Philie Marcangelo Leos / MCM Press for Localtis
While the pandemic has exacerbated the French people’s need for nature, its place and role in urban areas deserves to be improved because of the many environmental, economic, social and health benefits it brings. This is the whole question raised by the National Assembly’s flash mission on the nature of the city, the conclusions of which were presented to the Committee on Sustainable Development on 22 February by its co-rapporteurs Sophie Métadier (Indre-et-Loire / UDI) and Valérie Petit (Nord / Agir Ensemble). . “Asking the question of what nature is in the city generally requires an answer of the type of parks, gardens, trees or bees”, notes with a touch of irony deputy Sophie Métadier, noting that “for a long time public action has considered nature only through the prism of the decoration of the city and the living environment “.
From how to produce, to eating, through health, well-being, housing and social cohesion, climate change and biodiversity, the mission addresses five themes that cover the different uses of nature in the city. , by combining two logics: conservation and improvement of urban nature by including it in the ERC triptych (avoid, reduce, compensate) and nature-based solutions based on ecosystems to meet global challenges such as combating climate change, managing natural risks, etc.
Develop training and territorial technique
Revegetation to mitigate the “urban heat island effect” or drainage of urban soil through swabs are all nature-based solutions for adaptation to climate change and as many alternatives to the usual practice of spatial planning based solely on the use of “gray solutions”. on constructions and artificial technological means. However, the consultations carried out by the mission showed a lack of information and training for elected officials, community agents and decentralized services in this area. For example, “very few societies encourage ecologists to analyze their needs and help them find natural solutions,” laments Sophie Métadier. There is also a dire need for territorial engineering work on the subject: “Local authorities must be able to count on operators such as Cerema, ANCT (National Agency for Territorial Cohesion), regional biodiversity agencies or CAUEs (architectural, urban planning and environmental councils) to implement nature-based solutions”, insists the co-rapporteurs. Cooperation between local communities seems to them just as essential “because nature ignores administrative boundaries, whether it is a matter of natural heritage, green leisure belts or active mobility routes, these continuities must be thought out between urban territories, perished – city and country”.
Complete the green and blue frame
While the mission emphasizes the interest in preserving the ecological continuity of the green (vegetation) and blue (water in all its forms) lines, the mission calls for them to be complemented by a legal mechanism establishing “brown lines” used to the continuity of open terrain. soil and “black shoots” to preserve nocturnal species. Knowing that “these different frameworks are not enough to respond to the challenges posed by the law on climate and resilience, which are still waiting to be clarified by decree,” she notes. One of the existing tools for land use management is the biotope coefficient, which ensures the maintenance of non-impermeable surfaces and open terrain when developing a plot, but “it says nothing about the qualitative goals for biodiversity that exist on the site”. Moreover, it is only mandatory for urbanized areas with more than 50,000 inhabitants. There are therefore many “margins for progress”, says the mission, which especially recommends that “biodiversity diagnoses be systematically organized during public or private development or plant operation from the start of the project”.
To integrate nature into an economic model
One of the main issues for nature in the city lies in the mobilization of land areas. But “as long as it is not possible to measure and yield interest on the ecosystem services that nature provides in the city, it will be difficult to preserve land, to create it, to expand its value and benefits,” notes co-rapporteur Sophie Métadier. Therefore, “a new economic and financial model must make it possible to make public or private investment profitable in projects based on the nature of the city, especially with the challenge of zero net artificialization”. The mission also recommends developing methods to achieve urban densification that respect the environment, beginning with projects for the rehabilitation of wastelands where a minimum percentage of nature seems necessary. It also considers it essential to change the legislative and regulatory framework for land, in particular the creation of specific leases for apartment buildings and the updating of texts relating to collective gardens and family gardens. And also recalls the need to control the sanitary quality of these countries “reservoirs of biodiversity and habitats, learning and sociability valuable to the inhabitants”.
Angers an example of success
With its 100 m² of green areas per. per capita (compared to 12 m² in Lille), what is the secret behind the town of Angevin, which has been crowned as the green capital several times and whose ecological efforts are mentioned as an example? “Nature is not just there to put a little flower on the city sign, it is there so that we can work with it on the quality of life of the inhabitants”, notes MP Valérie Petit and especially praises the typology of the ecosystem. services formalized by the city of Angers: “services that regulate natural phenomena associated with global warming, but also food services or the provision of natural resources, cultural or social services, etc.” An approach “input into all the political decisions of the city taken with regard to development “.
From this concrete case, the mission provides several important success factors to accelerate the presence of nature in the city. It is also the commitment from Assizes of the ecological transition in 2019 taken by Angers Loire Métropole “that made it possible to build the political consensus, but also to initiate citizen participation”. Behind this local consensus, a planning approach has been built, which in turn is considered “essential in this area, as we are also on very long-term logic”. To sum up, “to learn to plan, manage the city and evaluate differently”. There is a challenge with data, inventories, knowledge and evaluation of the activity’s impact on biodiversity “absolutely central”. It is also necessary to “develop better”, which means “to go a little further in PLUI than is required, by protecting forested areas, gardens, hearts of islets, hedges and even adjustments of trees”.
“There are no small surpluses, every doorstep is a space that can be renatured”, insists Valérie Petit, who literally invites us to “multiply the whole range of actions to ‘rewilde’ everyday life and increase the presence of nature in the city “(educational paths, exhibitions, resource centers, kitchen garden at each school, flower meadows in the districts, etc.). But above all, it is necessary to create a system of actors and expertise “because the nature of the city is not something rural, in reality it is something very technical that requires resources, especially ecologists for the benefit of local communities”, insists on. the mission. “It is important to say that we will not bring back an urban ecosystem in favor of biodiversity if we do not have an ecosystem of actors who have not only an action plan but also resources, available expertise to be able to act in the right direction. “, explains the co-rapporteur.
In Angers, part of the budget is thus “sanctified”. The city, which is set up as a model, also has a plant competitiveness cluster, a dynamic associative substance and experiments with all the ways we can have to involve companies with, for example, plant sponsorship, vouchers revegetation reminiscent of “vegetation permits” and competitions to highlight citizens’ investment.
The inter-ministerial committee for cities of 29 January 2021 had adopted the principle of increased participation of residents in order to strengthen nature’s place in priority areas of urban policy (QPV). A little over a year later, on 15 February, the ministry responsible for the city presented 6 projects developed in 37 of these neighborhoods by associations in collaboration with local partners (government services, local authorities, associations, organizations HLM, neighborhood authorities, schools, etc.) who will be supported for an amount of 400,000 euros. Awareness raising of school children and residents, mobilization of volunteers for nature jobs, creation of educational trails, fat islands and biodiversity-friendly facilities, joint garden and apartment projects, etc .: These initiatives are very diverse and aim to concretely improve the quality of everyday life. The “More nature in my neighborhood” project piloted by the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO) will thus be extended to 7 QPV districts (Maurepas, in Rennes, La Madeleine, in Joigny, Les Rives du Cher, in Tours, Les Couronneries, in Poitiers, Bellevue, in Limoges, the center sector in Vitrolles and Sainte Musse, in Toulon). Ecovolonterre, a project led by the association Unis-Cité, which enables young people in community service to intervene to increase awareness of biodiversity issues through very concrete actions (planting of plants, development of gardens and agricultural plots, awareness of invasive species and their impact on health, waste collection, etc. will be deployed in 6 municipalities (Bondy, Montreuil, Noisy-le-Sec, Lyon, Pierre-Bénite, Toulouse) on a total of 9 QPV.