The signals, multiple, flock from all over the country. There are this France crushed with heat, which dies of thirst and goes up in smoke in the summer (62,000 hectares in 2022, a record). There is the one that shrinks, sucked by the sea, like these 126 coastal municipalities officially summoned by the State to adapt to coastal erosion. There is the one that, up there, melts so conscientiously that the experts predict, for 2050, Pyrenees without glaciers ! Or this other, covered with bitumen and car parks, deprived of its biodiversity, which floods and drowns at the first big storm… If doubts were to remain about the arrival of the climatic storm in France, the last have swept away: the tiles are already raining down, and on everyone.
The fact remains that at the heart of these territories put to the test, women and men are getting organized. It is them and them that Release has decided to meet, listen and give to hear, throughout the year 2023. The “Climate Libé Tour”, designed hand in hand with cities, metropolises and partner departments, will identify the issues , of course, but also and above all testify to the solutions thought out and activated by local actors. Solutions that must indeed be shared if we hope to meet the challenges of ecological transition.
On the menu of this unique event, therefore: five major events, and a host of issues to be investigated collectively. A few weeks before the first stage in Bordeaux, an overview of some burning issues…
Around Nantes, the fight against the artificialization of soils
In this territory populated by 1.5 million inhabitants, the subject is a hot one: here, in fact, land consumption has tripled in the last seventy years. Loire-Atlantique, with 95,000 hectares removed from agricultural or natural areas, is even part of the fourth most artificialized French region. In question, a voracious urban sprawl that concretes the outskirts of cities to accommodate a population in very sustainable growth: + 1.2% on average each year.
Aware that this trend is now a historical misinterpretation, the department did not wait for the climate and resilience law of 2021, and its goal of “zero net artificialisation” for 2050. As of 2017, the subject has been on the agenda. And land take is finally starting to slow down: it went from 1,205 hectares per year between 2004 and 2009, to 365 hectares per year between 2016 and 2020. Densification of cities, creation of eco-districts, sanctuarization of sensitive natural spaces… The levers are known. Obstacles too: it is indeed all urban projects that must be re-examined, and it is a crowd of actors with diverse interests that must be convinced and involved. Among which the promoters but also the small municipalities, often very fond of subdivisions and infrastructures.
In Paris, urban adaptation to climate change
Global warming is deadly poison for cities. Paris is a textbook case. Its density and minerality favor urban heat islands that consume human health, the integrity of biodiversity and the sustainability of infrastructure. Last electroshock to date: summer 2022. “We have seen the scenarios that have been read for years in scientific reports unfold before our eyes”, testifies François Croquette, director of ecological transition and climate at the town hall of Paris. And the hardest part is yet to come. “In 2085, the forecasts announce an average of 34 days of heat wave and 35 tropical nights per year…”
Adapting is therefore a necessity. The challenge is gigantic: “From sheltering the most vulnerable to thermal insulation of buildings, from air quality to tree species to be changed, via the servicing of the metro, the reception of climate migrants or access to water… It is now a new look, transversal and global, that we must now take on the city”, warns Julie Roussel, head of the city’s climate change adaptation department.
In the short term, Paris needs shade. So, while waiting for the thousands of planted trees to take over, the city has worked on artificial shade structures. Six of these metal and wood modules, which each generate 35 m² of shade, were tested this year. With success: between 10°C and 15°C less in the shade, and a positive reception from local residents. Place, in 2023, for deployment.
In Dunkirk, sustainable industrial renovation
How can you act for the climate when you have built your local economy on heavy industry? This is the complex equation that Dunkirk sets out to solve. Here, in the North, there was no question of denying the iron and steel heritage. “We were convinced very early on that the industry was still viable in France, and that abandoning local skills and know-how would be a mistake”, testifies Thomas Roussez, head of communication for the city and the urban community. The fact remains that Dunkirk, host to the steel giant ArcelorMittal, concentrates 21% of the total greenhouse gas emissions of French industry… We will therefore have to change: “Gone is the end of the dad industry, which consumes energy and pollutes. We are investing in a circular and carbon-free industry.”
The objective is to design a new ecosystem, as integrated as possible from an energy point of view. Illustration of this change of course? ArcelorMittal, precisely. In Dunkirk, the steelmaker will swap its coal-fired blast furnaces for electric furnaces. Furnaces eventually fueled with Dunkirk hydrogen, produced in the future offshore wind farm, located opposite the coast.
Hydrogen which should also benefit the other symbol of local industrial renewal: the arrival of Verkor’s low-carbon battery giga-factory. By choosing Dunkirk, the French start-up consolidates the idea of a “battery valley” In the region. “This good news, however, imposes adjacent challenges on us, notes Thomas Roussez, to house those whom the 16,000 hoped-for jobs will attract to Dunkirk, and to train the workers of this new industry on the spot.”
In Bordeaux, ecological and social justice
How to activate the ecological transition while preserving, even deepening, social justice? This is the fundamental question on which the department of Gironde and the city of Bordeaux have decided to look. The stakes are not the least in a territory marked by a double dichotomy. Geographic, first, because very sparsely inhabited areas are next to a metropolis which concentrates more than half of the population on only 5% of the total area. Social, then, materialized by a stubborn increase in poverty which extends from the Médoc to Entre-deux-Mers.
To circumvent the risk of a two-speed transition, it is indeed a question of “co-constructing” public policies that involve everyone: large and small towns, hyper-urban and rural areas, the most equipped the most vulnerable. The subjects are very concrete: energy resilience, fair access to water, good food for all, or transport, with the thorny question of the future of the individual car, at a time when costs are exploding and low emission zones materialize.
Among the solutions that are already proving their worth: citizen participation. Or how to involve everyone in the management of the transition. Typical example with Solévent, this group formed in 2017 by a dozen Girondin citizens, with the aim of producing local renewable energy. Today, 150 “shareholders” (citizens, associations, communities and companies) are active there, developing solar power plants on the roofs of schools. A way to decide, together and democratically, on their energy future.
In Lyon, the transition by bike and at the height of children
Lyon should know, in the not so distant future, the climate of Madrid or Algiers. A future that the city and the metropolis, aware of the urgency, will anticipate together around three major themes: mobility, vegetation, and future generations.
The mobility aspect, which is decisive in a territory practiced by 1.5 million inhabitants, will have a lot to do with the star of the cities of tomorrow: the bike. The metropolis is a pioneer. Its “Lyonnaise routes”, a network of 12 adapted and secure lines, will connect the city and outskirts by 2026 over nearly 250 km.
Revegetation is a question of quasi-survival… The summer of 2022 came as a reminder: in Lyon, the mercury rose above 30°C for a total of fifty-two days. The options abound. There is the public space, of course, but not only. The nature plan of the metropolis, launched in 2021, for example helps condominiums in the purchase of plants, in order to green the private real estate stock. The city, for its part, is putting the package on the schools. It aims to create 152 “nature courses” in schools and nurseries by 2026.
The “children’s city”, the third theme of the Lyon stage, is an integral part of the municipal strategy in terms of transition. The projects are multifocal: secure “streets for children” around establishments, “children’s councils” in the districts to instil local democracy, or even a program for healthy and sustainable food in canteens.