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Grégory Doucet, Mayor of Lyon, Source: Pauline Fivel / Mairie de Lyon

Grégory Doucet: Prosperity means a clever use of resources, respectful to inhabitants and the Earth

Grégory Doucet: Prosperity means a clever use of resources, respectful to inhabitants and the Earth

Interview with Grégory Doucet, Mayor of Lyon, France

Grégory Doucet (b.1973 in Paris) is an ESC Rouen business school graduate with 18 years of work in international solidarity and humanitarian work. An active member of Europe Écologie Les Verts (EELV, French Green Party) for over 10 years, he was appointed party secretary for Lyon in 2017 where he co-organised the Lyon Climate March.

In April 2019, he issued a call to unite all of Lyon’s environmentalists to “Change Lyon” in 2020 and in September he won the EELV primary to head the “Maintenant Lyon” (Now Lyon) list in the 2020 Lyon municipal elections. Doucet achieved a surprise victory with 28.46% of the vote in the first round. In the second round, his list, in coalition with two left-leaning platforms, won with 52.4% of the vote.

Mr Doucet, at the last local elections Green Party mayors took over key French cities, including Lyon. In your opinion, how has France changed since then as far as sustainable development is concerned?

In Grenoble, Strasbourg, Poitiers, Bordeaux, Besançon, etc, we prove every day how local measures can change people’s lives in the spheres of food, mobility, education, economy, and others. We represent an archipelago of real alternatives.

Expanding on this, what were the first climate action initiatives and policies you introduced in Lyon after you stepped into the mayor’s office?

In our city action plan, we affirm that we need to pursue two goals: the necessary ecological transition, which concerns the economy, industry, energy, mobilities, AND social justice. Both issues have to be addressed simultaneously.

In a nutshell, these are some tools or public policies that we developed immediately:

  • We applied a municipal plan of action called SPASER, to frame our public purchase; for every contract, we implement clauses to promote both social inclusion and environmental considerations;
  • We also adopted an ambitious multi-year investment plan (more than €1 billion), the money from which will benefit the green transition and mainly local actors (green and local economic revival in a Keynesian perspective).

If we want to improve our ability to be resilient, we have to be able to produce on our territory, the kind of goods and services we need. Hence, in partnership with economic actors, trade unions, rural areas around our city, we need to agree on the agricultural and industrial products that we want in our territory and invest all together towards these goals.

You spoke at the annual Eurocities network conference Leipzig 2021, together with other “climate ambitious cities”. Could you elaborate on the main points of your speech? Is the fight for the climate possible at the local level?

In Lyon, we look forward to the doughnut economic model developed by Kate Raworth, which combines planetary boundaries with social needs at the local level.

In the 2010s, the NGO Oxfam popularised this framework, and cities such as Amsterdam have already applied it.

It inspires us a lot in Lyon to implement public policies. It leads to a vision of prosperity rather than the productivity of economic development per se, while also protecting biodiversity, good conditions of living, and the struggle against climate change.

Hence, prosperity means a clever use of resources that is respectful to the inhabitants and the Earth.

Climate change, more than affecting economic performances, jeopardizes our living conditions; in particular those of the most vulnerable people.

The climate and biodiversity challenges are a fact - an inconvenient but real truth. And one main result is the contraction of international exchanges. I think our territories will enter an era of de-globalisation.

Hence, we need to prepare everyone for this new paradigm, and to transform our economies, with local actors.

Moreover, to succeed in the ecological transition, we need to stimulate many economic activities, such as the thermal renovation of buildings, creation and maintenance of green areas (public gardens, urban forests), new mobilities shops (for example, the bicycle industry hasn’t efficiently met the public demand since the end of the first quarantine).

This spirit inspires us in our candidacy to be one of the 100 climate neutral cities.

What are some good and practical examples from Lyon in the field of sustainability that you would like to share with the other mayors of Europe?

Since our election, we, the Green leaders in Lyon, established a social pricing system on the public transportation system that is to the advantage of low-income citizens: 130.000 people are given free access to the service, and 70.000 get an important discount.

Simultaneously, the budget for public transportation is increased two-fold, in order to expand significantly the network of tramway and subway, especially in the directions towards disadvantaged neighbourhoods or municipalities of the metropolitan area.

Also, the metropolitan area, in order to help bicycle’s purchase, launched subsidies with amounts based on people’s incomes. Another measure is to freely provide 10.000 bicycles for scholarship students.

We imagined an ambitious bicycle lanes network made of 13 lines and 350 kilometres, linking all territories of our metropolitan area. For its realization, Copenhagen has truly been a source of inspiration.

Talking about mobility is not enough; mobility means commuting, which leads us to think about housing. Our goal is to ensure to everyone has access to decent and affordable housing in our cities through an ambitious social housing program. We would like to reach an average of 25% of social housing, to maintain social diversity in our centres and prevent urban sprawl.

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