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Special "Climate change" issue : 3 questions for Michel Dantin

European MP and president of the Rhône-Méditerranée basin committee.

What effects will climate change have on the Rhône-Méditerranée-Corse river basin ?

Scientists inform us that our river basin will be the most heavily impacted by climate change, with temperature rise and decreasing precipitation in the north, but an increase in rainfall in the south. The population has already noted certain signs of climate change. For example, farmers using highland pastures have observed an upward shift in flora of 150 metres on average. In 2014 along the coast, the data on phenomena related to climate change were unprecedented.

Climate change and its consequences will continue to unfold in the future, but the various models and projections have produced results that can already be confirmed today. The forecasts made 15 years ago have begun to become true, for example the increase in temperatures and rainfall. We need to use this information and the data to raise awareness and inform people.

For the water sector, what is the purpose of the plan for adaptation to climate change that was initiated in 2011 and finally adopted in 2014 for the RMC basin?

The plan, the first in France covering a major basin, is essentially a toolbox providing stakeholders, managers, economic players and even individuals with a set of practical measures. To reduce vulnerability, it is necessary to avoid wasting water, for example by aiding local governments to reduce leaks, providing incentives to change agricultural practices and encouraging households to implement non-collective sanitation. Some of these measures will influence the RBMP now being revised and the RMC water agency already encourages water savings via its tenth programme. The measures implemented in 2014 saved 70 million cubic metres of water, i.e. equal to almost the total consumption of the city of Lyon.

Prior to formulating the plan and devising the programme of measures, we first reviewed the available knowledge on the impacts of climate change in our region and characterised the vulnerabilities from 2011 to 2013. An ad hoc scientific group, chaired by Hervé Le Treut, a world-class climatologist and IPCC expert, participated with a number of recommendations on how to summarise the available knowledge and draft the pressure maps.

How did you succeed in formulating the measures and obtaining a general consensus on them in spite of the uncertainties inherent in climate change?

Decision-making always involves a degree of uncertainty. Uncertainty must be assessed to the greatest degree possible, on the basis of the most recent scientific knowledge. In addition, transparency concerning the data and the measures is required right from the start. There must be agreement on the baselines before it is possible to set up projects involving a wide array of partners. It is also necessary to share and ensure the availability of information. The scientists should discuss with decision-makers and with the general public (farmers, individuals, etc.). The Water and climate symposium, organised by Onema in February 2015, served as a meeting place where we could display the diversity of approaches and share feedback. But to disseminate know-how and good practices on a wider scale, we need solid relays, for example the participants in local water policies.

 

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