High ambitions for a successful transition


Conference environnementale

When he spoke at the national environmental conference last month, French President François Hollande referred to experts as crucial players in the country’s ecological transition. By stating that expertise must be both independent and pluralistic, he sent a positive message to think-tanks like ours. Scientific facts and high-level expertise are the backbone of The Shift Project’s work, and we will be happy to contribute to this national debate on energy transition. In this article, TSP comments a selection of topics in the government energy roadmap (only avalaible in French).

On the new growth model (p2)

For the government, the fight against climate change is a lever for a new growth model. And the word “new” means just that: it involves redefining how our economy works. The change of model implied here is doubtless not so radical as to enable us to envisage a future of (almost certainly) zero growth – but as a statement of position it merits our attention.

New models require new metrics. The Shift Project has therefore been working on the roadmap for a change of indicator by identifying all of the ways in which GDP figures are currently used.

On progressive pricing (p18)

Progressive energy pricing should be seen, above all, as a preventive measure to maintain equality by controlling the increase in energy prices in the medium and long term, and energy savings targets should be built into the pricing process at every stage. Care must be taken, however, to ensure that pricing does not become a disincentive for the energy-efficiency renovation of residential buildings.

On clean vehicles (p7)

With the development, over the next ten years, of vehicles able to cover 100 km on 2 litres of fuel (31 miles per litre), the government is being both ambitious and clear-sighted. One of the key conclusions of the TSP conference on electric vehicles was that when it comes to reducing emissions, the type of vehicle (electric or fossil-fuel) is less important than its energy consumption, which in turn depends on several parameters (mass, type of driving, etc.).

On renewable energies (pp4 &8)

With regard to heating networks, geothermal and biomass energy, the government is seeking to “build on local initiatives”, signalling a decentralized approach fully in line with the local characteristics of the renewable resources involved–though it is still up to the government to put in place a fair and efficient nationwide system of governance. It can only be hoped that the creation of a forest carbon fund and a “National Committee on Forestry and Forest-Based Industries” will lead to a policy of revitalising the forestry sector; this would enable better use of France’s substantial wood energy resources.

On land take (pp11 & 20)

The government’s commitment to restrict land take is formalised in a draft law, due to be presented at the beginning of 2013. This is good news insofar as the draft law will, at the same time, tackle the problem of urban sprawl and the urgent need to reduce urban energy consumption. The Shift Project addresses these issues from the angle of household solvency, and recommends changing the criteria for granting loans to take account of rising cost of energy, especially oil. The aim of this proposal is to ensure that households have sufficient means to live in the property they acquire.

On energy scenarios (p6)

As part of the first discussion period, the government plans to hold “a phase of education and information (…)based on rigorous scenarios (…)”. For The Shift Project, which has developed significant internal expertise in energy scenarios, the wording used in the roadmap implies two potential options:

– The stakeholders start out from existing scenarios, calling in resources and expertise as required to make optimal use of these models;

– The stakeholders work to achieve convergence between scenarios (in terms of methodologies, assumptions, etc.) – a long-haul effort requiring a substantial ad hoc task force. In this case, the two months planned for this phase will not be sufficient.

On the communication campaign

Environmental taxes and energy prices must be at the core of the major communication campaign announced by the Prime Minister: the government must take a clearer position on the carbon tax, and must do what it takes to encourage public acceptance of significant levels of green taxation in order to bring France into line with its European neighbours.