On January 12th, the Economic and Sustainable Development committees of the French Senate traveled to Bordeaux, the capital of the Gironde department. The trip was made in light of the debate around the country’s Energy Transition Bill.
Over the past five years, the policies instated by Bordeaux’s Mayor, Alain Juppé, have considerably reduced the city’s energy bill. But ecologists claim that renewable energy sources have not been developed enough.
“Alain Juppé was only the Minister of Ecology for one month, in May 2007, and yet in Bordeaux, we have always gone further than what was expected from the Grenelle Environment Round Table,” assured Anne Walryck, Bordeaux’s Deputy to the Mayor in matters of Sustainable Development. Up until this point, the Founder of the UMP political party was hardly illustrative on the subject, but this has changed since his “exile” in Quebec, which took place after being convicted of mishandling public funds while serving as France’s Prime Minister. Juppé has since expressed full awareness of the effects of climate change.
A Municipal Agenda 21
In returning to his seat as Mayor of Bordeaux, Alain Juppé has made energy transition one of his priorities. This is also a way of recreating his image. At the end of 2008, he gave his city an “Agenda 21.” For example, he made the municipal complex, inaugurated in September 2014, a series of positive-energy buildings. As a result, Bordeaux lowered the energy consumption of its 650 municipal buildings by 30%. “But the municipal buildings only represent 1.2% of the greenhouse gas emissions in Bordeaux,” explains Pierre Hurmic, President of the Green Party in the municipal council of Bordeaux.
An Eco-neighborhood for 6,000 People
The Mayor has also engaged himself in other large initiatives, like the installation of an immense solar power plant on the Parc des Exposition’s parking lot roof.
The roof is equipped with 60,000 solar panels and produces energy equivalent to the annual production of 5,000 households, making it the largest urban solar power farm in France. In the same vein, Juppé launched “Ginko,” the first eco-neighborhood in France to be powered by 100% renewable energy. Six thousand people are set to move to the neighborhood between now and 2017.
Making an Ecological and Economical Alliance
In this way, Alain Juppé has attempted to show himself as a different kind of politician, with members of the UMP and PS often judged too timid when it comes to ecology.
Symbolically, Juppé, the primary UMP presidential candidate for 2017, has also tried to show that being eco-friendly can go hand in hand with a strong economy. He convinced forty companies in Bordeaux, representing 27% of the city, to sign a policy about energy and climate activism. And, in February 2014, the Mayor created the “Campement,” a new hotbed of enterprises dedicated to sustainable development. These “efforts,” have permitted Bordeaux to enter 2013 with the European prize “Cit’ergie,” honoring the quality of management and energy/climate politics of a city.
More recognition will be coming to Bordeaux between the January 27-29, 2015. Bordeaux, which is allocating 31% of its investment budget to sustainable development this year, will welcome the sixteenth regional Assises Nationales of Energy.
Creating a Sustainable City
However, Pierre Hurmic thinks that “Alain Juppé’s politics surrounding energy transition will run out of steam over time.” The spokesperson for the Green Party cites, for example, “Renewable energies in Bordeaux (ed: the total energy consumption) are only at 8%, whereas eight other cities of similar size have an average of 10%.” Above all, Bordeaux is still far from meeting the demands of the future energy transition law that will demand that communities run on 32% renewable energy by 2030.
From his perspective, Alain Juppé recounts that the prices of re-buying solar energy have sharply decreased these last few years, and assures the public that energy transition is accelerating. Also president of the Urban Community of Bordeaux since 2014, Juppé has the ambitious hope of making Bordeaux a sustainable metropolis of a million inhabitants between now and 2030.
In order to entice 250,000 new inhabitants to settle in the agglomeration and to bring their families downtown, he counts on the creation of numerous eco-neighborhoods on the right bank of the Garonne River. These eco-neighborhoods will be fueled by a vast network of geothermic heat.
Transportation Continues to Produce Too Much Pollution
But in order to succeed in his plans, Juppé must absolutely reduce congestion on Bordeaux’s beltway. While millions of euros have been invested to create a vast network of trams in Bordeaux, as of now, this mode of transport only accounts for 11% of the city’s displacements.
“We are waiting without much hope for Alain Juppé to listen to our idea of reserving the third lane of the beltway for carpoolers,” Pierre Hurmic said with irritation. He asks that the Mayor put forth more effort in order “to really rise to meet the needs of today’s environmental challenges.”
How do politicians act as a help or hindrance to green planning in your city? Is your city moving towards the use of green or alternative energy? Share your experiences and your city's stories in the comments below.
Original article, originally published in French, here.
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