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Recherche et développement régional durable

Corinne Larrue

Session 5. La mesure du développement régional durable / Measuring Sustainable regional development

Urban zones accounting


Jean-Roland Barthélémy

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  • 1 Fondation des villes, Bordeaux, France.

1Note portant sur l’auteur1

2Within the framework of a joint research programme on urban ecology undertaken in 1992, the Ministries of the Environment and Equipment launched a series of studies on the micro-economy of the urban environment in 1995.

  • 2 Amiens, research carried out by BIPE Conseil; Lyon, research by Fondation des Villes; Nantes, rese (...)

3Spending on the urban environment by local authorities (and their satellites, including delegatees) was studied in four urban areas2 for the period 1990 to 1996, taking the year 1985 as comparison. The study was carried out in the intercommunity structure having the broadest range of environmental powers in the area. Aspects of the environment studied were the traditional ones of water, waste, energy, open spaces, parks and gardens, air, noise, and hazards. Investment and operational expenses and income, excluding repayment of loan capital (included in investments), were studied.

  • Excluding public transport, 18.8 to 22.1 % of the authorities' expenditure was on the environment. A quarter of local authority expenditure can be considered to be on the environment in the broad sense of the term. Local authorities therefore play a major role in public environmental policy. Water and waste management make up the main part of expenditure on the environment (58 %), although there are significant differences from one town to another. This expenditure can be as high as 2,000 to 3,000 francs (300 to 450 Euros) per inhabitant per year.
  • The aim of the research was to identify and systematize the concept of expenditure on the environment, to replace the wide range of meanings often covered by the term environmental expenditure. The task of defining the concept of the environment cannot be avoided, because after identifying different areas (e.g. water, waste, renewable energy sources, the landscape, noise, air or transport), the overall issue remains. Actions taken with respect to specific areas have very different objectives. For example, is the treatment of drinking water an environmental protection action, or a public health measure taken as a result of degradation of the environment? Are energy-saving measures taken to protect the environment or simply to save money? Can the transference of pollution be considered an environmental action? Identifying these objectives and thinking about their nature makes it clear that not all expenditure “on the environment” is expenditure “for the environment”. A classification of expenditure can be made after this type of enquiry.
  • A part from the debate about the environment as the living environment of the human species, two main types of environmental actions can be identified, firstly those which affect the biotope, “the hard core” involved in protecting natural resources; and secondly those concerned with the environment in the broader sense (public health and safety, economic optimisation, quality of life). Actions and expenditure first need to be classified according to these categories, by experts rather than according to the intentions of their initiators. Strictly speaking, an action can only be classified as environmental once its ecological outcome is known and positive. A specific problem here concerns the transference of pollution, commonly found in matters of transport (heavy goods vehicles by-passing town centres, electrically-powered vehicles, etc.). However, it is difficult not to include some of these measures, whose ecological effects are at the least controversial, in environmental policies because they do at least have a locally positive effect. This difficulty can be overcome by using the suggested classification, thanks to the different categories of actions.

4However there are still some cases that are difficult to classify, such as public transport or global urban development measures, aimed at creating “compact towns” (land management actions, harmonising different uses). However, this classification does provide an opportunity for reflection on the status and effectiveness of the different actions of an environmental policy.


1 Fondation des villes, Bordeaux, France.

2 Amiens, research carried out by BIPE Conseil; Lyon, research by Fondation des Villes; Nantes, research by CDC Consultants; and Poitiers, research by Fondation des Villes.

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2002

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