How French candidates aim to balance green, digital transitions

"The digital economy is not just another economy, it is an economy that is structuring our societies," said Green candidate and MEP Yannick Jadot, calling for "technologies to be thought of in terms of their impact". [Esther Snippe/EURACTIV/Shutterstock]

All French presidential candidates have identified climate issues as central to their programmes and are urging digital companies to play their part in the environmental transition. EURACTIV France reports.

The digital sector emitted 2% of France’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 – a figure that could rise to 6.7% by 2040, a report published by the country’s Senate in 2020 reads.

France’s presidential candidates, who are gearing up for the April elections, intend to do something about this.

“The digital economy is not just another economy. It is an economy that is structuring our societies,” said Green candidate and MEP Yannick Jadot, calling for “technologies to be thought of in terms of their impact”.

In his programme, Jadot says he wants to introduce a “carbon budget for digital technology” and better inform consumers to make the right choices when buying new equipment.

New law forces French operators to disclose carbon footprint to public

The French Senate passed a law on Tuesday (2 November) that aims to reduce the environmental footprint of digital technology. It includes an obligation for French telecoms operators to disclose to the public what they are doing to this end. EURACTIV France reports.

‘No small gestures’

“We don’t believe in the ecology of small gestures,” Jill-Maud Royer, head of the digital wing of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s campaign – the radical-left candidate in the race.

“There are uses that pose a problem, and it is these uses that need to be regulated and not make people feel guilty about the amount of streaming they watch,” she told EURACTIV.

Jadot and Mélenchon call for making the fight against planned obsolescence a priority as the manufacture of devices accounts for up to 70% of the digital carbon footprint, the senators also highlighted in their report.

The two candidates also want to better regulate data centres by imposing more restrictive standards on their electricity production or encouraging them to reuse the heat they produce.

“We can probably find a good agreement with the industrialists” because their energy expenses represent their main costs, Royer also said.

However, a recent study by the International Energy Agency (IEA) points to the impact of data centres not being that significant. Data centres account for 1% of the world’s electricity demand, a figure which, despite a recent explosion in traffic, has remained stable, the study found.

Top French firms commit to climate change fight

The French Association of Private Companies (AFEP) updated on Wednesday (7 July) the Ambition 4 Climate platform, which brings together the projects of 64 large companies with the aim of reaching carbon neutrality. EURACTIV France reports.

Reuse and reconditioning

The programmes of socialist candidate Anne Hidalgo and right-wing candidate Valérie Pécresse give prominence to the reuse and reconditioning of devices and products.

Hidalgo has proposed to accelerate France’s reuse and reconditioning industry by granting it a reduced VAT rate so that it can contribute to the country’s reindustrialisation.

Pécresse would like to create a “recovery voucher” worth €10 for telephones and €50 for computers to encourage individuals to give away equipment they no longer use so others can benefit.

“There is a potential industrial sector in the reconditioning of computer equipment,” Nelly Garnier, regional councillor and spokesperson for Pécresse’s campaign on digital issues, told EURACTIV. “The idea of the recovery voucher is to create a call effect to launch volume,” she said, stressing that there were already factories in France ready to answer the call.

“We will impose the opening of the market for spare parts and technical manuals to manufacturers (as for the car industry),” the Pécresse’s programme also reads.

French government presents roadmap to bridge digital and environmental transitions

France’s Ecological Transition Minister Barbara Pompili and the Secretary of State for Digital, Cédric O, unveiled on Tuesday (23 February) the government’s national strategy to bring environmental and digital issues together. EURACTIV France was able to see the document before publication.

[Edited by Luca Bertuzzi/Alice Taylor]

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