In recent decades, many studies and international gatherings at the highest level have raised awareness among the general public of the serious risks posed, on the one hand, by global warming and, on the other, by the possible exhaustion of fossil fuel resources. In this context, the idea of a transition towards a so-called “post-carbon” society has gradually been gaining ground. This has a number of central objectives: the reduction of greenhouse gases by 2050 to one quarter of their 1990 levels (in the countries of the North), near autonomy with regard to carbon-based energies (oil, gas and coal), an adequate capacity for adaptation to climate change and, lastly, greater attention to situations of energy precariousness.
This is why in 2009 a programme was launched, steered jointly by the Foresight Mission of the French Ecology Ministry and by the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), called “Rethinking Cities in a Post-carbon Society”. This programme’s work is still on-going towards a final report planned for 2013. This month, Futuribles is devoting a special dossier to it, coordinated by Jacques Theys, who launched this programme, and Éric Vidalenc who now coordinates it with Nathalie Etahiri.
Their article, which opens this dossier, outlines the approach and thinking at the heart of this study, which provides a deep analysis of the role cities play –or might play– in the promotion of major developments and changes to encourage a post-carbon society. In it, most importantly, the authors present the six transition scenarios that have been developed with the aim of proposing various possible routes to post-carbon cities in 2050 through highly concrete initiatives and measures in the fields of transport and housing policy, on decisions around energy, housing conditions, lifestyles etc. Lastly, they stress a major issue underlying such an ambition –namely, the way that short-, medium- and long-term goals hang together.