France and Virginia Work Together for Sustainable Development
by Misato Nakayama
France and Virginia may not immediately seem similar, but they share a history and now a future. French Ambassador François Delattre and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an agreement March 13 at the French Embassy that makes the two partners in developing ways to deal with sustainable development.
“There is a special relationship between France and Virginia, solidly rooted in our shared history as illustrated by the battlefield of Yorktown and the Rochambeau Route. And we are also working closely together on the economic front,” Delattre said during a celebration of the signing that more than 10 chief executive officers and vice presidents of French companies attended.
This is the first partnership between France and Virginia to develop new solutions for dealing with climate change, increasing quality of life, creating jobs and generating new economic opportunities.
From left, French Ambassador François Delattre and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe discuss parterning to deal with sustainable development in the State of Virginia and France. Photo: Misato Nakayama
Northern Virginia is on track to become one of the fastest-growing areas in the United States in the next 10 years. But with advancements comes the potential for problems. Although rapid economic growth brings material wealth, it can also lead to overpopulation, unregulated transportation and environmental pollution.
“These challenges also represent a unique opportunity to exchange best practices to foster innovation and business and to find solutions that incorporate climate and the protection of natural resources in our policies and initiatives, which will have a direct impact on the local quality of life and attractiveness,” Delattre said. “France and Virginia both share the passion for protecting their environment and their beautiful landscapes.”
About 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from cities and urban areas, making sustainable development in cities crucial to environmental preservation.
“This partnership is a great example of the kinds of initiatives we can take to create a positive agenda to face climate change,” Delattre said.
French companies are already major supporters of Virginia’s economic development and sustainability. They invested more than $570 million in Virginia between 2009 and 2013, making them the state’s second-largest foreign direct investor.
“Sustainable development” is a buzzword that embraces economic development while also promoting the preservation of quality of life and the environment. This balance of growth and protection can be ensured through sustainable urban infrastructure, transportation, applied science, energy, and climate technologies and policies.
“The sustainable development of our communities offers us strong economic opportunities for mass transit, for the development of more efficient buildings that will reduce people’s energy bills and limit greenhouse gas emissions,” Delattre said.
France is no stranger to sustainability. At the end of 2015, Paris will host the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP 21), for example. Additionally, the French Embassy implemented the Green Embassy Project in 2009 by order of the prime minister to renovate the building and optimize its operations. To that end, by changing light bulbs and installing a new Building Automation System, the embassy saved $200,000 in energy costs after an initial investment of $300,000 in just two years.
Misato Nakayama is an editorial intern for The Washington Diplomat.