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The Grenelle Environment Project: An Ecological Revolution - International Law Office

International Law Office

Environment & Climate Change - France

The Grenelle Environment Project: An Ecological Revolution

December 22 2008

Status of the Bill
Example Measures


The Grenelle Environment Project is a national conference on the environment sponsored by Jean Louis Borloo, Dominique Bussereau and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, which aims to launch an ecological revolution in France and to create favourable conditions for the emergence of a new French model of environment protection. The government and representatives of the general public are meeting jointly for the first time for the purpose of mapping out a route that will benefit the ecosytem and allow sustainable organization and development.

The project is unfolding in several stages. The first stage was the preparation by working groups of a number of proposals that were discussed with consultation groups. At the end of these consultations, roundtable meetings adopted an action plan consisting of 268 measures. Subsequently, 33 operating committees were created to prepare reports on concrete implementation of the measures.

Two laws will be established: Grenelle 1, a planning law establishing the general principles of the government’s environmental programme, and Grenelle 2, a law specifically establishing all necessary positive law measures. On October 21 the Grenelle 1 bill was adopted by an overwhelming majority on its first reading by the National Assembly.

This update surveys the Grenelle spirit that grew out of the various preparatory projects and the negotiations on October 24, 25 and 26 2007, and outlines the progress of the resulting bill and its principal features.


Phase 1: working group proposals (July-October 2007)
The project was launched on July 6 2007.

Six working groups of 40 members divided into five panels in order to propose measures and identify potential problems with a view to the adoption of an action plan in October 2007. The groups worked on measures to:

  • combat climate change and control the demand for energy;
  • preserve biodiversity and natural resources;
  • create an environment that is beneficial to human health;
  • adopt sustainable methods of production and consumption;
  • construct an ecological democracy; and
  • promote ecological methods of development that encourage employment and promote competition.

The working groups included representatives of the various parties involved in sustainable development: the national government, local authorities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), employers and employees.

Two inter-group workshops were added to the six initial working groups, one on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the other on waste.

The working groups delivered their proposals at the end of September 2007.

Phase 2: consultation with the public (October 2007)
On September 28 2007 the project entered the consultation phase, in which the general public was offered an opportunity to express opinions and to contribute to the plan of action.

Seventeen regional meetings were held in October for the purpose of gathering opinions from parties involved in local economic, social and association activities and from the general public concerning the proposals drafted in the first phase and their application to specific regional situations. An internet forum was created so that everyone would have an opportunity to express an opinion on the proposals.

Attendance at these decentralized meetings ranged from 400 to 1,500 persons.

Phase 3: plan of action
Four roundtable meetings, composed of five panels (territorial authorities, the national government, NGOs, employers and employees) and involving a total of 60 persons, were set up to negotiate the urgent measures needed for environmental protection between the national government and concerned parties, to adopt final proposals and to establish the principal areas of action.

As a result, 268 measures were adopted. They will become operative only once embodied in laws or regulations.

Phase 4: operating committees
A total of 33 operating groups were launched, beginning at the end of December 2007, to present reports concerning concrete implementation of the 268 Grenelle commitments. These groups included more than 1,000 experts active in government, the business world and the general public. Thirty-five representatives of Parliament were involved.

The reports were written to serve as the basis for legislation and regulations embodying the Grenelle commitments. For example, the operating group chaired by Phlippe Pelletier, president of the National Agency for the Improvement of Housing, proposed 44 measures that could be included in the future guideline law.

The Grenelle Monitoring Committee was established to continue the dialogue between the government and the parties that participated in the first phase of the project. The committee is composed of representatives of the four panels (labour unions, NGOs, employers and territorial governments) and meets every six weeks to study a government progress report on the work and on future phases.

Measures already taken
Six measures have already been taken:

  • A bonus system of price rebates for car buyers has been established, based on the quantity of carbon dioxide emitted by the car being purchased;
  • An airport noise abatement plan has been adopted;
  • A circular has been issued encouraging employee cafeterias of government agencies to obtain 15% of their food supplies from organic produce growers;
  • The GMO Law dated June 25 2008 has been adopted;
  • Minister of Agriculture Michel Barnier has announced the gradual withdrawal of 53 molecules (30 by the end of 2008) included in the composition of more than 1,500 commercial preparations of phytosanitary products and judged to be harmful. This decision constitutes the first measure of the ECOPHYTO 2018 plan; and
  • A scientific foundation for biodiversity was established on February 26 2008.

In addition to these initial measures, two bills are expected that should create a genuine legislative framework for the decisions and guidelines established in October 2007.

