How Environmental Education Will Reform France for the Better

In 2012, nearly 45,000 environment-related jobs existed in France, most of which were within the sectors of water, waste management and renewable energy.

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Green Jobs statistics in 2017 (statista.com)

The above statistics shows technology specific employment levels in the renewable energy sector in France in 2017. Approximately 171,000 people worked in the renewable energy sector, with the highest number working in solid biomass related jobs. 

FRANCE’S ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS

France gets about 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy, yet it does not stand a chance of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 

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French rivers dyed green to raise awareness about water pollution (zmescience.com)

Although 98% of France’s population has access to clean water, the country is facing a big water pollution crisis. This suggests that around 1.5 million residents are still consuming polluted drinking water. The rural areas are still consuming water contaminated with significant amounts of pesticides, fertilizers, and even radioactive chemicals.

France’s cities produce about 18.7 million tons of solid waste per year. Besides the massive exploitation of natural resources, per capita, solid waste production has increased by an alarming 25% since 1996.

As of 1994, 20% of France’s forests were damaged due to acid rain and other contaminants.

Out of 4000 plus existing plant species, 86 are endangered. Since 1985, whatever species that have existed, around 25% are either extinct or critically endangered. 

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Effects of Acid Rain on Vosges Forest in France In August 1985 (gettyimages.in)

France’s bad air quality problems arise due to its peculiar topography and unfavorable weather patterns. During cold winter months, the inversion phenomenon compels the bad quality air to get trapped, creating an air envelope, which is unsuitable to breathe.

A 2016 report states that air pollution is tied to 48,000 French premature deaths per year and many of them could have been prevented by improving air quality.

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Air pollution in Paris (bbc.com)

ADMINISTRATIVE INITIATIVES

Stickers’ Scheme Initiative:

In the 2014 Paris Smog, the French administration applied the even-odd rule to improve the air quality, which was successful in reducing vehicular emissions’ pollution by 20%. However, this was a temporary solution and the problem revived.

Therefore, in January of 2017, the administration introduced the ‘Stickers Scheme’ which involved labeling the vehicles with stickers that indicated the vehicle’s age, cleanliness, and air criteria. This helped in getting rid of the ‘less clean’ vehicles.

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Six types of Crit’Air sticker, indicating the age and cleanliness of a vehicle (This is Money.co.uk)

Startup-Initiative:

In 2015, the country became an early adopter of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to help the world reduce poverty, fight inequality, and protect the planet. 

A startup-incubator GreenTech was established in 2016 by the French Ministry of the Environment, Energy, and the Sea to assist 50 startups in providing sustainability services.

National Biodiversity Strategy :

It was implemented with the aim to preserve, restore and increase living diversity in every area for which France is responsible for the mainland and overseas. It comprises of the six major goals to be fulfilled:

  • Generate the willingness to act in favor of biodiversity
  • Preserve life and its ability to evolve
  • Invest in a common good: our ecological capital
  • Ensure sustainable and equitable use of biodiversity
  • Ensure consistency across policies and the effectiveness of action
  • Develop, share and promote knowledge
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Estimated change in CO2 emissions in 2017 from 2016 levels (Eurostat)

Climate Plan: 

On 6 July 2017, the Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition presented the Administrative Climate Plan. Its major aspects are as follows:

  • Ensuring the Paris Agreement cannot be reversed
  • Improving everyday life for all French citizens
  • Turning away from fossil fuels and committing to a carbon-neutral approach
  • Making France a leader in the green economy
  • Tapping into the potential of ecosystems and agriculture
  • Scaling up international action on the climate

NGO-CSR INTERVENTIONS:

Garnier collaborates with the Good Planet Foundation for a 3-year long project, starting in 2019, that will support 7 pilot-farms with a knock-on effect, plant 2,800 trees on 35 hectares of land, train 50 farmers, with 3 training days every year and raise the awareness of 50 people at 2 farm open days every year.

Many environmental organizations are based in France which are individually tackling the respective components of environment like Airparif for monitoring air quality, Bruitparif for monitoring environmental noise, Commission for Independent Research and Information on Radioactivity for analysis of radioactivity and the World Ocean Network for the sustainable use of the oceans.

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Statistics about the CAC 40 companies in France (carbonpricingleadership.org)

WHY PROBLEMS STILL EXIST, DESPITE SO MANY INITIATIVES?

The commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement are still not met in spite of several initiatives, and thus, there’s a need for France to seriously strengthen its climate policies – particularly on transport, car use, and building renovation.

The carbon tax which was supposed to curb the reliance of people on fossil fuel-based automobiles, instead proved responsible for numerous protests, followed by burning of cars. Also, the greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 50 million tonnes since the Paris Agreement in 2015, in which France joined 200 nations in pledging to limit temperature rises to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

A forest is usually worth more money after it’s cut down – which is a particular problem for countries transitioning to a market-based economy. The people don’t understand that inculcating and adopting sustainable practices will be a win-win situation for them.

