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At Matignon, Elisabeth Borne takes on the challenge of « ecological planning »

Appointed Prime Minister on Monday, Elisabeth Borne will be in charge of « ecological planning », a concept borrowed from the left, on everyone’s lips since the in-between rounds of the presidential election. How will this French planning work? Is it able to accelerate the ecological transition in France? Response elements.

Promised by Emmanuel Macron between the two rounds of the presidential election, it is now up to Elisabeth Borne to set « ecological planning » to music, a concept designating the coordination of public policies with a view to achieving environmental over the long term.

This idea, mentioned for the first time in 2008, was borrowed from Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of La France insoumise (LFI), himself inspired by the industrial planning decided in the USSR from the 1920s and then that carried out in France. after the Second World War.

As soon as she took office on Monday, May 16, the new Prime Minister assured that it was necessary to « act faster and stronger » in the face of the « climate and ecological challenge » by following « the new method desired by the President of the Republic » .

This « new method » could be summed up in one sentence: make Matignon the control tower for public policies on the environment. Its role: to ensure the consistency of the reforms undertaken and to supervise the ecological transition by involving companies and public actors.

To carry out this vast project, Elisabeth Borne will be supported by two new deputy ministers: one in charge of energy planning, the other of territorial ecological planning, in addition to the Minister of the Environment.

In the sights of the new government: carbon neutrality to be achieved by 2050 thanks to the thermal renovation of housing, massive investments in renewable energies or even the preservation of « carbon sinks » such as forests.

From Plan to ecological planning

In the collective French imagination, planning invariably evokes the era of the Commissariat général du Plan. Anything but ecological, the aim of the institution was to rebuild a French economy devastated by the Second World War by directing investments towards sectors deemed to be priorities.

No question of applying the hyper-directed planning of the post-war period, symbol of the centralization of power in France, in the current context. However, this planning can « be a source of inspiration for the consultation and coordination of private and public actors », notes Wojtek Kalinowski, co-director of the Veblen Institute, a French think tank. “It is a useful historical reference, even if the challenge is very different today”, nuances the specialist in ecological transition in Europe.

In fact, ecological planning is not limited to growth objectives to be achieved by sector. Many parameters come into play, such as social acceptability or the coherence of public action in terms of the environment. “On biodiversity, it is very striking. The French State sets objectives but does everything not to achieve them”, assures Wojtek Kalinowski.

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In September 2020, the government was notably singled out by the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (Cese) for its poor results despite the vote of an ambitious law « for the recovery of biodiversity, nature and landscapes », adopted four years earlier.

Public speaking seeks credibility

While successive ministers responsible for the environment have lost numerous arbitrations against Bercy or the Ministry of Agriculture, entrusting « ecological planning » to the head of government appears to be « the best solution », assures the AFP Sébastien Treyer, head of the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI).

In Germany, « the Minister of Economy [Robert Habek, NDLR] is also in charge of the climate », with the rank of vice-chancellor, raising carbon neutrality to the rank of « Germany’s economic strategy », recalls the expert.

However, planning cannot be reduced to a matter of « flowchart », warns Wojtek Kalinowski. The specialist in ecological transition insists on the importance of the credibility of public authorities to achieve medium and long-term objectives, citing the example of Sweden.

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In this Scandinavian country, which has one of the best records in Europe for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the concept of ecological planning does not exist. « The specificity of Sweden is to have a culture of public governance in which decisions are anchored in time and reach consensus. For example, in terms of green taxation, we set a course and we stick to it. holds”, notes the economist.

A spirit of continuity that is illustrated in particular with the emblematic carbon tax implemented in the 1990s. This tax, which affects all fossil fuels, has been gradually increased, allowing Swedish companies to anticipate change. It is difficult to say the same for the French regulatory framework, which is constantly evolving, weakening public discourse in terms of ecological transition.

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According to Wojtek Kalinowski, the Swedish model could therefore be used to infuse a new culture of public action, concerned with its long-term impact and promoting consistency at all administrative levels. « Long and tedious work », recognizes the expert. But without this effort, there is a high risk of seeing « ecological planning » reduced to a mere political slogan.

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