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France: Law on National Commitment for the Environment

(Aug. 12, 2010) The French Parliament adopted Law 2010-788 of July 12, 2010, on National Commitment for the Environment, also referred to as the “Grenelle II Law.” (Loi 2010-788 du 12 juillet 2010 portant engagement national pour l'environnement, Legifrance, (last visited Aug. 9, 2010) [search in Les autres textes législatifs et réglementaires].) The Law confirms, gives further details of, and implements France's objectives on sustainable development set forth in the 2008 Grenelle I Law. The Law does not contain any provision on a carbon tax, as France decided to wait for EU regulations in this domain.

The Law is divided into six major titles. Title I, “Buildings and Urban Planning” deals with improving the energy utilization performance of buildings. It requires that the energy consumption of existing buildings be reduced by 38% by 2020. It also contains provisions reinforcing the urban planning code and a reform of outdoor advertising (such as by means of neon signs). Such advertising is prohibited outside towns, but is permitted in airports and train stations.

Title II, “Transport,” contains measures to speed up the development of the public transportation infrastructure, encouraging local authorities to offer bicycle lease services and measures fostering the use and development of electric and hybrid cars. It also addresses the development of alternative modes of transportation of merchandise other than by trucks.

Title III, “Energy and Climate,” sets forth measures aimed at reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions by displaying on the product label a given item's energy-CO2 performance; maintaining France's position in first place among European countries in the production of renewable energy; and furthering the development of new fuels made from plants or organic waste.

Title IV, “Biodiversity,” deals with measures aimed at insuring a good functioning of the ecosystem and regaining good ecological water quality, at creating a “blue and green” infrastructure by 2012, at reducing the loss of agricultural and natural spaces, and at reducing chemical pollution.

Title V, “Risks, Health, and Wastes,” introduces measures to reduce noise and artificial light nuisance, to increase the competence of the Independent Airport Noise Monitoring Agency, and to inform the public on the effects of electromagnetic waves, among other actions. Monitoring of the quality of inside air is mandatory for certain establishments. The Law prohibits the use of mobile telephones by students in schools. It also contains measures to improve waste management.

Finally, Title VI, “Governance,” requires that companies include in their annual reports a section on the social and environmental consequences of their activities and set forth their commitment to sustainable development. A one-year experiment, set to begin on July 1, 2011, requires companies to provide customers with CO2 emission information pertaining to their products' whole life cycle and packaging. The purpose of these measures is to encourage companies to better take into account the environmental impact of their activities and refocus their environmental strategy. The Law also provides for a reform of environmental impact studies.