The last plenary session of the Assises des Déchets was devoted to challenges of climate change. The contribution of waste prevention and management – but also the progress that is undeniably still needed, were put forward. Highlights.
Waste treatment and management, which bear the responsibility of less than 5% of greenhouse gas emissions, have nevertheless fully contributed to the fight against climate change, says Laurent Michel, managing director in charge of energy and climate at the Ministry of Ecology. The waste leverage, indeed, is directly related to circular economy: this is what the section 4 of the LTECV entirely dedicated to this topic is all about.
This overall progress was greeted by participants to the debate, who also expressed reserves. Denez Lhostis, president of France Nature Environment, pointed out: “We are not in a circular neither in a low-carbon economy yet! Recycling is not a panacea: it does not prevent resources from diminishing. We should be careful about a recyclability scheme that could run a bit idle: recycling does not raise all questions about climate change”.
Helene Valade, director of sustainable development at Suez Environnement, recognises it: “We certainly are not there yet: more prevention is needed, as moving to other consumption habits is a societal challenge, and there should be greater emphasis on resource protection”. She mentioned a few directions for action: invent stronger incentive leverages, move to a new tax system, e.g. based on resources, and set a price for carbon, because she considers there should be a price for negative externalities.
Jerôme Schmitt, director in charge of sustainable development and environment at Total, is not afraid to acquiesce: “We say yes to paying a price for negative externalities! We consider, indeed, that this will send a signal for a change in behaviours and for the generation of new business models”. There are, today, too many bad signals, like a too low carbon price, and no universal price. Setting a price appears a good solution... But there is unfortunately not enough consensus for an agreement at the COP21 Conference to be reached”.
Jean-Luc Petithuguenin, president of Paprec, pursues this reflection by evoking the industrial schemes having a hard time to survive, today, by lack of a steady market, deploring the many bankruptcies of plastic recyclers in Great-Britain and Germany: “The objective of the Waste Plan is to avoid 12 million tons of waste in 2025: if we know how to organise it, by limiting price fluctuations, this context should be favourable for the creation of a new industry”.
Beyond and after the COP21, will we be able to act sustainably in favour of recycling and resource protection? According to Denez Lhostis, Jerôme Schmitt and Laurent Michel, this implies supporting citizens’ and businesses’ mobilisation. We might not want to wait for institutions but focus, instead, on the youth and education, on building consensus for action to move forward, to go beyond details and to overcome divergences, without waiting for the revolution but building on initial progresses...
Beyond states’ commitment, Bruno Lechevin, president of the Ademe, considers that solutions for climate, today, are coming from citizens and local territories everywhere, with outstanding innovations that should be fostered and supported, while avoiding any flash-in-the-pan effect: “We are observing, nowadays, something new and deep, genuine awareness, new relationships between individuals and businesses, for the general interest. That is how, by raising these meaningful questions, change in behaviours will be possible".