Mayors plunged into the torments of the “zero net artificialization” system

The Le Grand Chêne shopping area, in Auch, September 27, 2023.

At the congress of elected officials from large cities, in Angers, in September, the mayor (center right) of Toulouse, Jean-Luc Moudenc, meets his counterpart from Caen, Joël Bruneau (Les Républicains). From the outset, he asks her the question that torments him: “How much did you get for ZAN? » “48%, replies the city councilor. And you ? » “54%!” And I dont understand why… “, compares the Toulouse resident. ZAN, for “zero net artificialization” of natural and agricultural land, an objective imposed by the climate and resilience law of August 2021 for 2050, torments many local elected officials, responsible for its implementation.

The “54%” mentioned by the president of Toulouse Métropole means, concretely, that the concreteization of its territory (extended to neighboring municipalities) will have to decrease by 54% by 2031. This is the first step of the 2021 law : over a decade, elected officials must halve the rate of land artificialization. Then, from 2050, it will no longer be possible for them to “consume” the slightest hectare of land without returning the equivalent to nature.

The vast majority of local elected officials are more or less convinced of the merits of ZAN. The Minister of Ecological Transition, Christophe Béchu, repeats it tirelessly: France has concreted as much land in fifty years as in the previous five centuries. And, over the last ten years, 24,000 hectares of natural, agricultural and forest areas have been built per year, the equivalent of five football fields per hour. A phenomenon that accelerates global warming, harms biodiversity and disrupts the water cycle.

“The political question par excellence”

But stating the principle is one thing, putting it to music is another. Because this amounts, for local elected officials, to sharing the shortage. Who will have the right to build tomorrow, on what surface area, and where? A challenge, in a country bewitched by this old idea according to which “when the building goes, everything goes”. Land is “the political question par excellence”, recalls Christophe Degruelle, the socialist president of the Blois urban community, Agglopolys. He quotes Land Utopiathe work of Edgar Pisani (1977): to attack, even in the name of the general interest, the right to property, which since the French Revolution has gone from a collective conception to a strictly individual use, “you have to have a taste for suicide” political, wrote Charles de Gaulle’s former housing minister.

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