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

"Ambition could be higher, the scope of the measures is lessened," said High Climate Council President Corinne Le Quéré."EPA-EFE/Thibault Camus / POOL POOL MAXPPP OUT [EPA-EFE/Thibault Camus]

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.

The bill, in its current form, according to the HCC – an independent body set up by President Emmanuel Macron to advise the government on climate policy – would not allow France to meet its targets set in the Paris Climate Agreement.

HCC President Corinne Le Quéré called out the text’s lack of “ambition” and reduced “scope of measures”. According to her, “the bill helps to move forward on steering measures that can strengthen the achievement of targets, but for the scope of greenhouse gas reduction measures themselves, there are many missed opportunities to accelerate the pace.”

“France’s first carbon budget (2015-2018) was not respected, with a significant cumulative overrun of 61 Mt CO2 equivalent. The current momentum in reducing emissions also remains insufficient,” she said, noting that although “emissions have decreased by 1.2% per year on average over the last five years, the expected decrease in emissions should be 1.5% per year” between 2019 and 2023.

And despite France’s 1.7% drop in emissions recorded in 2019 – while being within the indicative annual carbon budget set by the SNBC (national decarbonisation strategy) – the ceiling had nevertheless been raised, against the HCC’s advice, thus postponing future efforts, Le Quéré added.

In its opinion, the HCC commended the bill’s impact study for referring to the SNBC, contrary to previous texts, but regretted the lack of methodological transparency and absence of clear information to assess the overall impact of measures linked to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The HCC also pointed to the fact that no monitoring and evaluation mechanism was included in the text.

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An ‘Expedited’ examination

Another shortcoming for Le Quéré is the draft’s speedy legislative journey. “The short timeframe surrounding the impact study’s publication has made it difficult to read the effect of the measures as a whole,” she continued.

“Opinions from the National Council for Ecological Transition (CNTE) and the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE) are not yet included in this bill, partly because of this very tight schedule. We would have liked to be able to go into more detail on certain aspects of the bill to have a more informed opinion,” she added.

The last session of the Citizens’ Climate Convention – a panel representing French citizens on climate issues – will take place between 26 and 28 February, when they aim to present their assessment of the bill. However, this will not give national lawmakers sufficient time to consider them for possible new amendments, opposition MP Delphine Batho pointed out.

Reduced measures

Le Quéré also noted that “many measures with significant emission reduction potential are undermined by a limited scope of application”, including reforms to proposals on domestic flight restrictions and the energy renovation of buildings.

And when it comes to the ban on advertising fossil fuels, the independent body criticised it for not extending to “all goods and services that are clearly incompatible with the low-carbon transition,” adding that “extended implementation deadlines” also exist “in the text”.

According to the HCC, the bill’s examination by the parliament – which is expected to take place in March – should help strengthen the measures retained in the broader approach of the French decarbonisation strategy, particularly if France is to keep up with the expected decrease rate from 2024, and the 2024-2028 carbon budget. Besides, the bill does not offer sufficient strategic vision of the various emitting sectors in France, the HCC added.

“The very nature of the Citizen’s Climate Convention exercise explains a large number of measures, but not the lack of strategic consolidation that could be expected from this law,” it said.

At the start of the month, the Paris administrative court recognised the “faulty but partial shortcomings” of the French state in the fight against global warming in what has been termed “the case of the century”.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Daniel Eck]

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