Grenoble Alpes Metropole, aerial view

Blog #10: Grenoble Alpes Metropole – Committed to climate neutrality

Grenoble Alpes Metropole, a metropolis committed to climate neutrality

Grenoble Alpes Metropole, a so called “urban agglomeration”, is composed of 49 cities, towns and villages around the area of Grenoble, situated in Isère, at the heart of the French Alps. Grenoble Alpes Métropole, one of the European “100 Climate neutral and Smart Cities, has set a very ambitious strategy to achieve climate neutrality. This article explain you their challenges, policies and next goals.

Grenoble Alpes Metropole is an urban agglomeration, thus a metropolitan government typical in France, allowing municipalities to share a number of competences, particularly in important urban areas, such as the Grenoble one. This governance gives to the Metropole many competences fundamental to the achievement of the climate neutrality, some examples are waste, transports, energy, environmental protection or energetic transition.

The Metropole has a population of 450,000, and a wide variety of communes, from large urbanized cities like Grenoble, to small mountain villages with 70 inhabitants.

This territory is typically alpine, also attracting tourists in all seasons for leisure activities, and it is characterized by a remarkable economic dynamism and the potential of its research centres make it an attractive area for companies. Consequently, the Metropole is well known for its role in R&D, giving it a very good ability to innovate, making this as a unique defining mark of Grenoble’s identity.

View of Grenoble with its famous Grenoble-Bastille cable car

The Metropole lives the consequences of its position and attractiveness as it is now dealing with the challenges due to climate change, as the consequences in alpine areas are more visible than in other environments. To tackle this situation, the Metropole started a pioneering approach, based on a collaborative model, called ‘Grenoble model’, involving all local stakeholders: universities, companies, startups and R&D.

The Climate Air Energy Plan

In 2005, the Metropole became the 1st in France to adopt a Climate Plan. This document provides a roadmap for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to climate change and improving air quality. The Climate Plan sets precise objectives and a program of actions to achieve them. In particular, this pioneering initiative defined the needs to reduce before 2030 (compared to 2005) greenhouse gas emissions (-50%), energy consumption (-40%) and air quality (nitrogen oxides by 70%, fine particles by 60% and volatile organic compounds by 52%). Additionally, it was set the goal of producing more renewable and recovered energy to reach 30% of final energy consumption.

The first results of plan (2016) are encouraging as greenhouse gases fell by 25%, mainly due to the impact of reduced emissions from industry and the main atmospheric pollutants have fallen quickly: -25% for fine particles, -49% for nitrogen dioxides, -29% for “Volatile Organic Compounds”…

Even so, almost the entire population is still exposed to annual concentrations of fine particles in excess of the World Health Organization recommendations and goals, making fundamental the need to act harder and faster for the Metropole.

Citizens’ Climate Convention, a first in France

Due also to this further need of actions and measures, in 2023, Grenoble Alpes Métropole has set up a citizens’ climate convention for its entire territory. The Convention brought together 100 residents of the Grenoble metropolitan area to propose measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and move towards carbon neutrality. The scale of the initiative was unprecedented on a national scale.

The members of the Citizens’ Convention met in 5 working sessions between March and October 2022, accompanied by experts and scientists. They worked at length to answer 2 questions:

  • How can we reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030?
  • How can we achieve carbon neutrality by 2050?

In October 2022, the Citizens’ Climate Convention presented 219 proposals to the elected representatives of the metropolitan area. Those proposals, at least the ones falling within the scope of the Metropole’s powers, were submitted to the Metropolitan Council in April 2023 for approval. All of them were approved by a very large majority and some will be included in the future Metropolitan Climate Air Energy Plan.

Participants at the Citizens’ Climate Convention

The Canopy Plan, to reduce warming effects

The Canopy Plan

A bit earlier, in February 2022, the Métropole set up a “Canopy Plan” with the aim of considerably increasing the canopy (the shade provided by tree foliage). The aim of it is to reach 30% canopy cover by 2030 and 40% by 2050 (currently it is 27%), to enable trees to have a cooling effect on the city.
The Canopy Plan is designed to help the urban areas of its communes adapt to climate change.

It is conceived around four focuses, going from the protection of existing trees, acting as an umbrella against heat waves, to remove asphalt to increase of permeability of soils, but also to plant new trees (in 5 years, the number of trees in the metropolitan area has increased by 16%) and install horizontal nature based solutions, varying the height and species of plants in flowerbeds.

The Cycling strategy, soft mobility at the heart of the climatic strategy

Traditionally known as one of the best cycling areas for infrastructure in the southern Europe, Grenoble Alpes Métropole has an ambitious cycling strategy, with a massive expansion of cycle paths, an increase in the number of bike parking facilities and a long-term bike rental scheme. These initiatives lead to a topography without hights that is highly favourable to cycling, Grenoble is now officially the most cyclable city in France (source: Insee 2021).

Grenoble Alpes Métropole, one of the best infrastructure cycling areas in Southern Europe

The reduction of Waste, a behavioural change stake

The Metropole is also committed to a demanding waste reduction policy, thanks to a program of precise targets for 2030. This concerns very ambitious targets as it seeks to reduce the weight of household waste by half, all waste collected by 20% and recycle two-thirds of the waste collected. To this end, for a number of years now, the Metropole has been making individual and collective composters available to households free of charge, simplifying waste collection and sorting, creating recycling centers and renovating its waste collection centers, so as to achieve these targets by 2030.

Collection points for the separate collection of food waste

Reduction in the use of single-use plastic by promoting the use of returnable containers

Reducing waste, the zero plastic territory policy

Grenoble Alpes Métropole is taking part in the WWF’s “Zero Plastic Territory” program, alongside 6 other French local authorities. This involves several key actions: reducing the use of single-use plastic products in public procurement and catering, providing technical and financial support for projects promoting the use of returnable containers and bulk sales, promoting the consumption of tap water in the region, protecting the water cycle from plastic pollution, fighting illegal dumping and pollution of waterways.

Climaborough, at the heart of a committed development strategy

The specificity of the Alpine climate means that the Grenoble metropolitan area has to be a pioneer in terms of land-use planning, constantly adapting to changing circumstances and thus demonstrating innovation and renewal, and this is where the Climaborough project comes in.

The project, which focuses on measuring the impact of urban heat islands, daytime thermal comfort and CO2 sequestration, is at the heart of the huge “GrandAlpe” development project, which aims to transform a highly urbanized area into a “park city” with a privileged living environment, notably by setting an example in terms of ecological transition.

All these actions undertaken by Grenoble Alpes Métropole to adapt to the now unavoidable global warming, which is even more significant in mountainous regions, are already beginning to bear fruit and form a guiding principle in metropolitan policy.