Paris officially launched a local currency that can be used alongside the euro in local shops and businesses.
The French capital has joined a growing trend inspired by initiatives such as the Brixton and Bristol pounds in the UK and BerkShares in the Berkshires region of the US state of Massachussets.
The local currency, known as the pêche (peach), has had a trial run in Montreuil, just outside Paris, since June 2014.
It is accepted by about 100 businesses in Montreuil and the neighbouring towns of Bagnolet and the Pré Saint Gervais.
From Saturday onwards, businesses in Paris will be able to accept it too, letting customers know they have joined the scheme by displaying a sticker of a fruit with a P on it.
Pêche users exchange euros for the currency, the idea being to encourage customers and businesses to shop locally so as to boost local employment and reduce environmental damage due to transport.
60 local currencies in France
“There are around 60 local currencies in France and between 10-15,000 around the world," Lucas Rochette-Berlon, who cofounded the group Une monnaie pour Paris in 2016 told RFI. "As far as we know, Paris is the first capital city. We don’t have any other example of a two million-people city that uses its own local currency, so it’s a big challenge for us.”
The project is concentrating on the east and south of Paris, at the moment, he says, with the hope of expanding later.
Ecology and solidarity
At the moment you cannot buy pêches online.
"For now we only have paper currency for a lot of reasons, like the fight for privacy and against social marginalisation for people who don’t have an ID card or an address," Rochette-Berlon says. "You can ask us for pêches and take them in a bureau de change but we work in the near future to implement a digital crypto-currency in parallel with the local currency."
The group's motto is "Think global, act local" and it has ambitious aims.
"Currently our society is facing four major crises: the ecological crisis, economic crisis, the social and the democratic crisis, Rochette-Berlon explains. "We have to act now. We as a generation only have 10 years to fight back against climate change and social inequalities and we consider and have seen that we can’t hope the state will do so.
"We have to act ourselves as citizens so with the local currency we want to relocalise, take back the production of food and needs of everyday life, the energy and services. We want to fight against tax evasion and speculation, that are destroying our economy, and to use the local currency as a tool for citizens to reclaim their power on the economy."