Sustainable Innovation

French Government presents Grenelle II Laws ; Focus on Local Application

Today, the new ‘Grenelle II’ laws are presented in the French Parliament. Though the  ‘Tax Carbone’ has been abandoned (France will wait EU regulations). detailed plans are presented for building, transport and energy sector. Local authorities are asked to play a more important and facilitating role. French NGO’s point out the weakened ambitions since the Grenelle II and ask French parliament members to push the government to keep its promises (1, 2, 3, 4).

The Grenelle II follows the Grenelle I (2007) and a second public consultation round with representatives of large companies (MEDEF), SMEs (CGPME), NGOs.

The new law package contains six pillars and contains the ‘outlines’ and ‘logistics’ of the application on regional and local level.

1.  Improving the Energetic Performance of Buildings. Among the measures are : insisting on ‘Batiments a Basse Consommation’ (BBC, < 50 KW/H/m2 per year) for new buildings and to reduce the consumption of existing buildings by 38% untill 2020. Which makes sense as the existing buildings use on average 250 KW/H/m2 per year, as stipulated in earlier article.

2. Creating a change in Transport Use. Among the measures presented are : speeding up the process of public transport infrastructure, insisting local public authorities on offering ‘lease-bikes’ and car-sharing programs, and subvention of electric and hybrid car development.

3. Reducing significantly Energy Consumption and Carbon Emissions. Measurements foreseen are : Obligation of all entreprises with over 500 employes and municipalities with more than 500.000 inhabitants to calculate CO2 emissions on a yearly bases, see also earlier article, Stimulation of Renewable Energies, notably by simplification of governmental procedures.

4. Preserving Biodiversity. Pharmaceutical and hospital products will be more restricted and reported. Choice of new geographical zones that need special attention.

5. Risks, health and waste. Various measurements are proposed, such as the Protection of Electrical and Telephone Network workers. Quite remarkable is the new and explicit Interdiction of telephone use in all schools of all ages. The phones may only be used outside the school, nly with seperate earphones connected with a wire to the phone.

6. A new Ecological Governance Model. Introduction of Five ‘Colleges’ of Stakeholders : ONG, Entreprises, Unions, Public Authorities and Public Administration. Regions with over 50 000 inhabitants will be obliged to create a Sustainable Development report.  Exchange with NGOs, Associations and Entreprise Representatives will be extended on a regional and local level to reinforce transparance and exemplarity. Each product should carry CO2 emission information, related to the CO2 emissions created by transport of people and goods.

Open Letter of French NGO’s to vote against the new laws. A group of French NGOs have sent an open letter to the French public representatives to express their inconvenience with the current proposed laws that are regarded as ‘weakened’. They point out that the French Government tends to forget the earlier made promises in 2007 of the Grenelle I claiming to promote renewable energies, whilst subventionning notably nuclear (not solar nor wind energy) in the 2009 Grand Emprunt Plans. They ask the delegates to carefully study the new laws, ask clarifications, clearer and obligatory transparancy on social impacts of French companies and clear dates as of which new laws should be operational (such as the Eco-Etiquettage) (4).  

Sources and more information on : 1.; 2., 3.; 4.

Grenelle : Priorities on Transport and New Buildings

What are the key objectives of the‘Grenelle d’Environment‘ ? It contains key directions for new laws and subventions for the building construction, public transport, renewable energy, biodiversity and agriculture.The current version focusses on environmental issues and less on social aspects.

Setting the example. By new environmental purchase criteria the French state want to set the example. CO2 emission of cars can’t be above 130 CO2/km as of 2009, paper should be recycled or FSC approved as of 2010 (1).

Stimulating Low Energy Buildings. Half of France total energy use and a quarter of the countries greenhouse gas emissions are caused by buildings (2). The average French building energy consumption is very high (240 kWh/m2/year) compared to Northern European houses (around 100), due to poor isolation and energy loss. As great improvements are possible in this sector, the French governments has chosen it as its first priority for action. As of 2012, Borloo and Sarkozy demand that new buildings to be ‘BCS’ (‘Batiment Basse Consomption’). And as of 2020, they should be be ‘energy-positive’, calles  BEPOS (Batiment a Energi Positive) . To achieve the BCS or better, the BEPOS standard, new insulation, better ventilation and renewable energy techniques are encouraged, such as photovoltaic roof panels. Remarkable is that the Grenelle presents no subventions for better a better insulation of current buildings where huge improvements can be made.


