Provence and California: a common vision for decarbonization and green energy

Provence and California: a common vision for decarbonization and green energy
CMA CGM welcomes the California Foundation on the Economy and the Environment (CFEE) to its Marseille headquarters
31 October 2023 / Eco-industries, invest in provence

California delegation draws inspiration from Aix-Marseille’s economic and environmental innovation

More than three dozen American experts – politicians, scientists, and business leaders – were in Provence on 24 and 25 October on a fact-finding mission to France led by the California Foundation on the Economy and the Environment (CFEE) to explore how public and private organizations were approaching decarbonization. After Paris, their stopover in Aix-Marseille, organized by Provence Promotion in collaboration with Business France, revealed a number of new shared interests, leaving the delegation  inspired and impressed by the projects being implemented in the territory. Detailed presentations of the technological advances made by the CEA French nuclear research center in Cadarache, ITER, Airbus Helicopters, and CMA CGM were complemented by presentations on three innovative energy projects: Carbon, Hyvence by Geosel, and H2V.

California and Provence are both renowned for their wonderful climates and glorious natural landscapes. Now, as a delegation of American business and political leaders has discovered, the two territories are also celebrated for their commitment to using innovative green technologies to protect their environments and boost their economies.

"It is nice to see one of the most beautiful regions of the world also be one of the most innovative,” said David Hochschild, the Chair of the California Energy Commission and one of the delegates touring Aix-Marseille. “There is a lot happening in Provence in everything from helicopter manufacturing to nuclear fusion. Our commission is working to get California to 100% clean energy, and we’ve seen a lot of good ideas here."

The visit to Aix-Marseille was part of a broader visit to France organized by the California Foundation on the Economy and the Environment (CFEE), a non-profit advisory agency focused on addressing environmental issues like climate change while maintaining economic growth. With the support of Business France, the CFEE organized a fact-finding mission to French innovation sites for a group of almost 40 experts that included state politicians, climate scientists, and labor representatives. A key part of the mission was the tour of Aix-Marseille.

“I am very impressed by the commitment to decarbonization we are seeing in Marseille,” says Jay Hansen, the president and CEO of the California Foundation on the Economy and the Environment. “Major companies like Airbus and CMA CGM are putting private capital into something that won’t have a payoff for some time but that urgently needs to be done. To see places like Marseille and Provence out on the leading edge of decarbonization keeps us inspired in California.”

Short-term and long-term decarbonization solutions in Aix-Marseille

The diverse range of low-carbon projects in Aix-Marseille was especially impressive for members of the delegation. As the CEO of the Independent Energy Producers in California, Jan Smutny-Jones works with companies that represent one-third of California’s total energy capacity. “In the South of France, we’ve seen near-term solutions like changing the fuel for shipping fleets and long-term solutions like nuclear fusion,” says Smutny-Jones. “I have been very impressed with the commitment to resolving climate change through creativity, it’s very similar to California.”

Public-private sector cooperation to reach economic and climate goals in Aix-Marseille

The delegation’s scientific team took a special interest in how public policy and private strategy were supporting decarbonization in Aix-Marseille-Provence. “We’re seeing that companies in the Marseille area are approaching ambitious decarbonization goals with a cooperative mindset,” says Juliet Christian-Smith, a regional director with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The Clean Task Force, which supports technology solutions to climate change, was also seeking policy insights in Aix-Marseille. “By understanding how the markets are developing and companies are approaching zero carbon targets, we can help organizations develop better policies for change,” said Alex Carr, the Clean Air Task Force's Program Manager for Zero-Carbon Fuels.

Provence and California, a history of cooperation

The CFEE was hosted in Aix-Marseille as part of the collective influence program aimed at promoting the territory's expertise and advantages. By working with this renowned American network, Provence Promotion and its partners aim to attract investors and innovators from California in order to accelerate the implementation of decarbonization projects in the Aix-Marseille area.

Provence Promotion already maintains close ties with the biotechnology and shipbuilding ecosystems in San Diego as a way to foster investment and opportunities in the two territories. There is also a long-standing partnership between Provence Promotion and the Business France office in San Francisco that focuses on technological innovation.

Before leaving Aix-Marselle, the delegates got to enjoy another passion shared by California and Provence: wine! With both territories home to thriving vineyards, a wine-tasting session was organized with Provence Tourisme and the Office du Tourisme d’Aix-en-Provence featuring wines from the Domaine Tour Campanets, the Domaine Bargemone, and the Château de la Galinière.