear that doing the right thing will entail unwanted sacrifices, or a heavy cost to our lifestyles.


Mercifully, this is not the case.

Research indicates that we can double the rate of energy efficiency improvement from around 1.5% to 3% per year, reduce the global fossil fuel bill by more than 2 trillion dollars before 2030, and slash the average household energy bill by a third. Best of all, we can achieve all this simply by making better use of technology already available.


Take lighting. Currently, lighting accounts for 19% of all electricity used globally, yet even the simplest of changes – a universal switch to LED systems – could slash this to 8%. That would bring savings of EUR 272 billion and reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by about 1,400 megatons by 2030.


A city that switches its street lighting to LED can typically realize energy savings of around 40%. If planners go one step further and network a city’s lighting, including sensors and wireless connectivity to control light remotely, then for certain applications, total savings of 70-80% are possible.

Grasping these opportunities will be easier for developing countries, since they are often creating city infrastructures from scratch. By investing in energy-efficient solar-powered LED, cities can leapfrog to a zero-energy lighting solution.


The benefits for rural off-grid communities are just as great. Today, 1.1 billion people across the world are cut off from reliable electricity. That’s one person in seven, forced to rely on kerosene lamps and candles in their homes. The terrible consequence is that 1.5 million people die every year from respiratory illness and fires. Off-grid solar LED can end this injustice at a fraction of the cost of kerosene, bringing to communities the light they need to develop and live well.


In the industrialized countries, the most urgent task to achieve energy efficiency is to renovate existing infrastructure. We need to make sure that all public, and private, spaces make the best use of energy-efficient technologies. This investment will also reap dividends in other areas, such as making cities safer and more livable.


For example, Los Angeles recently became the first city in the world to control its LED street lighting through mobile and cloud-based technology. Next to the big energy savings and a greatly reduced bill for electricity, other benefits include safer streets and reduced maintenance costs. The city is also piloting the Philips SmartPole, connected LED street lighting with Ericsson 4G LTE wireless technology built into the street pole. This combines high quality lighting with improved 4G network performance in urban areas – benefits that go beyond illumination.


Connected street lighting is, manifestly, a win-win proposition: good for a city’s public purse, good for the environment. Yet such projects are still the exception. Of approximately 300 million street lights across the world, only about 10% are LEDs. And just 1% are connected. If nations are to make meaningful gains in energy efficiency, policymakers need to make LED street lights the norm in every city.

Of course it’s not only city planners, nor national governments that are charged with achieving the targets set at COP21. Action on climate change is something to which all of us – every company and every individual – must commit.


We at Philips are walking the talk. In two decades, we’ve cut our usage of non-renewable sources from 92% to 45% in 2015. We are adopting energy efficiency measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across our business. At COP21, I announced our pledge to shrink our carbon footprint to zero by 2020.


Zero carbon is a bold ambition, but a step that we know we must – and want to – take. The global transition to energy-efficient systems is not an ‘opt-in’ or ‘opt-out’ discussion. It is not something that we ‘might’ or ‘could’ do, nor something that can be postponed until a more convenient time. To save our planet for future generations, this is what we need to do – and we must do it now.


Learn more about Philips lighting solutions.

Eric Rondolat  

Executive Vice President, Chief Executive Officer of Lighting and member of the Executive Committee, Philips

Eric Rondolat began his career with Schneider Electric (formerly Merlin Gerin) in 1990, and has been working internationally on mature and fast-developing emerging markets ever since. He has held sales and marketing positions in Australia and Singapore, he was plant manager of the subsidiary Systèmes Equipements Tableaux BT in France, then General Manager of Merlin Gerin Loire from 1999-2001. For two years after that, he was Country Manager of Schneider Electric Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, before relocating to France to become Senior Vice President in the Customers and Markets Division of Schneider Electric, where he was responsible for product strategic marketing. Between 2006 and 2009 Eric was Executive Vice President, Power Business Unit at Schneider Electric, before being appointed to Executive Vice-President, Power Asia-Pacific Business for Schneider, based in China.


Eric holds an Engineering degree and a Master’s degree in International Marketing.


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