Serge Nocodie: “Climate planning needs to enable local authorities to anticipate the challenges of tomorrow”

Read our interview of Serge Nocodie, FEDARENE’s Vice-President for Climate Action.

Serge Nocodie is the president of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Energy Environment, the energy agency of the French Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region (AURA-EE) since 2013. Serge dedicated most of his professional career to supporting municipalities and regions in their energy and climate transition. He is passionate about public policies and their local impact on climate mitigation and adaptation measures. He was the municipal councillor of the city of Grenoble for urban regulation from 1995 to 2014. Since early 2000, as President of 2 local energy utility companies, Serge has been involved in the deployment of RES solutions, especially in biomass. Since 2008, Serge Nocodie is vice-president for district heating, wind and biomass of AMORCE (national association bringing together local authorities, associations and enterprises involved in managing waste, energy and heating networks). Since 2015, Serge is also FEDARENE Vice-President for Climate Action.

In Several EU Member States, municipalities are bound by national law to implement Climate & Energy Plans, which has led them to work with new obligations and with the necessity to consider adaptation to Climate Change measures. This, however, has revealed to be difficult while dealing with continuous crises related to Extreme Weather Conditions. As AURA-EE’s President, can you explain how the agency has addressed this matter? What measures should we establish at the European level to facilitate the work of local and regional authorities? 

The effects of climate change are now largely visible in all European regions: floods, droughts, fires, heatwaves, etc. Often, the consequences increase at a faster pace compared to what was originally planned. Public authorities answer risks incurred by citizens in emergency situations with immediate security measures. These emergency measures are challenging the investment plans of local authorities who are already under increasing budgetary constraint, especially when they require the reconstruction of infrastructures, for example. Understanding the implications of climate change and prioritizing the measures that need to be taken becomes a priority but complex exercise for these authorities who are forced to invest to fix the recurring damages at the expense of anticipation actions.

Whether mandatory like in several EU Member States or voluntary like the Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy initiative, climate planning thus needs to enable local public authorities to answer immediate expectations of their territories and anticipate the challenges of tomorrow. In France, many planning efforts have already been undertaken, to answer the regulatory demands for municipalities of more than 20 000 inhabitants or in a voluntary manner for Positive Energy Territories. AURA-EE has been supporting its local authorities for several decades now, both in their planning efforts as well as for the implementation of concrete projects. Several lessons have been learned:

  • The need of a strong local and regional support to address the issues of mitigation and adaptation with all the actors involved. The energy and climate agencies play a decisive role of facilitators both for the understanding of issues and for the implementation of strategies and concrete projects;
  • The necessity to implement decision-support tools as close to the local needs as possible. These tools aim to facilitate the decision-making process thanks to the provision of energy, climate and economic data by territory;
  • The need for a long-term vision including intermediary objectives (2030) allowing for a mobilisation, choices and the implementation of concrete actions;
  • The need for innovative governance tools promoting for example prevention and conflict management over the use of land and natural resources of which the availability is more and more subject to climate change.

European networks like FEDARENE contribute to reinforce the action and the commitment of local and regional actors by facilitating the exchange of experiences and by developing new European initiatives and cooperation projects. The EU must keep supporting these networks and highlighting the work done by local initiatives in terms of anticipation.

One way to support Municipalities in anticipating climate crises and implementing adaptation measures on their territories is to provide them with concrete Climate & Energy data. How is data monitoring taking place in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes? Are there any lessons that you would like to share with other European regions to improve their monitoring efforts?

The monitoring of undertaken actions and the modelling of climate impacts require an access to reliable local data. As resource centre for public authorities and communities, AURA-EE provides local energy data, data related to GHG emissions and to climate change impacts. In order to respond to the demands of territories, the agency develops and technically coordinates decision-support tools such as:

  •  ORCAE, the climate, air and energy regional observatory, provides territories with local data that are actualised and verified, which is essential in order to implement integrated mitigation and adaptation measures to climate change, as well as actions concerning air quality.
  • TerriSTORY, an online visualisation tool of territorialised data and decision support-tool that we hope can be replicated by other EU regions.

The method of data acquisition, processing and dissemination requires know-how in terms of setting advanced partnerships, data modelling and sharing. For several years now, with the support of FEDARENE, AURA-EE has been cooperating with organisations on local energy data inside the European network ENERGee-Watch. In the case of adaptation, the data used to measure the impacts of climate change is very diverse, coming from multiple sectors such as agriculture, forestry, water management or tourism. For each sector, it is important to focus on the appropriate indicators by initially identifying the vulnerabilities of territories. As these indicators can be very specific, it is necessary to form win-win data-sharing partnerships. These exchanges build on bottom-up (e.g. field study or local observation) or top-down (data disaggregation) processes. We will consider how we can extend the field of ENERGee-Watch to include data on which regions and cities are the most affected by climate change impacts and how we can reduce their vulnerability.

According to you, other than data sharing and monitoring, what are the concrete solutions that local and regional authorities and their energy agencies can implement to deal with adaptation to Climate Change?

Climate crises caused by heatwaves are particularly significant in urban environments. Cities will have to face these extreme conditions and implement adaptation measures such as these based on nature: revegetation, shared gardens, rehabilitation of watercourses, rainwater harvesting, etc. These measures are often very effective. They require a transversal approach of urban planning inside communities and public authorities.

Other concrete actions can be put in place to answer the need of buildings cooling. Many cities are already using existing heating networks to set up cooling systems. In some cases, they can choose to feed the network through cold sustainable energy sources (sustainable cooling), as with geothermal or hydrothermal energy. These solutions offer strong potential and allow for an integrated approach combining mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Local support is often needed to counter the factors hindering the mobilisation of stakeholders. Energy agencies can largely contribute to the implementation of adaptation measures by exchanging experiences and developing projects.

As FEDARENE Vice-President for Climate Action, how do you see your role in this matter and what do you want to implement during your Vice-Presidency?

In its reflexions on the European Green Deal and in the definition of new EU funding programmes and policy legislatives, the Commission will have to consider these local initiatives and to recognise the complexity of adaptation the local level. It will need to support energy agencies in their evolution towards energy and climate agencies. This could be done through dedicated funding (SAVE CLIMATE type); support to experience-sharing and training projects/tools (for example a new ManagEnergy initiative focused on adaptation); dedicated call for projects in the framework of new programmes supporting European initiatives of agencies in key sectors such as:

  • Access to local data, integrating more clearly the stake of territorial resources in a systemic vision;
  • The prevention and management of natural resources conflicts;
  • The support of nature-based solutions and solutions based on sustainable cooling production;

In order to continue this reflexion and better answer the expectations of agencies and public authorities, AURA-EE will support FEDARENE in organising, in the framework of its Vice-Presidency for Climate Action, exchanges of experiences between stakeholders of the field and the European Commission.

Moreover, I suggest to put in place a working group on Climate Action and Data Monitoring within FEDARENE to encourage all members to exchange their experience on the subject and identify best practises to be replicated. It will help members to extend the scope and activities of the ENERGee-Watch European network to local data for climate action. I believe AURA-EE can contribute to coordinate such group thanks to its experience with ORCAE, the climate, air and energy regional observatory. In this framework I will propose that the working group meets at least once a year and that a support document and online tool will be produced during the Climate Action Vice-Presidency.