Opinion piece “Ecology is an opportunity for development”

Opinion piece “Ecology is an opportunity for development”

In France today, there is relative consensus on the urgency for the need to implement public policy that is more respectful of the environment. The time is now for getting beyond taxation or austerity, both incompatible with a Europe struggling to maintain its standard of living and even more so with the developing world.

Go to Le Cercle at Lesechos.fr, for the opinion piece by Frederick Melki, President and Director General of Biotope.

L’écologie est une opportunité de développement plutôt qu’une contrainte économique

LE CERCLE LES ECHOS.FR | 28.02.2012 (par Frédéric Melki)

Awareness of the finite nature and fragility of our planet is largely understood and is a concept that transcends political divides. Nevertheless, in some circles, environmentalists emphasize the primordial role of taxation in the role of government in affecting long-term behavioural change.

With current public anxiety dominated by concerns for the future, the obsession with “taxation”, largely symbolized by the carbon tax, public support is waning and fragmenting the political unanimity which followed the euphoria of the Grenelle de l'environnement. This evolution is dangerous and may lead to a massive rejection of environmental concerns, a situation which puts the entirety of human society at risk. The time is now for getting beyond taxation or austerity, both incompatible with a Europe struggling to maintain its standard of living and even more so with the developing world. The selection of proposals below are primarily intended to generate debate and make their way as actionable items in the public debate forums for 2012.

Support the green economy

Like the business I manage with 240 employees and an annual growth rate of 30% over the past ten years, the green economy is a reality in our country. Fertile ground for small and medium-sized innovative companies, easily exportable, this economy is a sector with a future for France. These businesses with significant value-added, deserve support from the public sector to assist them in rivalling their European rivals. Foreign businesses, much larger than ours, win the majority of tenders as no French business has the references needed (1). Better support for this sector from the State would quickly allow these businesses to export their talent; such is the originality and appreciation of French ecological consulting. 

Re-establish training in biodiversity

Going on 20 years now, our universities no longer train botanists, entomologists, or ornithologists. France, previously at the forefront of natural history, is gradually disappearing from the international stage, at a time when the study and the conservation of biodiversity are globally at stake and an economic opportunity. Due to a lack of trained naturalists, our businesses are forced to refuse work or delay projects. We can, nevertheless, congratulate ourselves on the LRU reform (university autonomy law), which allows universities to be autonomous in their selection of educational programs. It remains up to the universities to seize the employment opportunities available in our sector.

Valuing ecosystem services

Humans have always made use of natural resources: food, water, heat, construction materials… Currently, research is underway to quantify economically the services provided by the ecosystem. Wetlands, not at all insalubrious, provide three quantifiable economic services: flood protection, water filtration, and regulation of flow between wet and dry periods. Their destruction results in considerable expense to compensate for their functional role: dykes, waste water treatment plants, water treatment plants… It is much more economically rational to preserve these habitats. This integrated land-use approach allows for the strategic preservation of biodiversity while reducing the development costs from the public or private sector.

This way, a different approach to the integration of ecological imperatives into the public policy arena is possible. Getting rid of taxation as the main lever of public action is needed to maintain support from the public for enacting voluntary environmental policies. Deriving economic growth from nature conservation is a key issue for tomorrow.

(1) A European request for tender related to the implementation of conservation policies in Croatia required three references of over 700 000 euros which no French consultants could provide. An British/Danish consortium won the bid.

Read the article by Frédéric Melki "L’écologie est une opportunité de développement plutôt qu’une contrainte économique" on the site of Les Echos.fr