Urban Community of Dunkirk (France) and the town of Grande-Synthe – city of Annaba (Algeria) – city of Bizerte (Tunisia): discussing the role of territories in the fight against climate change (December 16, 2015)

The average global temperature is increasing due to human activity (manufacturing, transport, deforestation, housing, etc.) and the use of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, coal, etc.). The increase in temperature has consequences for the climate: increased water levels, droughts, cyclones, etc., as well as for living things: extinction of species, reduced agricultural yields, etc. It is believed that an increase of 2°C would have limited consequences.

In this context, the territorial communities are fighting at their own level, e.g. by encouraging public transport, increasing energy efficiency in buildings, promoting renewables, etc. The Dunkirk urban community (CUD), the cities of Grande-Synthe, Annaba and Bizerte, which are all coastal, port and manufacturing areas, decided to unite around the CLIMED project to together consider the consequences of climate change and seek solutions.

We met Mohamed Riadh Lazzem, Mayor of Bizerte and joint manager of the CLIMED project, during the round table “Local governments commit to climate action,” held on 5 December as part of COP21 in Le Bourget.

Background and the issues of the CLIMED project

In Europe, the role of territories in fight against climate change is well-established - this must be further improved in North Africa. French law requires large communities to set up climate plans to reduce their energy and greenhouse gas consumption and to mobilize and support actors on the ground. These types of tools could be used in the Maghreb. However, a culture of recycling and repairing still remains in the Maghreb. This is beneficial for the climate, even though not necessarily identified as such. The project would like to better identify practices, promote them and transfer them to partner territories in the North. These actions have a real impact, both for populations in the South and the North, which is the essential feature of decentralized cooperation projects: reciprocity between territories.

The CUD and Grande-Synthe have considerable expertise in fighting climate change. Indeed, the CUD’s first Local Climate-Energy Plan (PCET) was implemented in the 2009-2014 period, with a rating of 76.5% by ADEME’s Cit’ergie Gold label. The first learning centre on sustainable cities, which has just opened in Dunkirk, provides a space of 1,200m² for many events regarding this issue. As regards Grande-Synthe, the French capital of biodiversity in 2010, it has just achieved 100% green energy in its municipal buildings and is aiming for a 45% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020.

The first decentralized cooperation partnership was signed in 2004. Since then, many projects to support integrated urban development have been carried out as well as greater commitment from civil society by extending the themes of cooperation to culture and the economy. Today, the partners want to enhance their relationships within the framework of an operational project. As the climate issue is by nature transnational, it is particularly suited to cooperation between territories, especially in manufacturing contexts such as the steel production in Dunkirk, Annaba and Bizerte.

About 930,000 people are estimated to benefit from this cooperation (people from the areas of Annaba, Dunkirk, Grande-Synthe and Bizerte).

Businesses taking part in the CLIMED project

Since 2011, Dunkirk and Annaba have been implementing economic cooperation. Several businesses have become acclimatized to the relationship between territories. Within the framework of the CLIMED, businesses are invited to take part in institutional meetings to explain their contribution to fighting climate change. Furthermore, within the framework of renovating the Institut français building in Annaba, the project enables products and expertise from Dunkirk-based business in the field to be promoted.

On 5 December 2015 in Le Bourget, Mohamed Riadh Lazzem, the mayor of Bizerte, answered our questions live from COP21, where the project had just been raised during the round table: "Local governments commit to climate action."

MAEDI: Could you briefly remind us of the goals of the CLIMED project?

Mohamed Riadh Lazzem: The aim is to put in place institutional, technical and citizen-based platforms on the theme of climate change. They will enable discussions between representatives, but will also help to set out the technical foundations for energy diagnostics/carbon footprint within the framework of relationships between services. They will encourage seeking solutions and avenues for improvement and finally will enable meetings between associations and other civil society actors.

Can you give us a specific example of something which can be achieved upon the conclusion of this dialogue?

In Bizerte, we have 15,000 lighting units, mainly powered by sodium. In Tunisia, almost all electricity is produced by fossil fuels. So within the framework of the CLIMED project, we are examining the possibility of switching to LED lighting (public lighting accounts for 15% of the town’s budget), which would bring huge savings and significantly reduce our CO2 emissions.

Specifically, the CLIMED project helps to support the city of Bizerte in its technical choices on the energy assessments of its buildings so as to move towards more efficient and economical public lighting.

Why did you decide to include actors such as associations?

The two local governments mobilized the associations with the intention of protecting the environment in order to stimulate the existing partnership. The Dunkirk urban community has just launched a call for projects proposing financial support to associations carrying out joint actions with Tunisian or Algerian associations.

After some initial groundwork, we identified several possible projects such as a project to share data on the observation of migratory birds or a service to share teaching tools between Tunisian and French schools.

How does this project differ from those which emerged from the partnership which began in 2004?

This project develops the strong relations which exist between our governments. Creating and implementing the existing discussion platform was not possible at the start of our discussions. It is by getting to know our partners and the various actors from different backgrounds moving around them that we can build trust. It was therefore with great enthusiasm that we began this project as we now realize how warm the people from Northern France really are.

What is the next step and the prospects for implementing the CLIMED project?

We are already thinking about the next step of the project. It would be to bring together our universities and research laboratories in order to carry out a joint study on air quality on the French, Algerian and Tunisian coast.

Illust: Mohamed Riadh Lazzem, 198.1 kb, 600x358
Mohamed Riadh Lazzem, Mayor of Bizerte (the second person from the left) – the round table « Local governments commit to climate action » - 5 December as part of COP21 in Le Bourget. Photo : Anne-Claire Gaudru

Actors involved in the CLIMED project

  • Dunkirk urban community: contracting authority
  • Town of Grande-Synthe: partner and project manager for certain initiatives
  • City of Annaba
  • City of Bizerte
  • Maison de l’environnement in Dunkirk: coordinator of the civil society component, discussions between citizens
  • Research Centre for the Study of International Development (CERDD): resource structure. Mobilization of content, expertise and co-organization of field visits
  • Grande-Synthe people’s university workshop : identifying and monitoring discussions between citizens
  • Institut Français in Annaba: identification and monitoring of discussions between citizens

Dunkirk urban community (in French): http://www.communaute-urbaine-dunkerque.fr/

For further information on relations between the Urban Communities of Dunkirk, Annaba and Bizerte (in French) : http://www.communaute-urbaine-dunkerque.fr/en/domaines-dintervention/relations-internationales/dunkerque-annaba-bizerte/index.html

Nord-Pas-de-Calais regional multi-actor network : http://lianescooperation.org/nos-collectivites-sengagent-pour-le-climat/

French Embassy in Tunis (in French) : https://tn.ambafrance.org/

French Embassy in Algiers (in French) : https://dz.ambafrance.org/