Legislative progress
On June 11 2008 the 50 articles of the planning bill for implementation of the Grenelle Environment Project (known as ‘Grenelle 1’) were discussed at a meeting of the Council of Ministers.

Subsequently, a total of 2,200 amendments were proposed by the economic affairs committee, the opposition political parties and the majority political parties and 350 were accepted. There were 60 hours of debate in session.

On October 21 2008 the National Assembly adopted the Grenelle 1 bill on its first reading by a vote of 526 to 4. The bill is to be voted on by the Senate in December 2008.

The legislative process on the positive law bill (‘Grenelle 2’) has not yet begun.


A grass-roots and multi-organizational consultation process
Since its commencement on July 6 2007, the project has been a process of group reflection involving representatives of the national government, local governments, NGOs, labour union representatives and representatives of employers’ organizations. More broadly, a decentralized phase of grass-roots consultation was established to canvass the ideas of the general public.

Climate change
Modernization of public buildings
New public buildings must be built to low-consumption norms (50 killowatt-hours (kWh) per square metre per year) and must achieve very high energy performance by 2010. The time limit for meeting this requirement is extended to 2012 for private dwellings.

Energy reports must be prepared for older public buildings, which must be renovated every five years.

Incentives in the form of tax credits and loans will be offered for older private buildings for the purpose of accelerated energy renovation of national government offices by the end of 2010.

Energy efficiency and carbon emissions
Legal entities with more than 50 employees or agents must prepare a carbon energy report covering water, waste and transport within three to five years.

Incandescent light bulbs will be prohibited from 2010.

‘Energy category’ labelling (with emission-based categories) will be extended to all high-consumption electrical devices

A programme to promote renewable energy will develop research on climate change and responsible innovation.

The share of renewable energy sources will increase by approximately 20% by 2020.

An ‘eco-sticker’ with purchase-price rebate will be introduced for the cleanest new vehicles. It will be financed by means of an annual fee on the most polluting vehicles.

A mileage eco-tax on trucks travelling on routes other than highways will be established in 2010.

Railway freight will be developed, with two new north/southeast and north/southwest lines.

Two thousand kilometres of new high-speed lines will be built before 2020.

Aviation fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced by one-half by 2020; the same applies to noise.

Atlantic (France-Spain) and Mediterranean (France-Italy and France-Spain) auto-ship routes will be created.

City planning
Environmental impact studies will be prepared for new urban development areas and territorial climate/energy plans will become general by the end of 2012.

Preservation of biodiversity and natural resources
Ecological and productive agriculture
The use of pesticides will be reduced by one-half (no deadline set) “by accelerating the dissemination of alternative methods, provided they have been perfected”, beginning with the elimination of some 40 substances between 2008 and 2012.

By 2012, 20% of the foodstuffs used in restaurants will have to be organically grown and 50% of all farms will be engaged in ‘high environmental value’ certification processes.

Ecological quality of water
A system for recovery of rainwater and reuse of waste water will be established.

A regulatory agency for biotechnologies will be established and a biotechnologies law will be adopted on the basis of four principles:

  • responsibility of all parties involved;
  • transparency;
  • the right to produce and to consume with or without GMOs; and
  • the obligation to evaluate the public-health and environmental impact of GMOs.

Commercial cultivation of GMOs will be suspended until the law takes effect and research will be reinforced.

Halting the loss of biodiversity
A trame verte ('green web') or ecological network linking green-belt areas will be established to promote the circulation of plants and animals. Regulation of light pollution will be established and a plan for the conservation and restoration within five years of 131 endagered species will be implemented.

Health and recycling
Sale of phytosanitary products containing “extremely problematic” substances and intended for use in the home and in public places will be prohibited starting in 2008.

A particle reduction plan will be created for the improvement of ambient air quality, which will establish a maximum threshhold of 15 micrograms per cubic metre of fine particles; this will be a target figure for 2010 and will become mandatory in 2015.

In addition, a public debate on nanomaterials will be organized, a telephony emissions limit will be established and an excessive-noise abatement programme will be implemented.

Reduction of waste
The workshop on waste did not present its findings until December 20 2007. The following objectives were established:

  • a reduction of household waste by five kilograms per inhabitant per year, for five years - making a total of 25 kilograms per inhabitant;
  • an increase in the percentage of organic and other recyclable household waste recycled, to 35% in 2012 and to 45% in 2015 (compared to 24% in 2004);
  • by 2012, the recycling of 75% of household packaging (compare to 60% in 2006); and
  • by 2012, a 15% reduction in waste requiring incineration or landfill disposal.

