Grenelle Day 2: Sarkozy launches France’s Green Revolution

President Nicolas Sarkozy wrapped up the Grenelle with a press conference this afternoon in which he unveiled the main decisions emerging from the four-month consultation with business, NGOs, trade unions, academics, local authorities and government ministries. Feedback from the NGOs, who have graduated during the Grenelle to legitimate players in the policy-making process on the environment (this, along with getting them at the same table as the pesticide and farm lobbies, is one of the biggest, most innovative achievements of the entire exercise) has been mostly positive, with some reserves about watered-down compromises on GM crops and pesticides.

Nicolas Hulot, head of the Fondation Nicolas Hulot and an almost-ran presidential candidate with enormous popular clout in France, declared that the outcome was “globally positive, a blockage has been removed.” “We are in the process of accomplishing in several days what we weren’t able to do in several years,” he said, adding that Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo had worked hard to push the environmental agenda. “When there was a cursor, he put it on the side of the environment every time.”

Here is a wrap up of the main policy measures:

ENERGY
– carbon tax (Nicolas Hulot’s pet project) – Sarkozy pledged to study the creation of a carbon tax which would be offset by a reduction in professional taxes in the context of a thorough tax reform in France
– development of renewable energies to attain an equivalent of 20 milllion tonnes of petrol by 2020
– carbon audit for all companies with more than 50 employees
– energy labelling for all mass consumer products
– reiteration of commitment to nuclear energy

WASTE DISPOSAL
– no agreement on the ban on incinerators demanded by NGOs – the Grenelle has extended discussion on the subject for an extra 12 weeks

AGRICULTURE

A temporary freeze on GMOs until a law is debated in parliament on the subject starting from January 2008.
Pesticides – Sarkozy has instructed the Agriculture Mnister to come up within a year with a plan to cut by 50 percent the use of pesticides known to be dangerous within a time frame of 10 years “if possible”
Organic agriculture, which currently occupies 2 percent of cultivated land, needs to increase to 6 percent by 2012 and 20 percent by 2020

CONSTRUCTION
– unanimity on the need for a clean break with current practices
– for new construction, a new threshold for energy efficiency of 50 kWh per square meter per year, compared with a current 260
– all public buildings will have to undergo an energy audit starting 2008
– renovation of older buildings to more stringent energy efficiency critera – 80 kWh per square meter per year

TRANSPORT
– rebate on “clean” cars
– tax on lorries driving outside of highway network
– development of 1500 kms of tramway lines (compared with 329 kms today) outside the Greater Paris region
– freeze on new construction of highways, except in cases of severe congestion or for security reasons
– rehabilitation of ports and old rail lines for freight, development of river transport

GOVERNANCE AND DEMOCRACY
– discussions extended through Friday

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