Six months after the Grenelle de l’Environnement, its conclusions have finally been translated into a legislative bill which was unveiled in parliament on April 30. The text has been welcomed by NGOs as a more or less faithful rendition of the spirit and the letter of the Grenelle but there is concern about how to finance the stated goal of “making France the most carbon-efficient economy in the European Union” by 2020. The bill will be presented to the Council of Ministers at the end of May, and then go before parliament before the summer.
The first law to go before a parliamentary vote concerns construction and transportation. The second, which concerns agriculture and governance, will be heard in the autumn. The bill consists of 47 articles grouped under five headings – climate change, biodiversity, health and environmental risks, the state and legislation which is specific to the overseas territories.
The biggest concern is over funding. Les Echos reported that earlier versions of the bill gave precise figures such as 24 billion euros for the renovation of state-owned buildings, but such figures were excised for the final text. Similarly for the goal of building 2,000 kilometres of high-speed train lines – an earlier estimate of 69 billion euros was also struck from the final text.
Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo, for his part, has said that the state will finance 16 of the 69 billion euros earmarked for high-speed train lines, as well as more than one billion of the 4.5 billion needed for a wide canal which will link the Seine with northern Europe.
Environmental NGOS are also concerned that the bill will be significantly watered down during its passage through parliament. On the plus side, they applauded the fact that the text contained a strong commitment to biodiversity, and the government’s decision to drop the European Union target of shifting to 10 percent biofueld by 2020.
Highlighs of the bill:
1. Tax policy
the state will study the creation of a carbon tax, with the caveat that this new tax “will be strictly compensated by reductions on other obligatory taxes to preserve householding spending power and competitiveness of enterprise.”
From 2011, all trucks which are not on highways will be taxed.
New buildings will have to respect a “low energy consumption” norm starting from the end of 2012. From 2020 onwards this will become a “positive energy” norm
The state has set a goal of cutting energy consumption of its buildings by 38 pct by 2020
Renovation and insulation of 800,000 low cost housing units by end-2020
4. Town planning
Regions, departments and communes with more than 50,000 inhabitants will have to craft climate-energy plans before 2021
5. Transport of merchandise
The state will allocated up to 400 million euros per year to improve the upkeep of the railroads
Launch of three auto-highways, development of “sea highways” and the launch of a wide canal Seine-North Europe
Conatruction of 2000 kms of high-speed train lines before 2020
creation of three new national parks, acquisition of 20,000 hectares of wetlands
Ban on phosphates in all detergent products starting from 2012, and starting from 2015 for industrial usage
Doubling of tax credits from 2009 in favour of organic agriculture – goal is to increase cultivated land for organic agriculture to 20 pct by 2020. Cut by half pesticide use. Set up emergency plan to safeguard bees in 2009.
10. Health and environment
Reinforcement of the follow-up on the professional exposure to dangerous substances. Reinforcement of efforts on improving air quality, and the policy on reducing waste. Launch before April 2009 of a public debate on nanomaterials.