written by
Caroline Panard

How to let the magic happen in Hauts-de-France region

Climate Action 4 min read , May 4, 2020

When it comes to climate change, the risks are spread unequally across societal groups and regions. That is also the case for the northernmost region of France, Hauts-de-France, which is particularly vulnerable to the effects. Yet, this is where the magic happens. By addressing vulnerabilities, there is more prosperity, jobs and cohesion to be won than anywhere else. So, why wait? ✌️🇫🇷

Hauts-de-France can be at the forefront of European climate action

The Hauts-de-France region is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, that are becoming increasingly visible. The trend of temperature increase per decade (+ 0.29 °C) is higher than the world average. 🌡️ More than half of the municipalities are exposed to risks of flooding, mudslides and drought. 

This already generates technical impacts like cracks in the houses, organizational and health problems (for instance the lack of nursing staff during the heat wave of 2003) and huge agricultural difficulties, like accelerated evapotranspiration and erosion. 

Furthermore the high population density, the high unemployment rate and its important maritime facade contribute to the climate risks of Hauts-de-France. All models predict these impacts to become more intense and more disrupting in the next decades. 😲

Terills, now overgrown with woodland, testify of the mining industry past (photo: Leen Van Camp)

Big risks, big opportunities

And still there is enough reason to be optimistic about the future. 🔮 The North of France has always been one of the most influential areas in terms of culture, design, architecture, heritage and maritime activities.

Its inhabitants have proven to be resilient, pairing their mining past with natural parks (for instance the World Heritage Site of Nord-Pas de Calais), and to rhyme maritime activity with unspoiled coasts (for instance at Cote d’Opale). 💪

Once again Hauts-de-France may be leading the way to the future. 

With the biggest risk comes the biggest opportunity. Addressing climate change in Hauts-de-France can be part of a multisolving approach, solving different problems with just one intervention.

Winds of change

For instance: local wind power production and linear heating networks can reduce energy costs for households and create local jobs. That is specifically noteworthy. Unemployment has been particularly high in this region since the end of the industrial era. Energy represents 41,400 jobs in the region and accelerating the energy transition will lead to extra jobs.

At the same time it may be a chance to bridge the centuries-old inequality between the huge urban areas and the countryside (where for instance wind energy has better chances).  

Wind power is a chance to bridge the inequality between urban areas and the countryside

According to Climate Action Network France ranks fourth in their ambition and progress fighting climate change. And yet that’s no reason to sit back: the report warns that France is lagging behind in reaching its energy targets, due to a lack of investment in renewables. Additionally they recommend France to put forward concrete plans on how to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, focusing especially on high emissions from transport and agriculture. If not, an enormous gap occurs between word and deed.

The territorial climate-air-energy plans (PCAET) can be seen as an effort to bridge that gap. It is mandatory for every intermunicipal association (EPCI) of more than 20,000 inhabitants. Furthermore, the government launched the ecological transition contracts (CTE) in 2018. These partnerships between the state and local communities aim to accompany and support the ecological transformation of territories in an innovative approach. 

Currently two of these CTE’s are in force in the Hauts-de-France region: one in the urban community of Arras and one in Sambre-Avesnois, which is the first CTE at national level to integrate a multisolving solidarity component. That’s the way to go. But how can we speed it up?

⚡Supercharging climate plans

This map of the regional ecological transition indicates that cities of different sizes are taking on the challenge. Roubaix has its zero waste goal with an effective 5% drop on waste each year since 2015. Amiens (recently added to the Futureproofed family) aims to reach energy autonomy by 2050. And Grande Synthe has created the first “revenu écologique” (an additional income given by the city to any people leading an ecological transition project). 

What’s on in northern France?

Currently, leaders of PCAET are at very different stages of progress. A majority of them have approved the procedure officially and have produced a territorial diagnosis, but are waiting for implementation: teams, budgets and strategy remain to be defined. There's definitely work to do on cooperation and harmonisation between the different municipalities, because we don't want to exacerbate socio-economic and demographic gaps, right?

And this is where the FuturerproofedCities tool can make a difference: we put the emphasis on partnership and solidarity. With our online tool, cities and regions can jointly develop, monitor and focus all sustainable measures within the framework of the territorial climate-air-energy plans. Moreover, they can share their own experiences, or get inspired by others. On top of that, it offers an opportunity to involve citizens and businesses. 🤝

Great potential

The Hauts-de-France region has large potential as a producer of wind energy in France. The overall potential of extra climate actions, for instance insulating houses and cut emissions from cars and agriculture, is impressive. And so are the reductions in costs, if the municipalities of Hauts-de-France succeed to move to the very forefront of European climate action.

There’s no place like Northern France for turning climate risks into opportunities. And there’s no time like now to start with it.  🙌

☀️FutureproofedCities makes it easy to prioritise, focus and keep track of concrete climate measures. Not a user yet? Download our free tool guide to discover our platform.

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