Stop the artificialization of the soil!

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More than 60 local collectives of inhabitants from all over France mobilized against projects for shopping areas or e-commerce warehouses sent this morning an open letter to the President of the Republic. One week after his speech to the Citizens' Climate Convention during which he declared himself in favor of a moratorium on commercial facilities, particularly with regard to the abandonment of the Europacity megacomplex, in the "Triangle de Gonesse" in the Val-d'Oise (1), citizens are demanding the immediate and unrestricted application of the presidential promise to introduce this measure. Deciphering.

As we know, since the last IPBES report in particular, biodiversity has been undergoing massive and rapid erosion: 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. Among the main causes is the artificialisation of land caused by urban sprawl and diffuse constructions, which destroy natural habitats and ecological continuities. There is an urgent need to curb this phenomenon and, if possible, to renaturalize artificial land. The loss of natural, agricultural or forest areas (ENAF), tarred car parks, warehouses, commercial areas, buildings, roads, railway networks, suburban areas, mega leisure and attraction centers, ... all this leads to the process of land artificialisation. There is no such thing as artificialisation, but multiple processes with different impacts on the environment. In France, according to cadastral data, 3.5 million hectares are now artificialized, which represents 6.3% of the metropolitan territory, a higher share than in our main neighbors, when compared to population density. In France, according to cadastral data, 3.5 million hectares are now artificialized, which represents 6.3% of the metropolitan territory, a higher share than in our main neighbors, when compared to population density. In France, according to cadastral data, 3.5 million hectares are now artificialized, which represents 6.3% of the metropolitan territory, a higher share than in our main neighbors, when compared to population density. Every year, this represents an additional 20 000 hectares of artificial land. At this rate by the end of the century, 18% of the territory will be artificialized, warns the IDDRI (Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations).

READ UP'. : Artificialization of soils: the perverse effects of all-out construction

A week ago, the 150 citizens of the Citizen's Climate Convention made an unequivocal judgment about commercial infrastructures: "It is necessary to take immediate enforcement action to stop the development of space-intensive peri-urban commercial areas. ".

In France, more than fifty commercial infrastructures in the making are concerned. Soon after the President of the Republic's speech, more than 60 citizens' groups mobilized in response to these infrastructures on their territory decided to speak with a common and national voice to preserve local jobs, protect biodiversity and limit greenhouse gas emissions and soil artificialisation in their locality. These citizens, who have in common that they fight every day to put an end to these projects, have united to obtain the implementation of an ambitious and coherent moratorium as soon as possible.

While the President of the Republic expressed strong support for this measure in his speech on 29 June, citizens fear that it will be watered down by the Government and then by Parliament when the bill is tabled to reflect the proposals of the 150 at the end of the summer.

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Indeed, the speech of the President of the Republic lacks clarity, a source of concern for many groups. While 26,000 jobs in non-food and local shops will be destroyed in 2020, tens of thousands more are threatened by projects in the pipeline.

Emmanuel Macron's speech does not explicitly address the case of e-commerce warehouses, which are multiplying in France, as in the case of the 12 logistics platform projects that Amazon and Alibaba are preparing to build in France. These warehouses are also aggravating the artificialization of the soil, exploding imported products and France's carbon footprint, and destroying tens of thousands of jobs in supermarkets and convenience stores.

The signatories of the open letter also insist on the inclusion of commercial surfaces and e-commerce warehouses that are built on already artificial floors. Indeed, some projects are conversions of existing buildings into commercial facilities. Excluding this dimension from the moratorium would not effectively limit job destruction and greenhouse gas emissions.

The signatories finally recall that many projects are advanced and that about ten of them could be authorized in the coming weeks, such as the Amazon warehouse in Belfort, or see their work started, such as the extension of the Rosny 2 shopping centre.

These collectives fear that by the time the measure is adopted, the State will validate the projects under study. If this were the case, the scope of the moratorium would be very limited, and many projects would finally see the light of day despite the adoption of this measure. They therefore call for a freeze on environmental permits issued by the State now and until the measure is passed.

In order for the measure announced by the President to remain faithful to the work of the citizens, the collectives repeat: Despite the lack of precision of the President's intervention regarding the moratorium, if the measure remains faithful to the work of the citizens, the moratorium will have to integrate the e-commerce warehouses, the transformation of buildings into commercial equipment and the procedures currently frozen. This is, in any case, what the citizens of the Convention had intended to include in this measure.

Wrestling Map

Pending the fulfilment of the presidential promise, rallies will be organised in front of the various prefectures of France from today and over the coming days and weeks until the State freezes authorisations and an ambitious moratorium is obtained.
Sources Friends of the Earth, Our Common Business

(1) According to Les Echos On July 6, 2020, the Conseil d'Etat rejected the request by environmental protection associations to cancel the creation of a concerted development zone on agricultural land north of Paris and near Roissy on July 1.

Header photo : Europacity amusement park project (95)

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