French MPs and Senators reached an agreement on the final version of the country’s Climate and Resilience Bill, an emblematic text of the presidential term that aims to support the ecological transition by helping France reach its 40% emission reduction target by 2030. A final vote is expected this summer. EURACTIV France reports.
“The government’s red lines have not been crossed,” the ecological transition ministry said after it pointed to the “numerous setbacks” caused by the amendments made by Senators in June.
National Assembly MPs and Senators agreed on the final version of the Climate and Resilience Act Monday night (13 July) after several hours of debate during a joint parliamentary committee, which the ministry said was “probably one of the longest” in “the history of the Republic”.
The final version is also the result of 146 proposals made by the Citizen’s Climate Convention (CCC), 150 randomly picked members of the public.
Low emission zones (LEZs) and heat sinks
One of the main red lines concerned low emission zones (LEZ), a measure that was supposed to allow cities with more than 150,000 inhabitants to limit the most polluting vehicles circulating on their territory by 2025.
Senators initially wanted to postpone the measure by five years, but following lengthy negotiations, lawmakers decided to keep the 2025 deadline. To reinforce the measure, Senators and MPs decided to also ensure the most modest households can access an interest-free loan if they wish to buy a less polluting vehicle.
For the building sector, the ban on letting E-rated homes, also known as “thermal flats”, which account for 2.6 million homes in France, will take effect in 2034, as provided for in the initial text. Senators initially wanted to postpone the ban by six years, to 2040.
Wind and nuclear
A bone of contention for the government was the Senate’s amendment granting mayors the right to veto a wind turbine project to “promote the social acceptability of wind turbine projects.” Ecological Transition Minister Barbara Pompili strongly opposed the amendment, stating that it does “not encourage consultation and finding solutions together”.
The final version of the text now states that mayors will be consulted in order to “respect the concerns of the Senators”, but they will not have a right of veto.
As for the shutdown and closure of nuclear reactors and power stations, Senators initially wanted to make them conditional, but MPs took a firm stand. While it still features in the text, it is drafted in a “more operational” way.
“We cannot close nuclear reactors, because the security of electricity supply is not guaranteed”, the ecological ministry explained. “It is a long-term, well-thought-out and balanced strategy,” it added.
Regarding the proposal to introduce a vegetarian menu once a week in school canteens, an experiment already started in 2019 as part of the 2018 Egalim law, Senators would have preferred to continue with the experimentation. The Egalim law came into force in 2018 to balance trade relations in the agricultural and food sector and healthy, sustainable and accessible food for all.
Not ‘fit for 55’
But as the European Commission unveils new legislation to reduce the EU’s carbon emissions by 55% by 2030, France’s ecological transition ministry made no secret that “the law was designed for the -40% objective”.
“France will participate in the European effort. This is already a huge step forward for our climate policy in recent years,” the ministry said, however.
But according to NGOs, there is no reason to rejoice too quickly.
“Nothing that has been voted in the text is up to par with the initial proposals of the Citizens’ Climate Convention,” the Climate Action Network wrote on Twitter. “Some progress, but so far from the mark! Everything remains to be done,” added France Nature Environment, a pressure group.
The bill, which is made up of about 300 provisions, will be voted on by the National Assembly on 20 July before heading to the Senate for a final vote.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]