Report Card on the French Grenelle After Three Years

3

The French Round Table on sustainability known as the Grenelle de l’Environnement is now three years old and this was the occasion for French government experts to publish an evaluation report.

Three years ago representatives of national and local government and private organizations from industry, labour, professional associations and non-governmental organizations were asked by President Sarkozy to work together on making France more sustainable.

What was announced after these discussions was presented as “green new deal” with some ambitious goals.

Three years later, the plan suffers mixed reviews even though the report notes 77 percent of all planned actions have been carried out or will be in the future.

This might seem like a lot, but only 18 percent of these actions have been already realized to date. Among the ideas that have been realized and worth spreading around the world include:

  • The feebates system for cars is a tremendous success. The Sustainable Development Minister, Mr. Jean-Louis Borloo, recently boasted that France had the cleanest car fleet in the world. Indeed cars emitted an average of 150 grams of CO2 per kilometer in 2007 and now emit only 133 gr/km today. Meanwhile, France has been heavily taxing gas for many years already.
  • The development of high speed rail with 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) of new rail lines. This will double the amount of TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse, or High Speed Train) lines. Additionally, 400 kilometers (250 miles) of new mass public transportation are also being realized, which is as much as during the previous three decades.
  • Buildings are a critical issue as they use 42% of the total energy consumed and are responsible for 25 percent of greenhouse gases emissions. To solve this problem, France is encouraging the development of low consumption buildings and provides a zero-interest rate loan to people willing to retrofit their apartments and buildings with. By 2020, all new buildings will have  to produce more energy than they are consuming (positive energy). Public buildings will also have to be retrofitted.
  • Electricity : Despite being heavily reliant on nuclear (78 percent) and hydro power (ten percent) for its electricity, France is also willing to develop renewable energy sources such as offshore wind and solar to bring their proportion to 23 percent of the electricity mix by 2020. As I noted previously France has set a target of 3,000 MW of offshore wind by 2015.

This may seem fantastic but not everything has been put in place. Critical topics such as the carbon tax – which I wrote previously about – and the extension of the feebate system to other products have been delayed or simply canceled.

The failure to implement a carbon tax resounded, at the time, as an end of the government’s commitment to green issues as it was supposed to speed up the transition to a more sustainable society by bringing billion of euros to help fund related projects.

Building low energy buildings or even positive energy ones looks cool, but one should not forget that already built houses and buildings seriously need to be retrofitted and weatherized. It is estimated that 400,000 buildings will have to be retrofitted each year by 2013, compared to 250,000 currently.

Other critical topics such as biodiversity protection, a more sustainable agriculture and measures to decrease waste still need to be tackled.

But patience in politics (and reforms) is a virtue.

For more, you may download in French the official report. A shorter version with only the main figures is also available.

About Author

Fascinated by sustainability and cleantech since 2004, Edouard wrote both his Bachelor of Arts' dissertation and Master's thesis on sustainable energy topics. He haven't stopped writing on these subjects ever since. A French Master's graduate in international management, Edouard has had several experiences in Marketing and Communications in Europe. He worked for firms as diverse as a German water treatment company, a leading French business school and lately a Belgian automation specialist. He is currently for hire globally. Since 2007 Edouard has been selecting for his own blog the latest headlines and best researches on sustainable development, climate change, cleantech and the world energy sector. With over 1,600 published articles, he is read all over the world. On Cleantechies, Edouard has been proposing since June 2009 news articles and opinion pieces on on French and European policies. Don't hesitate to contact him as he is always interested in discussing with new people.

3 Comments

  1. very interesting report

    let’s hope Mme Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, (ministre de l’écologie, du développement durable, des transports et du logement)) will give impetus to the Grenelle, explain to the Frenchies what is really at stake and exert an impelling force toward the green changement

    many thanks, Edouard & keep us posted

  2. Pingback: Report on the French Grenelle after three years :: Sustainable development and much more

Join the Conversation