French cities call for decentralisation of energy policy


Publication date

March 23, 2018

On March 22, the city of Paris, together with other 19 French cities, co-signed an open letter in Le Monde, asking to redirect part of the energy and climate tax’s increase towards local communities and calling for a law for the decentralization of the energy policy.

Regional and local level are extremely important to reach the objectives set by the Paris Agreement but in France, as in other European Countries, most of the levers are still controlled by national government and national operators. As a result, innovative energy and transport projects are rare and renewable energy infrastructures not easily put in place. In order to come out of this impasse, French Mayors, supported by Energy cities and other city networks, are advocating for a new economic and legal framework to allow local communities to take control of their energy policy.

Decentralisation as democratisation

Quoting the editorial, “wealth creation varies from one to three depending on the association of the territories and its inhabitants to a renewable energy production project”. Decentralising the energy policy means democratising its challenges and empowering local communities. No need to discuss the most appropriate level for action: this will be determined by the community of stakeholders directly, when deciding to own their energy transition and act towards it. Energy transition and local democracy go hand in hand.

Nevertheless, the principles of solidarity and mutualisation still stand and, thanks to the democratisation process, local communities will be able to work together, exchange and develop their connections. Let’s think, for example about the role rural areas could have for the production of renewable energy for the surrounding cities.

Local and regional authorities in the driving seat

This joint communication should not take anyone by surprise. Local and regional authorities have been in the forefront of the fight against climate change for a long time now and the success of initiatives such as the Covenant of Mayors demonstrated their potential and good faith. Last month, during the Ceremony for the 10th anniversary of the Covenant, around 700 local and regional representatives confirmed their willingness to have an active role in reaching the Paris Agreement objectives but also underlined the substantial barriers to their actions.

Also, the European Parliament recently approved a report on the role of EU regions and cities in implementing the COP 21 Paris Agreement on climate change, praising current cities/regional initiatives and calling for a more effective multilevel governance with full transparency that could better involve local government, regions and cities.

Through the open letter, the French cities are thus asking the national government to work with them and take a step in the right direction. They announced the creation of a coalition of associations and communities with a decentralization vision based on:

 the creation of new partnerships for more solidarity between territories; 
 the participation of civil society; 
 stronger involvement of the licensing authorities in the management of distribution networks; 
 the creation of a local public database service; 
 the creation of new financing tools for a decentralized energy transition.

The discussion is open to all interested parties and will continue at the Energy Cities annual conference in April, during which they will inaugurate a platform devoted to this purpose.