French solar green roof law kicked out by French Senate

The French Senate has kicked the potential French solar green roof law out of the new Biodiversity Act. Mistakenly reported on March 20th 2015, the apparent law made waves across twittersphere for nearly 12 months. We noticed at least 100 tweets last week alone!

A ‘right wing’ senate waved the law into the long grass, citing that the proposal would have a ‘negative impact on the economic vitality and employment within our territories.’ Many of us within the European green roof community had hoped that with Paris COP21 , the Senate would have realised the boldness of the statement proposed within the biodiversity law.

Not good journalism

French solar law
Original Guardian Article – French Decree for Plants and Solar on Roofs


Originally published by Agence Press France, it was the UK Guardian that set off the global twitter pulse. Surely a paper respected for its environment news would have checked things out? Over 50 articles, innumerable blogs and online pieces have been published celebrating the French Law that wasn’t a law based purely and simply on a 20 line piece. In the image above you can see it has been shared nearly 350,000 times.  When we contacted the Guardian last year to give some important flesh to the story, there was a resounding silence. Sadly we suspected the share figures were more important than the real story.

Solar and green roof law – details are important

Solar green roof, Switzerland
solar and green roof, Switzerland


The real story is a classic one of ‘the devil’s in the detail’. Our French and Swiss colleagues were keeping us informed. Once the original non-news got out of the bag, the statement in the Act was actually changed. It went from ‘…Solar AND green roofs…’ to solar OR green roofs’. Such details are important. For on the type of buildings being mandated (supermarkets), this change had the potential to negatively impact on the nascent French green roof market. Solar was bound to win and green roofs would be the big losers.

This topic, so popular with the environmental ttwitterati, does demand a thorough understanding of:

  • the technologies,
  • how the technologies can work together
  • how best to define any given policy or law

Biosolar roofs are perfectly feasible on the types of buildings that were to be mandated. Madame Laurence Abeille, the French MP who wrote the original statement had spent a good few years working with our colleagues in France and Switzerland to understand this. She was able to promote it with a through background in the issue. Sadly the French right wing has stymied a positive contribution to the French Biodiversity Act. We are saddened that her hard work has not been rewarded, as we are saddened by the lack of insightfulness from others who jumped on the band wagon. Delivering policy is a key activity of our organisation:

  • we led the campaign for the green roofs to be included in the London Plan
  • our founder Dusty Gedge wrote the technical report that, in effect, delivered the policy to the Greater London Authority

There is a serious matter here. In the last 12 months, we have been contacted by US planners for more detailed information, prospective UK politicians in the UK and we are aware of several NGOs even presenting papers to government bodies citing the law. Enthusiasm is what a better world requires. But a better world can only be delivered though a thorough understanding of the complexities rather than just believing what the Guardian writes:

The Guardian, as a paper seems blindly unaware of the issue stating:

‘Green roofs are popular in Germany and Australia, and Canada’s city of Toronto adopted a by-law in 2009…’

it has been a policy in London since 2008! Why the Guardian didn’t reference this seems to suggest a complete ignorance of the issue on their very own doorstep. Their own building has a green roof as a result of a proactive planning policy for the Kings Cross area set out in 2002l, which we helped frame.

The Future is Probably Still Bright For Biosolar roofs in France

Although the law is no more,  the French market will still be favourable for a biosolar roof future. Unlike the slash and burn of renewable subsidies enacted by the UK Government, the tariffs are still favourable in France. Furthermore in parts of Fance there are incentives for green roofs.

Sadly in the UK biosolar roofs are probably moribund at present.