France: dunce country in the framework of energy development and fight against climate change? This is the provocative issue the participants to a conference organized by European Commission and L’Express, a French weekly, the 30th of April, about energy development challenge. People coming from institutions or civil society as Anne Houtman, head of the permanent representation of European Commission in France, Daniel Bour, Compagnie générale du solaire (CGS) managing director, Isabelle Delannoy, blogger and co-writer of ecologist and photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand “Home” and Aude Faravelli, blogger and member of “Les Cabris de l’Europe”, a pro-European association.
Contrary to some stereotypes, France has a polyvalent attitude towards fight against climate change and energy development, according some opinion polls. Indeed, for TNS-SOFRES institute Guénaëlle Gault, French people’s behaviour, better and more informed, increasingly and regularly evolved, since the crisis especially in which climate change issue is now in connection with quality of life. This new behaviour is found in daily life and put France in the European average of countries taking account climate change challenges and energy development within its population.
Nonetheless, if French people’s behaviour is evolving, the State’s one may be clearly questioned. According to Anne Houtman, France did not make much efforts vis-à-vis energy policy. Daniel Bour agrees and denounces a too much centralised France and reluctant political decision-makers which is a hinder an ambitious energy strategy, in solar energy mainly. Despites the Grenelle de l’Environnement meeting in 2008, France, very attached to its nuclear policy, seems to experience corporatist resistances which put it a middle-distance regarding sustainable development vis-à-vis the rest of Europe. What is more, the Grenelle de l’Environnement strategy was only a tool for France to catch up its delay and be in conformity with the EU objectives, according to Isabelle Delannoy.
In spite of all, some concrete progress should be put forward as at European stage as local. For instance, the 2009 Copenhagen Summit on the future of climate allowed to the EU-27 to speak on one voice, proposing concrete measures to reduce greenhouse gases. Then, at a local stage, the European Social Fund participates to some social or professional re-inclusion projects, taking into account sustainable development issue as explains Aude Faravelli. All the initiatives place the EU at the first position in the fight against climate change and for energy development.
So, is France really a dunce country? As the participants to the conference explained, if the public opinion is globally ready to energy development and change his way of life, this is not the moment for political decision-makers yet. But, for Anne Houtman, if this transition is not made, the financial and human consequences will be much more important. In fact, it is a real shift of paradigm it is needed to do within political and economic decision-makers who still have difficulties to think future about investment and sustainable development, Daniel Bour says. This is all the more surprising that energy development might be bankable politically and economically speaking, CGS managing director even explaining a solar plant costs three times cheaper than three years ago. In fact, 2014 French local and European elections should be the occasion for politicians to consider sustainable development issue and really ask the real questions.