To achieve these objectives, a series of measures is proposed that includes:

  • strengthening of the principle of expanded responsibility of manufacturers;
  • control of effects on health and the environment;
  • development of information available to the general public and companies;
  • a range of economic incentives, national and local partnerships;
  • cost control; and
  • economic balances of these factors.

Establishment of an ecological democracy
Representative non-governmental environment-protection organizations will become members of professional lobbying groups and of a reformed Economic and Social Council. Committees on sustainable development and the environment will be established in both houses of Parliament.

Status of the Bill

On October 21 2008 the National Assembly adopted the Grenelle 1 planning bill on its first reading by a vote of 526 to four. The Senate is to vote on this bill in December 2008.

Article 1 of the bill establishes the objectives and the framework for action to be taken for the implementation of the Grenelle Environment Project. These objectives will later be converted into obligations by the Grenelle 2 law.

Based on confirmation that a state of ecological emergency exists, Article 1 of the bill proposes in substance that the law:

• establish the objectives of and, in connection with this, establish the framework for action;
• organize long-term governance;
• determine the instruments of the policy implemented in order to:
• fight and adapt to climate change;
• preserve biodiversity and related services;
• contribute to an environment that promotes human health;
• preserve and valorize landscapes; and
• provide a new model for sustainable development that is beneficial for the environment and goes hand in hand with a decrease in the consumption of energy, water, and other natural resources.

Example Measures

Article 2 of the bill states that:

The fight against climate change has priority. In this regard, France confirms its commitment to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by four between 1990 and 2050 by achieving an average reduction of 3% per year in greenhouse gas atmospheric emissions, so that by 2050 its greenhouse gas emissions will have reached a level of less than 140 million equivalent tons of carbon dioxide per yea

As a result, the objective is to reduce the greenhouse gas emission rate by a factor of 4, on the basis of the 1990 rates, by 2050.

In addition, the sale of incandescent light bulbs will cease in 2010. The government aims to increase the renewable energy share of total energy consumption to 23% by 2020, so that France will become the most energy-efficient country of the euro zone. A further goal is to achieve a 20% improvement in national energy efficiency by 2020.

All new coal-powered power plants are to be equipped for carbon capture and storage.

Article 3 of the bill states that:

Buildings consume more than 40% of the total energy supply and represent almost one-quarter of the national greenhouse gas emissions. They also constitute the principal energy-savings locus that can be exploited immediately. An energy and thermal building remodelling plan, implemented on a large scale, will permanently reduce energy expenses, improve the purchasing power of families and contribute to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.

Among other things, the government plans to:

  • reinforce the goal to generalize the low-consumption model of new structures in 2012, with priority being given to insulation and metering of primary energy irrespective of the energy source involved;
  • establish a thermal renewal programme for buildings, involving 400,000 complete renovations each year effective from 2013, starting with 800,000 deteriorated moderate-rent housing projects and 180,000 low-rent housing units renovated in the National Agency for Urban Renewal zone; and
  • legislate that starting in 2020, all new buildings are to be energy positive.

Article 9 of the bill states that:

The national government will take steps to reduce pollution and nuisances caused by the various types of transport. For this purpose, before the end of 2009 a map of railroad network saturation points currently existing and foreseeably existing in 2020 will be prepared.

Resources allocated for the transport of goods are being used to increase the market share of truck transport alternatives from 14% to 25% by 2022. In the first stage, the action plan will make it possible to achieve 25% growth in the market share of truck-transport alternatives by 2012.

Priority is to be given to the development of alternatives to driving and public transport is to be strengthened.

The national government will contribute €16 billion to the financing infrastructure of bus routes, bicycle lanes and tramways by 2020. It will contribute €2.5 billion to the establishment by 2020 of 1,500 kilometres of public transport for local communities.

In parallel with these developments, infrastructure priorities - particularly railway priorities - are being changed, with preference being given to improvement and modernization rather than to development.

The objective is a vehicle emission standard of 120 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre by 2012.

A truck tax to finance alternative transport infrastructures will be established. Additionally, an annual ecology tax on the most polluting new vehicles will be established.

Article 41 of the bill states that:

The policy of reduction of waste has priority over any and all treatment methods. It will be reinforced by eco-design of products, from their manufacture to their distribution and consumption until the end of their lifecycle. Manufacturers’ responsibility for the waste resulting from their products will be expanded, with due consideration for existing shared-responsibility equipment and strong encouragement of reduction at source. Re-use, sorting, valorization of materials and recycling will be encouraged and facilitated as priority waste-management methods, in order to achieve the goals established by the within law. In compliance with the waste-treatment hierarchy established at the Community level, residual-waste treatment must be achieved primarily by energy valorization in plants for which environment requirements will be strengthened or, in the case of waste that cannot be valorized, by landfill disposal. The plants involved will have to provide complete justification for their size. At the same time, the quantities of waste destined for incineration or storage will be globally reduced by 15% by 2012, for the purpose of preserving resources and preventing pollution.

