Environment regulation was for a long time not deemed a top priority for governments. There was this crazy – though widespread- belief that we could do anything with our planet and it would always provide us with all the resources we needed and stay pristine and shiny like we had always known it to be. The unbridled laissez-faire that consequently prevailed is now history. Policy makers, faced with the fierce urgency of global warming ,energy-shortages concerns, are trying to impose legal obligations to force polluters, notably businesses, to take into account and reduce the damage they inflict on the environment, and empowers local governments to take green actions.
Of course, the task is tricky, given the growing pressure on businesses to be competitive. To simplify : any new tax or constraining measure or norm impedes national businesses, all the more that there is no such thing as harmonization of environmental taxes or measures or norms on a global scale, which leads to fiscal/legal asymmetry which in turn may lead to enterprises relocating in more tax-friendly countries .
Governments have to conciliate their national industries’ interests with the interests of … well , everybody.
As for our previous article, we will discuss a recently promulgated French environmental law to try and get our English-speaking readership familiar with what’s going on here as far as green legislation is concerned. This law is called the « Grenelle 2 » and was adopted on July 12th. It follows the Grenelle I (obviously), and is aimed at giving practical application to the principles the latter edicts. Its detractors accuse it of being way too moderate.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 .
The Grenelle 2 law tackles 6 main domains. For each one of them, let’s examine its main provisions and goals and let our readers make up their own mind…
The Grenelle 2 aims at improving the energetic performance of buildings, and wants to spur an urbanism that would consumer fewer land and energetic resources.
– Creation of a mandatory certificate that verifies that all energetic and acoustic norms are respected at the end of construction works . Also the project manager is responsible in case of non compliance.
– Promoting Energetic performance contracts
– Enhance and systematize Energetic Performance Diagnosis and Energetic Audits in big coproprieties .
– Inform the futur inhabitants of a building on its Energetic Performance and display this information on real-estate ads.- A building permit has to accept all the energetic devices and low-GHG materials or materials that help retain rain waters of buildings.
Some concrete actions:
• Low consumption buildings (a.k.a Bâtiments Basse Consommation)
• The « Bâtiment » scheme
• Commitment of engineering companies in favor of the Grenelle
The Grenelle 2 law aims at make both our mentalities and behaviors and our transportation infrastructures evolve towards more eco-responsibility.
What’s at stake here is , among other things, the development of transportation infrastructures that would offer an alternative to driving, the realization of over 1500 kilometers of urban collective transportation lines and the construction of train highways and sea routes. The aim is to insure a consistency within all the transportation networks and to adapt them to the current energetic and ecological challenges.
By implementing a series of measures promoting the development of collective means of transporation within and outside the cities :
-Give local governments the ability to organise a service of free bike rental and build secure
parking spots for bikes when a new building or parking is built .
– Developing the idea of auto-sharing and creating a specific label
-Modernizing highway tolls by allowing to adapt the fee considering the environmental performance of vehicles.
-Developing electric vehicles and rechargeable hybrids.
– Allowing cities of more than 300 000 inhabitants to set an urban toll if they want to.
Some concrete actions :
• The ecological bonus-malus
• Research projects for low-carbon vehicles
• National engagement for rail fret
• The convention bringing together all the actors of the French air transport convention sector.
To achieve the GHG-emission reduction goal Europe set (which we discussed in a previous article), the Grenelle Environment law reinforces energy-saving measures and develops renewable energies.
– Obligation for compagnies who employ more than 500 employees and cities of more than 50 000 inhabitants to report their GHG emissions by the end of year 2012.
– Obligation for cities of more than 50 000 inhabitants to adopt a « Climate-Energy » scheme (Plan climat-energie) by the end of year 2012.
– Better supervision of all the experimental CO2-stocking devices to control their safety and promote their appearance if they prove to work out.
– Enhance consumer information by energy distributors on their level of energy consumption and the solutions to reduce it.
– Possibility given to all moral persons to install photovoltaic cells on its roofs and to sell the produced energy at a preferential rate.
Some concrete actions :
• The « renewable heat » fund
• The progressive replacement of non-ecological light bulbs
• Reducing the energy consumption of appliances
• The sustainable development tax credit