Why does it matter. How the climate law wants to stop the artificialization of soils

This is one of the many points that are discussed in the climate bill. At the moment, it is being examined by the special commission in charge of preparing the text for the Assembly: the government intends to reduce by half, compared to the previous decade, the rate of artificialization of the land in the next ten years.

Presented by Barbara Pompili, as one of the emblematic measures in favor of ecology, this proposal is nevertheless at the origin of fear and criticism.

What does it consist of ?

“Artificialization of soils”, the expression may seem a bit fuzzy. Specifically, it is everything that partially or totally destroys natural, agricultural or forest areas. These are the consequences of the development of three sectors, as explained by Retos, housing (40%) with the proliferation of single-family homes, transport infrastructure (28%) such as roads and finally, services and leisure (16%) with commercial areas.

According to the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), the “trend towards cohabitation and the decrease in the number of people per household, but also due to the strong increase in second homes and unoccupied dwellings” would explain this increase in the artificialization of the soil . . It represented 9.4% of the metropolitan area in 2015, compared to 8.3% in 2006, the report details. “It is the equivalent of a French department of natural, agricultural or forestry areas that thus disappeared in 10 years,” Desafíos emphasizes again. In short, says IDDRI, “artificialization advances, therefore, much faster than population and GDP.”

Why is this preservation important?

The INSEE gives a clear summary: the artificialization of the territory has consequences for the environment and represents a threat to biodiversity. “It generates a loss of soil resources for agricultural use and for natural spaces. […] In particular, it can accelerate stormwater runoff, increase vulnerability to flooding, and degrade the chemical and ecological quality of the water. “

In addition, we can read on the INSEE website, “urban expansion affects the quality of life. People must spend more time in public transport or use their motor vehicles more, consuming more energy. And amplify their greenhouse gas emissions greenhouse and air pollutants “. “As for farmers, to find still fertile land they are forced to move further and further away from urban centers.

What is the government planning to do?

In its climate bill, the government intends to drastically reduce this land erosion – halving the artificialization of soils over the next ten years compared to the previous decade. The objective, the ministry details, is “to integrate the fight against the artificialization of the soil in the general principles of the urban planning code” and to propose a clear definition.

An issue that scares local elected officials

Proof that the issue is sensitive, a total of a thousand amendments have been submitted to the bill on the subject.

It must be said that the measure would imply conditioners and conditioning factors from the urban point of view, with the idea tending towards a “zero net artificialization”. In other words, to nibble on natural, agricultural or forested areas, it will be necessary to satisfy a demographic or economic need. As for the new commercial areas, they will be prohibited beyond 10,000 m².

Therefore, these imperatives create certain fears on the part of local elected officials. However, the latter did not wait for the bill to take up the issue again since, as a study by the Green Cities Observatory shows, 16 questioned municipalities out of 18 have already taken into account the issue of artificialization of soils in their reflections. and urban planning. renaturation projects.

But as Jean-René Cazeneuve (LREM), general rapporteur of the climate bill, summarizes, for the territories, the measure is a technical point that could not have more impact for them: “The way in which this effort will be distributed among the communities, it is a matter of democracy. A certain number of rural mayors fear that this law will freeze them in their rural areas, and that they no longer have the right to build an urbanization or to receive a business. “

However, adds the speaker, as if to reassure him, “we are not in a deadlock, we are simply in a slowdown of uncontrolled urban expansion. We are committed to time, we are talking about the next ten years. Either way, no. it means stopping nothing that is planned today, it just means planning differently in the future. “

What are the other points in dispute?

On the side of the associations for the defense of the environment, on the contrary, we regret that the bill does not go far enough and denounces an overly restrictive definition of the artificialization of the earth.

Another limitation is also highlighted: the resources destined to the densification and reconversion of vacant lands do not appear in the text. Regarding the issue of commercial premises of less than 10,000m² and e-commerce warehouses, it is not addressed either.

On the side of real estate professionals, there is also the fear of a rise in the price of land, which will affect the final cost of real estate projects.

As a whole, the climate bill should be debated in the National Assembly as of March 29. Or ten days after the deadline for this examination by the special commission.

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