In this first part of the special issue, a number of well-known people with official responsibilities give their views on the great debate on energy transition being undertaken in France in the run-up to a programming law scheduled for autumn 2013. They express their opinions on the potential role of local authorities during the period of energy transition. They explain how citizens could be encouraged to change their behaviour to embrace very real energy savings.
Cécile Duflot, Minister for Territorial Equality and Housing, is preparing a draft law on access to housing and a renovated form of town planning which will play a role in ecological and territorial transition. in March 2013, she launched an ambitious energy renovation plan for housing. The Minister emphasised that, of all the economic sectors in France, construction is the most energy-intensive. it is therefore obvious that ecological changes are dependent on changes in housing. This is why the plan for energy renovation in housing includes new provisions, notably bonuses that are very strong incentives for households with very modest incomes but will also be accessible to the middle classes. A public service will be introduced, specialising in energy renovation, to assist households with their undertakings and provide tailor-made advice (work, financial assistance etc.). The Minister also wants to see more ecological planning, placing the emphasis on greater urban density in an attempt to fight shrinkage of the natural environment.
For Jacques Pélissard, Major of Lons-le-Saunier and President of the Association des maires de France (AMF, Association of Mayors of France), “There cannot be energy transition without overall discussion with local politicians.”Almost all the mayors of towns and cities in France and presidents of public institutions for intertown cooperation (EPCi) are members of the AMF, which supports the increased role given to local authorities as regards energy. However, Jacques Pélissard also believes that energy transition will only be successful if implemented as part of real, guaranteed social and territorial solidarity, through a national price balance and the same quality of energy supply throughout the country.
Bruno Léchevin, President of the Environment and Energy Agency (Agence de l’environnement et de la maîtrise de l’énergie, Ademe) wants to see “the spread of good practice”, an aspect that Ademe is already supporting. Ademe is involved in introducing public policies in the areas of the environment, energy and sustainable development. it is, of course, very much involved in the current debate on energy transition, at both national and regional levels. Ademe’s involvement is aimed at its three targets – territorial authorities, the corporate sector and the general public. it achieves its goals by developing relays and partnerships to change behaviours and mobilise stakeholders across the board.
Jean-Pierre Jouyet, Chairman and C.E.o. of the Caisse des Dépôts, wants “to help territories succeed in their energy transition projects”. Because of its very close ties with local and territorial authorities through its regional offices and subsidiaries in France, the Caisse des Dépôts, a public finance institution, is a significant player in energy transition. it also develops initiatives on a European level and with countries on the Southern shores of the Mediterranean to promote sustainable urban projects and fund the necessary investments to meet the challenges of climate change and the new energy situation.
Karima Delli, a French politician (Europe Ecology - the Greens) in the European Parliament is Vice-President of the Urban intergroup, joint rapporteur on the ErDF and author of a resolution on social housing in the European Union. She claims that the construction industry is responsible for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe and is also the main potential source of energy savings. it is a sector that provides a threefold response to the current social crisis (social, economic and ecological) at a time when the challenge of energy precarity is becoming more and more marked. initiatives financed by the EU have shown that the renovation of insulation in social housing benefitted tenants while creating jobs in building companies. She would like the European Union to make the housing sector as a whole an essential factor for the political future of social cohesion.
Marie-Thérèse Sanchez-Schmid, a French politician (European People’s Party) in the European Parliament, co-founder of the cross-border liaison group and Vice-President of the Urban intergroup, began by recalling European priorities in the fields of sustainable development and energy transition. in 2010, the European Union adopted the EU 2020 strategy, which defined five specific objectives and seven flagship initiatives to be introduced by 2020. The third of the objectives is entitled, “Climate change and sustainable energies”.it stipulates a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (or 30% if conditions allow) compared to the levels in 1990, a 20% increase in the use of energy produced from renewable sources and a 20% increase in energy efficiency. Thus Europe has put sustainable development at the top of its list of priorities. Unfortunately, the ambitions of certain Member States have been reduced by the crisis. nevertheless, Marie-Thérèse Sanchez-Schmid hopes that the future cohesion policy for the 2014-2020 period will contribute to “the changeover to a low-carbon economy”.