Archive for the ‘France’ Category

Happy New Year, with new environmental regulations in France

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

At the close of 2011, the French government finally published its new regulations concerning environmental impact assessment and public consultations. It’s a nice Christmas present… and these changes will play a defining role in the new year.

  • Décret n° 2011-2018 du 29 décembre 2011 portant réforme de l’enquête publique relative aux opérations susceptibles d’affecter l’environnement
  • Décret n° 2011-2019 du 29 décembre 2011 portant réforme des études d’impact des projets de travaux, d’ouvrages ou d’aménagements
  • These regulations will be applicable as of June 1st. They are bringing about considerable change in the way biodiversity and ecosystems will be taken into account in development projects and land planning. We will discuss these changes here in the coming weeks.

    Habitat banking on trial in France

    Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

    Yesterday, the French environment ministry officially expanded the on-going “experiment” with habitat banking which started three years ago in the Crau area, between Arles and Marseilles in Provence (southern France). There, a subsidiary of the French Sovereign Fund (a for profit public organization) called CDC Biodiversité transformed an industrial orchard into habitat for steppe-land birds such as the Little Bustard or the Lesser Kestrel.

    The Ministry called a tender for three more such experiments, in order to further test the potential of habitat banks to cater for the offset needs of future infrastructure development plans (e.g. high speed train lines and the like). This requirement has been in place in France since 1976 but it has been rarely enforced (and if so, ill-applied). Only recently, under pressure from the EU for the transposition of the 1992 habitats directive, have developers and public authorities started to take it seriously.

    Three areas and issues are favoured by the Ministry for setting up such habitat banks:

  • Alsace (Strasbourg), with a specific focus on the European Hamster,
  • Nord-Pas-de-Calais (Lille), with a focus on connecting calcareous grasslands
  • Poitou-Charentes (Poitiers), with a focus on birds that use extensive cereal crop-land, and in particular the little bustard (again!)
  • The call to tender is on-line on the Ministry’s website.

    To be continued…

    Biodiversity offsets as landscape management policies

    Saturday, November 27th, 2010

    As Barbara Bedford already stated, in her 1996 paper on wetland mitigation in the USA, that as the number of exchanges of one ecosystem for another increases, offsets change from a regulatory action aimed at achieving no-net-loss to a landscape management policy.

    This implies strategic thinking that goes beyond project per project assessments of like-for-like replacement of lost habitats and functions. Cumulative effects must be taken into account in allowing and offsetting impacts and both zoning (= planning) and nature conservation laws must therefore accommodate future projects and future offsets.

    This is made easier by the fact that the growing focus on nature conservation outside protected areas has pushed nature conservation objectives deeper into zoning laws (e.g. Natura 2000 in Europe).

    Habitat banking policies are particularly adapted to this requirement, in that they can be established before impacts as part of zoning plans. In Europe, the German Eingriffsregelung policy is a good example of this where municipalities must plan areas for offsetting future urban development included in their zoning and urban planning.

    In France, the recent launch of zoning requirements concerning ecological connectivities (known as Trames Verte et Bleue) has raised the question of using offset actions to enhance or restore ecological connectivities. This can be interpreted either as:

  • using offset requirements to compensate for the State’s incapacity to meet its legal obligations regarding nature conservation
  • a useful coordination of publicly and privately funded actions in favour of biodiversity
  • You might find the first interpretation scandalous or be proud of the second but what would the wildlife say?