France is strongly committed to continuing encouraging foreign direct investments (FDI) as a way to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that FDI contributes to environmental degradation in France by increasing carbon dioxide emissions.

HOW CAN THE SITUATION BE IMPROVED?

  • The administration needs to provide financial incentives to switch to eco-efficient production. Well-targeted interventions can create both carrot and stick, rewarding eco-friendly behavior and imposing a cost on unsustainable activities. 
  • All sector leaders should be made aware of the current deteriorating state of the environment and positive cases of the green businesses’ success should be highlighted.
  • While encouraging FDIs, there is a need for France to focus on the environmental aspects and invest more in the areas based on more sustainable ways.
  • Research and developments in energy innovation should be encouraged as it will be crucial in improving environmental quality.
  • financial stability and environmental sustainability are two sides of a coin”. Hence, there is an important role that the French financial sector can play in tackling environmental challenges. 

WHAT IS ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION?

Environmental education is a process that allows individuals to explore environmental issues, engage in problem-solving, and take action to improve the environment. As a result, individuals develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues and have the skills to make informed and responsible decisions.

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General principles of environmental education (researchgate.net)

The components of environmental education are:

  • Awareness and sensitivity to the environment and environmental challenges
  • Knowledge and understanding of the environment and environmental challenges
  • Attitudes of concern for the environment and motivation to improve or maintain environmental quality
  • Skills to identify and help resolve environmental challenges
  • Participation in activities that lead to the resolution of environmental challenges

HOW CAN ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION HELP?

As it is evident, despite so many policies and initiatives, France is still facing environmental degradation problems. Social awareness about the environmental aspects, which is a major component of environmental education should be imparted in the children, who are the future. That requires a commitment to providing children with environmental education that helps them become the educated thought leaders of tomorrow.

The attitude of caring for the environment and being aware of our actions towards mother nature doesn’t develop overnight.

Schools have always been educating children with subjects like Environmental Studies but it is essential for educators to educate with practical work, drawing reference points from real-life situations.

By providing environmental education to students they will engage problem-solving techniques of the outer world to their subjects to understand a particular problem by implying outdoor environmental solutions.

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How environmental education creates citizen stewards (environmentalleadershipstrategies.com)

Health Benefits: Environmental Education encourages the student to step out of their bookish learning and take a dive into mother nature, learn more about it, think critically about the practical solutions and approaches by examining its environmental aspects. By doing physical work their bodies will be immune from some serious health issues such as short-sightedness, obesity, and in some cases even lack concentration.

Team Work: Environmental Education indirectly teaches the students to inculcate team spirit, that for bringing about a change, teamwork is an absolute necessity. This will also bring out the leadership qualities in them as they will lead the path for their team to stop people from throwing garbage anywhere and also spread awareness to other people that use only non-plastic goods for the betterment of the environment.

Producing Environmental Activists: Environmental Education provides a platform for the students to impart awareness and the importance of environmental conservation.

COURSES IN FRANCE FOR DEVELOPING KNOWLEDGE ON ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION 

This 2year long course offers a real-world technical expertise on environmental issues including soil and water pollution diagnostic, treatment and valorization processes, along with an in-depth understanding of the economic and social challenges to their development. The graduates will be ideally suited to meet the needs for both technical know-how and managerial expertise, to implement environmental policies for leading manufacturers, innovative start-ups, public organizations and governmental agencies.

It is a 2 year Masters program in Advanced Materials for Innovation and Sustainability which explores the theme of “Substitution of critical or toxic materials in products for optimized performance”. It also covers the topics of “Material chain optimization for end-of-life products” and “Product and services design for the circular economy” – all of which are central themes of the AMIS. 

ONLINE COURSES AVAILABLE FOR ALL ON ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION

A self-paced online course, which explores frameworks and tools needed to promote sustainability. It is a 3-day course on how you can become a change agent through transformative leadership and design thinking.

The course explores the different business models that companies can use to drive change and explains why purpose-driven businesses are particularly well-positioned to tackle the world’s biggest problems including environmental problems and climate change.

Earth5R Institute of Social and Environmental Sustainability (EISES) offers certificate courses in Global Sustainability and Climate Change. The program blends online and offline learning (within 3 km of your location) with the ongoing projects. Students receive one-to-one learning and experience which offers great flexibility.

ABOUT EARTH5R

Earth5R is an environmental organization from India with its head office at Mumbai. It works with the NGO sector, Companies and helps them conduct environmental corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs across India. Earth5R specializes in circular economy based projects. Earth5R also offers short term and long term environmental courses. 

Earth5R’s Global Sustainability Hub is a cross-sector and cross-country collaboration in pursuit of UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is an excellent opportunity for governments and the private sector to engage with communities, use Sustainability-based models to drive economic changes, and create social and environmental impact.

Reported by Nihar Mahajan, edited by Mehfil Mubarak

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