Launched in 2015 ahead of COP21, the “Green Embassy” project is a gradual and comprehensive initiative to reduce the environmental impact of France’s diplomatic representations abroad.
- Internationally strengthen France’s exemplary commitment in regards to sustainable development.
- Make the diplomatic network a showcase for French expertise.
- Improve the management and performance of Embassies and achieve savings.
- Achieve carbon neutrality by 2020.
The French diplomatic network comprises 160 Embassies, 89 consulates, 133 consular sections and 16 permanent representations.
In 2014, global greenhouse gas emissions produced by the activities of the French Ministry’s diplomatic and consular network were measured at 130,000 tCO2e (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent), broken down as follows:
There are many challenges:
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
- Controlling energy and water consumption
- Promoting renewable energy
- Promoting more sustainable procurement
- Encouraging sustainable mobility
- Protecting biodiversity and the environment
- Reducing and recycling waste
- Raising awareness for sustainable development in and around the Embassy
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement sets a target of limiting average global temperature rise to “well below 2°C”. As part of the “Green Embassy” project, reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of France’s diplomatic network is a key target.
Example: the French Embassy in Rome evaluated its greenhouse gas emissions in 2014 in partnership with the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME). Two key measures helped to reduce emissions by 27% between 2014 and 2015: providing 100% renewable certified energy and replacing lighting with LED-powered lighting.
Controlling energy and water consumption
Energy is the leading source of greenhouse gas accounting for 41% of emissions across the French diplomatic network. Embassies are getting involved through several initiatives including constructing new low energy consumption buildings, carrying out energy assessments, raising awareness for eco-friendly behaviours, buying high-tech equipment and fine-tuning devices.
Example: in 2010, the French Embassy in Washington carried out an energy analysis of its buildings. Using this information, they brought in several measures including installing a building management system (BMS) to enable consumption to be managed centrally and automatically, replacing lighting with low-consumption options, installing presence sensors and timers and installing a planted roof. These initiatives have helped to reduce the Embassy’s electricity consumption by 30% since 2010.
Promoting more sustainable procurement
The dissemination of eco-friendly practices through sustainable public procurement helps France to position itself as a positive change driver around the world. The Embassies are launching initiatives to promote sustainable procurement including the selection of certified, organic, local and seasonal products and the inclusion of environmental clauses in their procurement contracts.
Example: the French Embassy in London implemented a cross-cutting sustainable procurement policy by purchasing renewable energy, using recycled paper for all printers, gradually replacing the Embassy’s vehicle fleet with “clean” vehicles and choosing eco-certified maintenance products.
Encouraging sustainable mobility
Travel is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas in the French diplomatic network accounting for 29% of emissions. While long-haul flights are difficult to avoid, it is possible to take action on a local level while also taking into account the disparity in infrastructure in different countries. The Embassies are gradually implementing a variety of initiatives including purchasing hybrid or electric vehicles, promoting car sharing and cycling, and using video-conference technologies.
Example: in 2015, the French Embassy in Oslo implemented a bike/public transport day. The Embassy in Lisbon bought an electric Renault Zoe and is training its drivers in eco-friendly driving.
Promoting renewable energy
Consuming less energy is great, but consuming sustainable energy is even better! The Embassies are committed to sustainable energy and have been installing renewable energy sources, signing contracts for fully- or partly-renewable energy.
Example: through its “Green Embassy” project, the French Embassy in Pretoria installed 172 solar panels on the roof of the chancery in February 2016. The French Embassies in Dublin and Windhoek, and the consulate in Pondicherry, also have solar panels.
Protecting biodiversity and the environment
French Embassies are reducing their impact on the environment and promoting biodiversity by sustainably managing their green spaces and implementing certain specific initiatives such as organic gardening, using certified products, creating a kitchen garden, installing a beehive and promoting local species.
Example: certain French Embassies have chosen to install beehives, such as those in Sofia, Addis Ababa, Berlin, Bogota, Washington, D.C. and Beirut. Others are rearranging their green spaces to help biodiversity and the environment. The French Embassy in Brasilia reorganized some of its gardens, installing an automatic sprinkler system and prioritizing local species.
Reducing and recycling waste
French Embassies are working to reduce the amount of waste they produce and promote recycling through paperless working, printer settings, waste sorting, awareness raising and partnerships with local players.
Example: since 2012, the French Embassy in Mozambique has been using a local association to collect its paper waste. Composters have been installed in the garden of the Embassy residence in Tel Aviv, reducing waste by 200 kg per year. The French Embassy in Yaoundé has launched a partnership with a local association for the eco-friendly recycling of the Embassy’s waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), while helping to train young Cameroonians (age 18-35) in the IT profession.
Raising awareness for sustainable development in and around the embassy
Making the “Green Embassy” project a success requires commitment from Embassy staff to shared goals and projects. The French Embassy in Rome, for example, created a working group of “Green Embassy Correspondents” made up of volunteer members of staff who were responsible for feeding back proposals, deciding on priorities and raising their colleagues’ awareness of eco-friendly behaviour.
Increasing local players’ awareness of sustainable development issues was also a key part of the “Green Embassy” project with the organization of conferences, public events and support for local projects. During the 2016 European climate diplomacy week, the French Embassy in Bolivia, together with the EU delegation and the German Embassy, organised several “Green and Creative Sessions” for members of the Bolivian public.
For more information, visit:
- The Facebook page of « Ambassade verte »
- “The Green Embassy Guide: a changing world, French Embassies going green” (.pdf) (in French) - published in partnership with the General Commission for Sustainable Development and with the support of the ADEME (French Environment and Energy Management Agency) provides methodological guidance and an overview of the actions implemented in French Embassies around the world.