Green FranceSince coming to power in 2007, Sarkozy has highlighted the importance of France’s ecological position in Europe and the world. Sarkozy has often been quoted saying that he wants France to be a leader in its environmental policies with a “green revolution” in France.

In 2007 the Grenelle de l’Environnement* was established by the Minister of the Environment Jean-Louis Borloo. Proposals, strategies and targets were discussed and agreed by trade unions, local authorities and NGO’s (non-government organisations) on the following issues:

  • Green Buildings

    Proposals included: An increase in energy-efficient housing by 2011 and passive or positive-energy buildings by 2020, with a view to reducing household energy consumption by 40% by 2020; doubling of the number of older properties renovated each year to 400,000, and energy-efficient renovation of public buildings; a ban on incandescent light bulbs by 2010, to be replaced by obligatory energy saving lights; a ban on single glazing in new buildings by the same date; a tightening of energy consumption standards on household electrical equipment; financial incentives for energy-efficient renovation of privately-owned buildings and a tightening of energy consumption standards on household electrical equipment.

  • Transport

    Proposals included: The construction by 2020 of 2000 kilometres of high-speed TVG rail lines; priority given to public transport over 1,500 km of bus routes, tram lines and cycle lanes to be built; investment in railroad and sea fret transportation, in particular to Italy, Spain and Portugal and implementation of a tax based on mileage for heavy duty vehicles to finance investments in transportation infrastructure with the objective of removing over a million lorries from the roads by 2020. Other proposals included the introduction of eco-tags for private vehicles and the development of clean vehicles.

  • Health
    Proposals included: New health and environment plans by 2012: The development of new research hubs studying the links between health and the environment, toxicology and eco-toxicology; Population bio-monitoring programme, especially for people most at risk; Parliamentary review of environment monitoring; Air quality control – plans to reduce particle pollution and noise black spots given priority.

  • Agriculture
    Proposals included: A reduction in the use of pesticides by 50% within the next 10 years; 20% increase in organic foods in all public sector canteens; Integrating environmental requirements into AOC products; Organic farming on 20% of farmland by 2020, preferably near drinking water collection points.

  • Renewable energy objective
    Proposals included: Ongoing programme to promote renewable energy: hydraulic, wind, biomass, geothermal, photovoltaic cells and solar energy; research into second-generation biofuels; plans for energy-efficient and low-input farming; carbon balance assessments of all administrative departments and a 20% improvement in energy efficiency by 2010; and power plants to pay for all carbon permits from 2013.

  • Taxes
    Proposals included: Introduction of heavy goods vehicle tax on all foreign vehicles crossing French territory; environmental tax on new vehicles considered to breach environmental standards, the proceeds of which to go towards a scrap bonus for disposing of old vehicles; the introduction of a reduced rate of VAT on ecologically friendly products; a tax on those imported products which breach the Kyoto Agreement, subject to approval by the EU.

    In September 2009 the French Government announced the introduction of a carbon tax to come into effect on the 1st January 2010. However, the tax has not yet come into force since France’s Constitutional Council (a legal compliance watchdog) said it would wrongly target people whose livelihoods depend on cars or lorries, as well as polluters who feared they would pay the tax on top of paying for permits. The Constitutional Council reported that more than 1,000 of France’s biggest polluters would have been able to avoid the tax. The government are now looking for a way to cover big polluters without double-charging them. For further information see Carbon tax gets postponed

  • Recycling in France

    The Grenelle de l’Environnement set put an objective to increase recycling by 35% by 2012 and 45% by 2015. In France, 38.7 million tons of material are extracted from the stream of waste and transformed into 31.9 million tons of raw material. The sector has 2,400 companies employing 31,500 people.

    Recycling policies vary from region to region. In some départments residents have separate recycling sacks in which paper, cardboard, plastic bottles and tin cans can be placed and collected. These are sorted by hand at a huge central depot. Glass bottles have to be taken either to the déchetterie or to the many local bottle banks. Some déchetteries take (separately for recycling) cardboard cartons, gravel/stone, wood, compostable material such as hedge clippings and tree branches, batteries, engine oil, metal and electrical items. In other départments residents must take all of their recycling to their local recycling bank usually located in their nearest village; there are separate containers for different products.

    Renewable enrgy and energy companies in France

    “France is the main producer of renewable energy in the EU (15% of the total production of the 25-member EU). 2005 saw wind power energy production rise by 61% and biofuel production by 14%.

    “With the Act of the 28th of June 2006, France was the first to frame a national policy for the long-term management of radioactive material and waste. According to Hans Riotte, the OECD’s nuclear energy agency, the Act providing for burying waste deep underground and setting a timetable for this ‘has put France clearly in the lead in Europe’.

    “As for energy savings, public awareness campaigns and incentives (e.g. tax deductions) are regularly launched… ‘The International Energy Agency has calculated that the average French person is responsible for 6.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide, one of the lowest levels in Europe, one third of the US average and below Japan and Russia.'”**

    The main supplier of electricity to domestic homes in France is EDF (Electricité de France) which is state owned. EDF have many sustainable energy programmes in place in France. They have initiated a €560 million SuperHydro project (Sûreté et Performance de l’Hydraulique), aimed at consolidating and expanding their hydro facilities. Major upgrades to existing plants have increased levels of safety and efficiency.

    Nuclear power is – alongside hydropower – one of the few truly carbon-free means of energy generation. “In France, 78% of electricity is generated by nuclear energy. In 20 years, [due] to nuclear power, EDF has substantially reduced its emissions of pollutants (70% reduction of nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide emissions over the period) which translates into an overall 30% cut in atmospheric pollution in France. France’s nuclear power programme has reduced CO2 emissions by 40%.”**

    With 58 nuclear reactors across 19 sites in France, EDF operates the largest fleet in the world. In one such innovative scheme, EDF is leading the construction of the first ever European pressurized reactor (EPR) nuclear facility, in Flamanville (Manche)… A second French EPR reactor is planned for Penly (Seine-Maritime).***

    Despite producing less atmospheric pollutants, nuclear power does produce radioactive waste and effluents. Rapidly expanding in the European market, EDF are increasing their production of renewable energy and have established EDF Energies Nouvelles, a 50%-owned subsidiary of the EDF group. Find out about alternative renewable energy providers in France.

    Many key European electricity companies are capitalising on France’s natural resources. German owned electricity provider E-on have opened the company’s first solar farm in the southern French town of Le Lauzet. The company plans to produce 25% of its renewable energy in France. While EDF now operate a subsidiary company in the UK – EDF Energy. EDF Energy and EDF Energies Nouvelles are also creating a new joint venture company – EDF Energy Renewables in order to increase the availability of renewable energy supply in the UK.

    * Information on the Grenelle de l’Environnement sourced from www.legrenelle-environnement.fr and www.ambafrance-us.org/climate/
    ** Information about France’s renewable energy position and EDF sourced from www.diplomatie.gouv.fr, article France and the fight against global warming
    *** Information on EDF’s nuclear and hydro plants sourced from the company’s official website www.edfenergy.fr

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