France needs to ‘double’ efforts on climate, says High Climate Council

“Raising the EU objective of reducing emissions by 2030 to -55% will lead to an increase in ambition for France," France's High Climate Council has warned. [Roschetzky Photography/Shutterstock]

While a steady decrease in greenhouse gas emissions can be observed in France over the past years, the pace of carbon cutting will need to accelerate in order to reach the country’s 2030 climate goals, according to France’s High Council for Climate Change (HCC). EURACTIV France reports.

Greenhouse gas emissions in France fell by 1.9% in 2019, at a faster rate than the 1.7% initially anticipated, the high council states in its third annual report submitted to the government on Tuesday (29 June).

However, the rate of decline in emissions “still needs to almost double by 2021 to align with climate targets” agreed at the EU level, it adds.

For year 2020, the drop in emissions is mostly linked to the lockdown measures imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic and should be seen as “temporary”, the report also said.

The French government has recognised that more needs to be done. “We will have to go further, faster,” says the Prime Minister’s office. “We will have to double the rate of emissions reduction: 3% reduction per year to reach the 2030 targets.”

A 3% annual reduction in emissions is the minimum that France needs to achieve in order to reach the objective set in the national low carbon strategy, which aims to make the country carbon neutral by 2050.

French climate bill could be more ambitious, says High Climate Council

France’s High Climate Council (HCC) scrutinised the government’s “climate and resilience” bill and called for more ambition in an opinion published on Tuesday (23 February), warning that it “does not offer enough strategic scope.” EURACTIV France reports.

Good and bad performers

Construction, industry, and energy conversion have all made “progress” in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report.

The good performers were praised by the ecological transition ministry, which highlighted the progress made on energy-efficient building renovation. The MaPrimeRénov’ scheme has “very largely benefited low-income households (23%) and very low-income households (58%). The level is good, the effort must be maintained,” said the ministry.

However, the transport sector, which accounts for 31% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, was shown the red card, with emission “stagnating in a worrying way”.

“We are on the verge of a structural change. In 2020, the sale of new electric vehicles will represent 11%. The switch to electric vehicles is accelerating. We are working to ensure that this trend accelerates,” the Prime Minister’s office explained.

As for agriculture, the report notes that it “is seeing its emissions decrease slowly,” mainly because the sector is “driven by a low level of ambition”.

French climate bill under fire

France’s ‘climate and resilience’ bill – due to be examined by the Council of Ministers on Wednesday (10 February) – has already come under fire, particularly after a report published on Monday denounced tactics used by the industry to torpedo proposals made by the Citizen’s Climate Convention (CCC). EURACTIV France reports.

A ‘big job’ for the summer

On top of national climate ambitions, targets are also being set at the EU level.

The European Commission is expected on 14 July to announce a new raft of policy measures to reach the EU’s 2030 climate goal of cutting emissions by at least 55%, up from an objective of 40% currently.

This will require roughly doubling the share of renewables in the bloc’s energy mix, which currently stands at around 20%.

“Raising the EU objective of reducing emissions by 2030 to -55% will lead to an increase in ambition for France,” the HCC has warned, saying France will have to go a step further.

“Market mechanisms and the carbon price will not be sufficient and will not dispense with the need to strengthen national public policies,” the report states.

This will be “the big job of the summer”, the Prime Minister’s office said. “France will raise its ambitions. Work will be carried out this summer to present measures in the autumn.”

To accelerate France’s low-carbon transition, the HCC experts recommend “perpetuating the decarbonised investments of the recovery plan,” saying this “could accelerate structural change and create the associated sectors and jobs in the long term.”

The climate experts also recommend “clarifying public policies that are still unclear” and “systematically integrating adaptation to climate change into policies at national and territorial levels”.

In response, the government said that “most of the tools for achieving the -40% target by 2030 are on the table, but implementation is still uncertain in a number of cases.”

“It will depend on the successful transition of the sectors and the maintenance of the financial effort over time,” the government added.

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[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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