Renewing the French connection

"We are on the path to failure if we continue to act as we have" - French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

I wholeheartedly agree with President Sarkozy's words of caution at the U.N. Climate Summit on back in 2009. We need change - drastic change - and we need it now.

I had the honor of meeting him this week. The illustrious French President is well known, among other things, for his strong support on efforts to mitigate climate change. Under his leadership, France has grown to be widely recognized and respected for its commitment to the environment. As part of his latest endeavors, President Sarkozy - who has recently taken presidency of the G-20 - has expressed his plans to set up a G-20 environment fund.

President Sarkozy headed a delegation of 50 senior businessmen and top cabinet officials like Economy Minister Christine Lagarde on his whirl-wind, four-day visit to India. After US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron's highly publicized trips to India, President Sarkozy's visit was keenly anticipated and once again underscores the world's interest in our fast developing economy. I am thrilled with the opportunities that this brings us.

Each of these visits have had very different agendas, but what's notable is that discussions on climate change consistently came high on the agenda. President Sarkozy said, "You should safeguard the environment ... [after all] you will be first to be affected." He couldn't have put it more clearly: a commitment to the environment is not altruistic; it's in the interest of each and every one of us. As a world faced by the same dilemma - even if against different backdrops - it makes sense for us to collaboratively approach and seek solutions to climate change. For the same reason, I want to see the World Environmental Organization, proposed by Nicolas Sarkozy last year, become a reality.

I have admired and followed the French President's ambitious plans for the environment through the years. When he launched the 'green revolution' in France in 2007, in a bid to transform the landscape of his country, I hoped that all nations would follow suit. Under his leadership France has, at the macro level, set a goal of reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050; and at the grass roots, he has been a crusader who supports innovative ideas such as promoting the green choice with labels that will show the carbon footprint of products. Or even more simply - and this option has worked wonders - putting cycles onto the streets of Paris.

The French President brings his country's experience, but more important, its commitment to building a greener tomorrow. I believe that multinational dialogue such as this is necessary to drive the collaboration we need to meet this challenge. Climate change is the single greatest threat to humanity; across governments, across borders and across developmental divides - and it's only by working together that we can defeat it.