Innovation plays key role in French sustainable-development plan

Innovation plays key role in French sustainable-development plan

Eco-innovation is a key element in the French sustainability strategy for 2010-13, adopted by a government committee headed by environment minister Jean-Louis Borloo in July 2010.

France is proposing a common architecture for public and private actors alike to ensure future development is sustainable. The new strategy lists nearly 50 objectives in nine areas, including sustainable consumption and production; climate change and energy; transport; and biodiversity and sustainable resource use.

The strategy integrates developments such as the EU climate and energy package, sustainable consumption and production policies, the Waste Framework Directive and France’s overarching ‘Grenelle 2’ environment law adopted in 2010. Many of the objectives are taken from these other policies.

France sees a strong role for eco-labels in making greener products more credible and attractive to consumers, aiming to double sales of products carrying the French or EU eco-label by 2012. Green products must also be incentivised by EU agreement on reduced VAT rates, extended bonus-malus schemes to reward the best and punish the worst, and green public-procurement requirements.

Driving role for eco-innovation

Eco-Innovation plays a driving role in the development of a new economic model for green growth, according to the strategy, which wants to promote innovation in all its guises – technical, commercial, organisational and financial. It calls for a green industrial policy to support priority sectors such as renewable energies, green chemistry, biomaterials, and energy and CO2 storage. Moreover, industry should get financial support for innovation demonstration projects.

France aims to mobilise an extra €1 billion between 2010 and 2012 for sustainable-development research. Investments in clean technology and environmental research should increase steadily to match the level of investment in civil nuclear research.

In transport, a persistent source of greenhouse-gas emissions, the strategy calls for logistical innovations to optimise freight transport in urban areas. It will support technologies – such as teleconferencing – that minimise the need for transport as well as innovation in transport-related services like ticketing and vehicle hire.

Tracking progress

The new strategy proposes 19 indicators to track progress on sustainable development. These include novel ones such as France’s total carbon footprint – including emissions from imports – as well as the more standard total domestic greenhouse-gas emissions. They will be made public every year from 2011.

A second, more detailed tier of indicators includes tracking of recycling rates, employment in eco-activities and a barometer on households’ awareness of sustainable development.

Its new strategy is one of the most comprehensive in Europe, the French environment ministry says. A review of its predecessor showed that 87% of the actions foreseen for 2003-8 have been implemented. Public authorities achieved a 93% implementation in research and innovation through public tenders taking into account social and environmental criteria. A national plan for relevant sustainability criteria in public tenders was adopted in March 2007.

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