The policy on waste reduction has primacy, with an objective of reducing waste by 25 kilograms per inhabitant per year by 2012. The policy does not specify how this objective is to be achieved. In addition, the bill deals only with household waste, which represents less than 10% of annual French waste output.

All proposals that make it possible to forbid or to tax useless waste, such as over-packaging, will be maintained. This being the case, the proposed tax on products that generate a great deal of waste is no longer under consideration.

Plans call for an increase in the recycling of materials and organic substances. The target rates for household waste and equivalents are 35% by 2012 and 45% by 2015 (compared to 24% in 2004). For household packaging waste and corporate waste, this rate is increased to 75% by 2012 and a general tax on polluting activities is established for incineration in the 2009 Finance Bill.

An exemption from the real estate tax for buildings connected with a waste treatment unit to cover some or all of their thermal energy needs is planned, but the type of installation is not specified.

Article 28 of the bill states that:

The first and primary purpose of agriculture is to meet the food-supply needs of the population, a purpose that will become increasingly important in the coming decades. Climate change, with its hazards and its rapidity, is requiring agriculture to adapt, diversify and contribute to the international reduction of greenhouse gases.

There are plans to increase energy control of farms, so that by 2013 30% of all farms will be low-energy dependent operations, and to require that by 2010 15%, and by 2012 20%, of all restaurant food supplies be obtained from organic farming sources, with seasonal products and low environment impact products accounting for equal shares.

The seed catalogue will be organized so that old varieties and various population sub-categories will be made accessible to growers to facilitate their use.

The bee emergency plan will be based on an independent overall toxicological evaluation.

A new objective for agricultural policy is to reduce the dependence of livestock breeding systems on imported raw materials (eg, protein and legumes) used in the composition of their feed.

Article 20 of the bill states that:

To maintain and develop biodiversity in wild and domesticated environments requires protection, valorization, repair and compensation for environments associated with the establishment of an ecological network, a territorial development tool that will make it possible to establish territorial continuities and to monitor and evaluate the implementation and results of these tools. These steps will take into account the problems specific to rural and mountain areas.

Among other things, the government has announced:

  • an obligation to offset attacks on biodiversity in the trame verte network as well as in protected areas;
  • official recognition of the principle of valorization of services rendered by biodiversity;
  • that organic agriculture or agriculture that uses few additives will be given priority in drinking-water collection areas; and
  • that France will work to establish an international scientific committee for the Arctic.

Health risks and the environment
Article 31 of the bill states that:

The reduction of attacks on the environment contributes to the improvement of public health and the competitiveness of companies. Moderation in the consumption of raw materials, particularly by prevention of pollution and waste, constitutes an essential element of a new economy. The implementation of this policy will be based on the principles of precaution, substitution, participation and ‘pay to pollute’. Environment policy will be taken into account as a component of healthcare policy, with recognition of the close link with the environment and the health of ecosystems.

The goal of the particle reduction plan will be 10 micrograms per cubic metre of fine particles of less than 2.5 micrometres, if possible.

The national government will be required to compel telephone service providers to set up electromagnetic-wave monitoring devices and to report the results to the Agency for Public Health Safety, the Environment and the Workplace.

Consumer products that could release pollutants into the atmosphere in the home will require labelling.

Article 24 of the bill states that:

The first objective with respect to water is to achieve or preserve, by 2015, good ecological condition or good potential for all mainland and offshore watercourses. The objective of the national government is to limit postponements of deadlines, which are authorized by the provisions of the basic directive on water, to a maximum of one-third of all watercourses.

Among other things, the government plans to enforce a prohibition on phosphates in laundry products by 2012 and to establish action plans to protect the 500 collection points most severely threatened.

City planning
Article 7 of the bill states that:

The role of local governments in the designing and implementation of sustainable development programmes must be strengthened. For this purpose, the national government will encourage regions, departments and municipalities and their consortiums having more than 50,000 inhabitants to establish before 2012 ‘territorial energy/climate maps’ that are consistent with city planning documents.

For example, the government will consider the preservation of biodiversity in the restoration and establishment of ecological continuities; and city planning law is being modified to combat urban sprawl and the recession of farmland.

For further information on this topic please contact Patricia Savin at Savin Martinet Associés by telephone (+33 1 53 43 22 20) or by fax (+33 1 53 43 22 21) or by email (savin@smaparis.com).

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