VD - Villes Durables

CONnaissances des FLux Urbains, EmpreiNTes environnementales et gouvernance durable – CONFLUENT

Submission summary

The project CONFLUENT is proposed by three partners - research laboratories - and a service provider (association 1901); it is part of axis 3.1 of the call 'control of urban environmental impacts'. It rests on the following statement: cities consume huge quantities of energy and material, directly within their territory or indirectly by means of the material, goods and services they import or export. Urban metabolism as then 'upstream' and 'downstream' consequences in terms of resources withdrawals and material discharge (to air, water and soil), and multiple impacts upon ecosystems and the biosphere as a whole. This is known in generality, but the methods that would allow the precise characterisation of urban metabolism, as well as those that would help identifying the conditions for better governance of energy and material flows don't exist yet. The project aims at considering those issues thanks to an interdisciplinary approach - biogeochemistry, energetics, urban engineering, urban planning, economics, and management of innovation - necessary to understand the functioning of urban anthroposystems (urban socio-ecological systems) and to limit urban impacts on the biosphere. Its first aim is to contribute to better characterise urban metabolism by taking into account direct as well as indirect flows in order to go beyond downstream (excreta management) and upstream (resource management) approaches and to show the interactions between various urban flows. This makes necessary the development, at the urban scale, of methods for the analysis of both material and energy flows (usually separately analysed). Those material and energy balances have to be completed by taking into account indirect flows, thanks to the definition of environmental imprints (food-print, water footprint, energy footprint). Environmental imprints differ from ecological footprint insofar as they are more precise and allow the localisation of the imprints; then they refer to the intra-generational solidarity issue. Thanks to material and energy balances it will be possible to better understand urban metabolism and to identify critical flows as well as the potential for energy and material savings. Previous experiments have shown that the identification of those possible savings rarely (if not never) leads to the definition of corresponding policies in order to reduce material and energy flows. Local governments have nearly no margin for action; they are only in charge of urban excreta and don't directly manage the other flows that result from high consumption patterns encouraged by economic stakeholders. Then the second aim of the project is to help defining the way of a better governance of energy and material flows. What are the institutional mechanisms favourable to public-private strategies in order to reduce material and energy flows? The main hypothesis is that concepts from functional economy or service economy (i. e. selling the utilization of products rather than selling products themselves) can help in the search for such cooperation between local government and private companies, trying to achieve the same goal (reduction of material and energy flows) with different initial objectives. It needs to broaden the target of functional economy - mainly firms - to public and private stakeholders in the local context. Functional economy could be a tool for governance of energy and material flows, all the more efficient since it rests on material and energy flow analysis. Projected case studies: Troyes and Aube, Lille, Île-de-France.

Project coordination


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.



Help of the ANR 489,777 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 48 Months

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