Olivier ABULI, advice and analyses consultant
November 2, 2021
« TPS » that was created in 2010, is an association approved as being of general interest. Chaired by Jean-Marc Jancovici, « TPS » aims at « shedding light on the debate regarding energy transition and working towards an economy free of carbon constraints ». With a multidisciplinary team and a committee of experts, this think tank is mainly financed by corporate sponsorship.
By mid-September, the « Shift » presented its first report grouping together analyses and recommendations dedicated to local decision-makers : « The resilience of territories in order to steer the steady course of the ecological transition »2.
This is a practical and methodological memento, which brings the added value of an external viewpoint on territorial policies.
Three volumes articulated in courses : an approach adapted to local particularities
The logic of the report is based on a progression in the presentation of questions and issues, intended to guide local actors in the development of a long-term action strategy that is consistent with the issues and resources available in each territory.
But its division into volumes, organized by thematic entries and presentation of practical cases, also facilitates more targeted reading according to expectations or specific objectives.
It is worth emphasizing the particular care that has been taken to ensure the readability of the book as a whole : layout, clarity of concepts and definitions, and the educational value of the diagrams and charts…
Volume 1 : « Understanding… »
This first part describes and qualifies the challenges of ecological transition on the basis of a synthesis of scientific knowledge and projections on climate change and its interactions with the energy issue. The aim is to measure the scope of this challenge, to admit « that the world we know has already disappeared » and to anticipate profound changes in lifestyles and « high-risk » social activities.
Volume 2 : « Acting… »
The second part invites local leaders to act as soon as possible to change public policies and prepare their territory for the multiple factors of fragility that are emerging. The spectrum is wide. Beyond the vulnerability of some type of production and infrastructures to natural hazards, we must consider the potential for disturbances caused by the radical transformation of economic paradigms. Therefore we must not act piecemeal, partially or in a scattered way !
A transverse and systemic action grid with five entries is proposed to optimize the resilience capacity : the evolution of the administration / food / urbanism and development / economy and employment / health and well-being.
Volume 3 : « Organizing... »
Where should we start ? How can we be efficient in order to move, within a relatively « short » time, towards a territorial structure that is better prepared for crises, less dependent on finite resources, and at the same time more sober and supportive ? The challenges are significant. Consequently, as the very authors admit it, there is no standardized methodological approach yet.
Nevertheless, they provide the reader with some advice and recommendations based on the observation of local initiatives and experiments which are the first milestones on a long road that remains to be cleared.
Two prerequisites are thus laid down.
The first is that cooperation is « THE condition » for success : no one - individuals, organizations, communities- can be resilient by itself in a world of interactions. Raising awareness, informing, consulting, networking, associating... these verbs constitute an intangible matrix for a contributory adhesion to the collective changes to be put into place.
The second is the capacity of local authorities and administrations to reform themselves (decision-making, internal processes, cooperation, vision and extended timeframe, etc..) in order to achieve transversality and linearity in public action and the allocation of resources. In short, the goal consists in switching from less « doing for » to more « doing with and together ».
Bringing about change in the governance and internal running of local authorities
The recommendations concerning local authorities are spread between chapter 6 (second volume, "Acting" : Building a territorial administration at the service of the transition) and chapters 14 and 15 (third volume, "Organizing" : Demonstrating responsibility / financing resilience) of this report.
As they are focusing on governance, internal organization and project management, these recommendations will not surprise practitioners of territorial authorities.
When looked at from the perspective of an ecological transition that should be at the heart of the political project and the administration roadmap, these recommendations are pointing to more general obstacles that still hinder the potential of many local authorities : the insufficient training of elected officials and agents, the weak engineering, the obsolescence of planning documents, the territorial project reduced to an investment program, the absence or refusal of local cooperation…
Therefore, the authors of the Shift Project report launch a call for collective intelligence, for the transformation of administrations and for overcoming historical or partisan rivalries. The objective is to combine strong political leadership with the evolution of practices, thanks to elected officials anchored in a culture of political co-production.