Interview with the
Mayor of the City of Grenoble
January 10, 2023
Éric Piolle is a French politician representing Europe Ecology - The Greens (EELV). He was elected Mayor of Grenoble in 2014 and re-elected in 2020. Prior to this, he was the Regional Councillor of Rhône-Alpes from 2010 to 2014. In 2005, he founded a support group for underprivileged children backed by Education Without Borders, and also co-founded Raise Partners and the "Roosevelt 2012" Collective.
You've been Mayor of Grenoble for several years. What do you see as the main reason that Grenoble won the European Green Capital title?
For many years now, Grenoble has been leading an ambitious policy to adapt its territory to climate change and to carry out the transformations that are necessary to become more resilient. Grenoble is proud to be a land of innovation, and as such experiments and promotes the initiatives and the local actors which are strongly committed to environmental transitions.
The title of European Green Capital acknowledges the results obtained in environmental matters in the region, the public policies implemented in Grenoble, as well as the strategy put in place to involve all the actors of the territory.
Grenoble became the first district in France to have its own local climate plan back in 2005, and one of its Green Capital slogans is "always one step ahead." Why do you think Grenoble has been a step ahead with sustainability?
Grenoble is a pioneering territory. From the hydraulic energy that was used in the 19th century (named "Houille Blanche", which is also a neighbourhood in Grenoble) to renewable energies in the 21st century, Grenoble has always been one step ahead of the challenges of the era. We did not wait for the Paris Agreement resulting from COP21 back in 2015 to commit our territory to environmental transitions. Here in Grenoble, those transitions are preparing the future and changing everyday lives. This energy sets all of our territories into motion and brings us together at a time when the climate challenges are before us. In Grenoble and in the Alps, climate change occurs twice as fast, and our response must be equal to the challenges.
Grenoble aimed to produce the equivalent of its energy consumption using 100% green electricity in 2022. What challenges did this present, and how will Grenoble maintain or exceed this target in future?
By the end of the year, we will indeed cover the totality of the electricity needs of Grenoble households with renewable energy. Thanks to an investment plan of 125 million euros by Gas and Electricity of Grenoble (GEG, the local energy company), we will reach 100% green energy, 0% nuclear and 0% fossil-fuelled! This prowess is made possible by the production of GEG's wind park, and hydroelectric and photovoltaic power stations. In Grenoble, we encourage the production of local renewable energy by using the roofs of municipal buildings to install photovoltaic collectors: 7 citizens photovoltaic power stations have been installed by Energ'Y Citoyennes (a local association) in the city of Grenoble, 3 schools of the city have been equipped with photovoltaic power stations and a sports centre.
We must pursue our efforts in order to limit our dependence on fossil fuels for travel in the territory. In Grenoble, we defend and promote the implementation of an ambitious Low Emission Zone, and we strengthen the use of soft mobilities and public transport.
When you ran for Mayor, your slogan was, "Grenoble, A City for All." Do you feel that the European Green Capital programme has benefitted people from all levels of society?
All of the actors of the territory (inhabitants of Grenoble, local authorities, associations and private companies) are mobilised around this European Green Capital Year to promote and deepen the environmental transition in Grenoble and its surrounding areas. The Grenoble Green Capital challenges have enabled citizens of Grenoble and its region, through the projects led by schools of the city, associations, public institutions and companies, to take action and to multiply the initiatives in favour of the environmental transition. Therefore, in Grenoble, we made the choice of building a participatory events program where each association, institution or company could suggest an event as soon as it was related to one of the 12 themes of the year and contributed to raising awareness on the challenges of environmental transition and sustainable development. In total, 700 events have been "labelled" Green Capital.
While major official events were organised, especially for the Opening and Designation Ceremony (which was open to the general public) of the European Green Capital 2024, we most importantly made the choice of organising numerous events of proximity in all the areas of Grenoble in order to "reach out" to the inhabitants of Grenoble.
The youth and young people, who are the major actors of climate action and environmental transition, have been at the centre of debates and events this year, including a major event in June: the Youth Greenoble Summit, a summit which gathered together about sixty European young people committed to climate action.
In Grenoble, we pay particular attention to make sure that transitions in their broadest meaning permeate all the levels of society, in particular the most vulnerable ones. Therefore we are really proud to have inaugurated Le "Haut Bois" this year, which was designed by Actis, the most important social housing landlord in Grenoble. Designed for social housing, this passive nine-story wood-frame building allows the residents of the 56 apartments to do without radiators.
One of Grenoble's stated goals is to "inspire other French and European towns, cities and regions." How is Grenoble trying to achieve this?
Grenoble has forged close ties with many cities around the world, in Europe and in France. The City of Grenoble is dedicated, like many others, to developing a network of cities in transition where cities mutually inspire one another in order to transform their territory and implement ambitious policies around transitions.
Moreover, it is by experimenting and by conducting audacious policies here in Grenoble that we will encourage other cities to implement strong actions. Since the beginning of the school year in September, in the local school canteens, amongst the three menus offered each day, the vegetarian menu has now become the "standard" menu, while menus with meat and fish are now "optional". This is unprecedented in France, but we are strongly convinced that this decision will spread elsewhere.
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