Government Makes Plans to Fight Environmental Crisis

Hollande at the Environmental Conference
Photo: JACKY NAEGELEN/AP/SIPA

Energy resources are becoming increasingly hard to come by and worries concerning environmental protection are rising. These factors make the environmental conference that was held September 14 and 15 in Paris at the Palais Iéna of the greatest importance. Five themes were discussed at the conference: energy, biodiversity, health and environmental risks, environmental taxes, and environmental governance.

A new debate on energy will be held in the coming weeks. Implementation of a progressive tax on electricity and gas has been agreed upon in order to improve management of energy consumption and to fight against energy insecurity.

The government wants to strengthen the public transportation network and develop more hybrid and electric cars in order to decrease consumption of hydrocarbons. Finally, it has announced that it wants to support the development of renewable energy sources, a decision that was made possible because of easier administrative procedures.

The creation of a National Agency on Biodiversity is schedule for 2013. According to Jean-Marc Ayrault, “The government wants to put a stop to the net alteration of agricultural and natural spaces on a national level.” This issue will be raised in 2013 in connection with Minister of Territorial Equality and Housing Cécile Duflot’s bill on accommodation, urbanism and city.

A new plan concerning the development of organic agriculture is supposed to be implemented, but no details have been given, and there will be a freeze on the development of first generation biofuels due to the current price crisis of grains and oilseeds.

Three priorities have been specified concerning health and environmental risks: to support research to understand the health consequences of various pollutants, to protect high-risk populations, and to decrease environmental inequalities.

Prime Minister Ayrault claims that he was “convinced that we can build a socially fair environmental tax, which favors innovation and economic growth, and improves corporations’ competiveness,” promising that his government will align the part of the French GDP dedicated to this environmental tax from 1.86% to the European average of 2.37%. Among the suggestions made that would help achieve this goal, the government proposed to raise the general tax on industrial air pollutants, and beginning in 2014 to lower the rate of tax breaks on biofuels that would in theory be reduced to zero by December 2015.

Finally, concerning environmental governance, the National Council on Sustainable Development and on the Grenelle Environment Forum (NSSDGEF) will be renamed the Council on Ecologic Transition. Its function is to follow the politics put in place and the elaboration of the annual environmental conferences’ agenda. Furthermore, for all the organizations protecting the environment, the Ecology Minister Delphine Batho committed herself to grant a 10% raise in subsidies.

The voices of green-friendly parties have finally been heard: politicians committed to their cause and the result is the planned 2016 closure of the oldest French nuclear power plant in Fessenheim. Employers’ unions like the MEDEF are worried however, because no economic measures have been expressed on the way to achieve these objectives. It cannot be denied that the environmental transition has already begun.

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