After French senators voted on the final version of the climate bill, the country’s ecological transition ministry expressed disappointment, pointing to the text’s “numerous setbacks.” EURACTIV France reports.
The Climate and Resilience Law, which has been under review in the right-wing majority Senate for a fortnight, came with the tabling of a record 2,000 amendments.
However, the bill voted on Tuesday (29 June) is far from having satisfied the government.
“Senators have worked on the body of the car but have cut out the engine of what really makes the ecological transformation of the country,” said the ecological transition ministry headed by Barbara Pompili.
“Everything that has an impact on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions has been postponed by the senators,” the ministry added.
Air quality and energy bills
One “setback”, according to the ministry, is the postponement by five years of the so-called low emission zones (ZFE), a mechanism that was created to fight air pollution. The postponement is meant to give elected representatives more time to set up LEZs that motorists will also accept, the Senators explained.
But according to the ministry, “elected representatives are keen on these issues and want to make progress on air pollution.”
The initial text provides that by 2035 all urban areas with more than 150,000 inhabitants will have to put in place measures to reduce car traffic. The ecological transition ministry points out that air pollution is responsible for the death of 40,000 people a year, mostly due to road traffic. “The purpose of the EPZs is to combat this scourge,” the ministry added.
Another point of disagreement is the energy renovation of buildings, which divides MPs in the National Assembly and the Senate.
The obligation to gradual renovate housing is supposed to include a ban on poorly insulated housing. But while the National Assembly wants France’s 2.5 million E-classified homes renovated by 2034, Senators postponed the measure by six years, until 2040.
This is an “extremely negative signal”, the ministry said, pointing out that the building sector alone accounts for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in France.
In terms of advertising, Senators amended a measure withdrawing the power of mayors to regulate advertising screens in their towns. “The senators tell us that we must trust local elected representatives. This is contradictory,” the ministry said.
Senators also left out a measure adopted by the National Assembly that banned aerial advertising at beaches during the summer. The government even wanted to add a ban that would have affected advertising on boats. The ecological transition ministry said this “went against the expectations of local elected representatives.”
Senators also revised a measure on vegetarian menus.
While the National Assembly had decided that vegetarian menus should become compulsory once per week in schools and that a vegetarian option should also become compulsory in state-run canteens like university restaurants, the Senate decided otherwise, saying this could be tried on an experimental basis.
However, the ministry said that in the framework of the 2018 EGalim law – which seeks to promote healthy, sustainable and accessible food for all – “the experiment has already been carried out, and the results have been conclusive.”
Some provisions were however welcomed by the ministry, like the rather symbolic one inviting France to respect the EU’s 2030 objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55%.
Unlike the government, Senators also retained a proposal from the Citizens’ Climate Convention on reducing the VAT on train tickets from 10% to 5.5%.
The Senate also adopted an amendment giving municipalities a right of veto if they wish to oppose a wind farm project, a move that Senator Étienne Blanc said will strengthen “democracy” and “better establish dialogue and consultation” with the local population.
The legislative train is not over yet as the climate bill still has to be examined by a joint committee on 12 July, before its final vote in the National Assembly scheduled for September.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]