Solar roof panels to decrease energy use of new houses.

18,5 Billion Euro Investments in Public Transport. Transport is the second sector of priority, also counting for a . Government Sarkozy is injecting no less than 2,5 billion euro in urban transport (tramway, metro, bus) and 16 billion in new fast train railways between the main cities.  Travel by car and by aeroplane to the contrary, are discouraged. For instance, aeroplane manufacturers are requested to develop new planes that use 50% less carburant by 2020 (by the way, in line with technical expectations ..).

Carbon Tax to Discourage Car Use. A highly political sensitive and mediatised measure is the ‘Taxe Carbone’, a new carbon tax for gas and petrol. The goal is to reduce greenhouse emissions by discouraging car use. Experts estimated a level for 2010 of 45 euro per tons CO2 equivalent to be sufficient to change behaviour (2). Meanwhile the level has been lowered by Sarkozy to 17 euro per ton CO2 equivalent (‘because of the difficult economic times’) which makes the tax still low compared to other European countries (3). Many people question if the low tax level (4 eurocents per liter petrol) will be now be sufficient to reduce car use.  3 out of 4 French people are against the Tax in september 2009 (4). People state that ‘they are already making sufficient efforts to reduce their energy consumption’ (enterprises however should improve theirs ! ).

taxe carbone

Carbon Tax in European countries

The controversy around the Carbon Tax in France  illustrates that the awareness on sustainable issues may be rising, if people asked to pay a price or change their behaviour they seem to be much less committed.

Sources :  1. 2. Derogations et modulations sont les ennemis mortels de la taxe carbone, interview with economist Olivier Godard in Les Echos,  10/09/2009;  3. Le projet de taxe carbone en 2 mots’ 02/08/09.; 4. Les deux tiers des Français rejettent la taxe carbone’ Le Figaro, 03/09/09,  following a poll of TNS Sofres/Logica

Pacte Ecologique changes Political Agenda

pacte ecologique

nicolas hulot

Nicolas Hulot launched the ‘Pacte Ecologique’ in 2006

Changing public opinion. Most French people seemed to be indifferent to environmental and social issues. Now the buzz is on. How did this happen ?

Nicolas Hulots ‘Pacte Ecologique’ . French Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) sat together end of 2005. They concluded that they should change strategy to get their environmental and social goals higher on the political agenda. Lobby-ing and media exposure were needed. French TV personality Nicolas Hulot was asked to lead the media offensive. The  Web Manifesto ‘Pacte Ecologique’ was launched in November 2006. Among the propositions of Hulot and his team, was  the installation of a new Minister ‘Number 2’ of Sustainable Development. The Pacte Ecologique was signed by 750 thousand people. Among them were CEO’s, celebreties and presidential candidates, including Nicolas Sarkozy(1).

borloo grenellesarkozy

Jean-Francois Borloo, Minister of Sustainable Development and Energy, Transport and Town Planning ; le Grenelle d’Environnement, Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France

Sustainable Development in Sarkozy Government. Elected in 2007, President Nicolas Sarkozy had no choice but to take action . First, he appointed the seasoned Jean-Louis Borloo at his new Mega Ministry of ‘Energy, Transport, Town Planning and Sustainable Development’. Second, he organised extensive public debates to define new state directions.  The discussions that followed were without precedent. Over 30.000 individuals and representatives participated . Never before representatives of government, industry, trade unions and NGO’s actually sat together and discussed about environmental and social challenges. The results called ”le Grenelle d’Environment‘ were presented by Minister Borloo in July 2007.  The Grenelle contains France’s key environment and social guidelines for the coming 5 years. Since 2007, new laws and public investment plans are under construction and will soon be implemented.

Sources : 1. ; 2.