In the years following the 1973 oil crisis, the French government initiated a policy to rationalise energy consumption. This led to the creation of several structures which merged in 1990 to create ADEME. The agency developed at a time when awareness of the environmental and climate emergency was growing, both nationally and internationally.
In this page:
- 1973-1991: the origins of ADEME
- 1991-1997: ADEME, pioneering agency
- 1998-2007: ADEME in full bloom
- 2007-2022: ADEME, expert and facilitator
1973-1991: the origins of ADEME
In 1973, when the oil crisis struck, the French government became aware that the country was too dependent on oil. The Energy Savings Agency was founded in 1974 to pursue a policy of rationalising energy consumption. In 1982, it merged with other bodies to form the French energy management agency (AFME). The National agency for the recovery and elimination of waste (ANRED) was created in 1975 to support the implementation of the 15 July Act on the elimination of waste and recovery of materials. ANRED notably invented waste disposal centres, which it rolled out across the country.
In 1980, the Air quality agency (AQA) was created. These agencies represented a bold political move. They demanded sobriety in the use of energy and raw materials, at a time when this vision was still marginal. In 1990, the French government decided to create a new agency, bringing together these three areas of intervention. AFME, ANRED and AQA thus merged into a single institution: the Environment and energy management agency (ADEME).
1991-1997: ADEME, pioneering agency
ADEME began operating on 1 January 1992. It was given 5 missions:
- to prevent and control air pollution;
- to limit waste production and to eliminate, recover and re-use waste;
- to protect soils and to rehabilitate polluted sites;
- to save energy and raw materials, develop renewable energies, particularly from plants, and develop clean and economical energies;
- to combat noise pollution.
Its network in the regions was then widely reinforced. The 1990s were defined by the rise of environmental concerns. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development – also known as the Earth Summit – took place in Rio in June 1992. It was attended by political leaders, diplomats, scientists, representatives of the media and of non-governmental organisations from 179 countries. It led notably to the adoption of the Rio declaration and to the signing of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. By the end of the decade, global warming had become a priority issue.
The Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997, committed 37 industrialised countries to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. In parallel, the role of ADEME began to change. The Agency had to not only find solutions, but also to implement them.
1998-2007: ADEME in full bloom
In 2002, at the second Earth Summit in Johannesburg, President Jacques Chirac delivered memorable words: “our house is burning and we are looking away”. As the climate issue reached the forefront, ADEME conducted its first communication and awareness campaigns for the general public. Under the impetus of its successive chairs, Pierre Radanne and Michèle Pappalardo, ADEME engaged in a dialogue with businesses and associations. Its activities, particularly on climate change, developed significantly. ADEME stood out for the variety and complementarity of its means of intervention, on the financial and intellectual levels, but also in terms of engineering and communication.
2007-2022: ADEME, expert and facilitator
In 2007, the Grenelle Environment Forum provided for the creation of a waste and heat fund. The French government entrusted their management to ADEME, which had specific credits to finance waste prevention as well as renewable heat production and recovery facilities. In 2010, ADEME was entrusted by the French government with the mission of managing four future investment programmes, which support projects by innovative French companies to accelerate the ecological transition. The agency was developing its funding and intervention capacities at a time when its missions were particularly high on the political agenda.
COP21 led in 2015 to the first legally binding international treaty on climate change. Environmental protection was gradually becoming a major concern for the French. Since its creation, ADEME has been able to grow and adapt. In addition to providing technical and scientific expertise, it has gradually taken on the role of amplifying initiatives. The agency is now integrating the social dimension of the ecological transition by mobilising citizens and all stakeholders to draw up a narrative for a sober and desirable future.