Leading Emission Reduction Challenges: (a) Problems implementing existing climate change policies; (b) Changing peoples’ behavior
Current Level of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
As member of the EU, France has to respect EU targets for reducing GHG. Under the Copenhagen Accord the EU proposed to decrease emissions by 20%-30% below 1990 by 2020 and by 80%-95% below 1990 by 2050. The 2030 climate and energy framework sets the following key target for the year 2030: At least 40% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels). The framework contains a binding target to cut emissions in EU territory by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. To achieve the ‘at least 40% target’, the EU emissions trading system (ETS) sectors would have to cut emissions by 43% (compared to 2005). To reach these goals, the ETS is to be reformed and strengthened and non-ETS sectors need to cut emissions by 30% (compared to 2005). The overall EU targets need to be translated into individual binding targets for Member States.
The French non-ETS target under the EU Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) for 2020 is -14% (compared to 2005) and non-ETS emissions were reduced by 8.7% between 2005 and 2013, which is below the interim target for 2013. According to the latest national projections submitted to the Commission and taking into account existing measures, the 2020 target is expected to be met and even exceeded by a margin of 1.9% points.
According to the global carbon atlas, between 1990 and 2014 France has reduced its GHG by 0.5 % and between 2013 and 2014 by 9.4%. In 2014, the main GHG emissions came from oil (198 MtCO2), followed by coal (38 MtCo2), gas (80 MtCO2), cement (7.5 MtCO2) and finally gas flaring (0.4 MtCO2). France represents only 1.2% of global emissions although it contributes to the worldwide GDP for 4.2%. It reduced its emissions by 10% since 1990 and went beyond the Kyoto objective which was not to increase them. This represents a reduction of 21% per inhabitant.
Evolution of emissions since 1990 in France
France’s energy policy is largely based on nuclear power which explains the low GHG emission profile of the country. However, the government is currently working on a strategy for diversifying the energy mix and reducing the energy intensity of its economy. The government of Francois Hollande – in office since May 2012 – pledged to cut the share of nuclear energy in the country’s electricity mix from 75% to 50% by 2025. Next to these overarching targets, the Energy Transition Act includes specific measures on energy efficiency in new and existing buildings, clean transport, recycling, and the promotion of renewable energy. This new Energy Transition Act, which was adopted in August 2015, aims at reducing GHG emission by 40% by 2030 and by 75% by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels). It is also expected to establish multiannual carbon budgets, and measures for emission reductions, reduction of energy consumption and deployment of renewable energy.
The recent key policy developments include the work on the Energy Transition Act as well as the introduction of new environmental taxes with the Finance Acts of 2014 and 2015. Most notably, the government established a carbon tax on energy products that is levied since January 2014. France also adjusted a number of existing support schemes to speed up the energy refurbishment of buildings, the installation of charging stations for electric vehicles, and the deployment of renewable energies.
Emission Reduction Challenges
France is facing several challenges to reduce GHG emissions and achieve its targets. These include:
- Cost and difficulties represented by the sectors where GHG emissions should be reduced: Once the country´s last coal fired plants are shut down, electricity generation will account for less than 4% of the country´s total emissions. This means that in the future, effort to reduce GHG emissions will have to focus on transport, residential and commercial housing and agriculture, sectors where it is much more difficult and costly to reduce emissions.
- Lack of legislation implementation and legislation shortcomings: Some organisations have criticized the Energy Transition Act and the absence of energy saving objectives for 2030, which were in the initial draft version. They also reproached the law for not having set a deadline for the reduction of nuclear energy by 50%. They claim that the Energy Transition Act will only be effective if the government keeps its commitments including on the most problematic topics. The multiannual energy programming (PPE), which should articulate the main objectives of the energy policy and translate them into a concrete roadmap until 2018 and then 2023, is still not very clear and lacks coherency on the key issues like the evolution of the nuclear power plants. Moreover, the content of several implementing decrees do not effectively show the affects of the legislative provisions that are intended to be more ambitious (e.g. combatting energy precariousness). To be entirely effective the Energy Transition Act needs to be fully implemented by the Government and relevant decrees with necessary provisions need to be adopted. Otherwise this Act will only remain an ambitious legislative text on paper.
- Lack of political coherency and clear political commitment: Decisions taken by the government can sometime appear contradictory on certain aspects of GHG emission reduction. For example, the government promotes clean mobility but at the same time it supports infrastructure projects that, to the contrary, will lead to an increase of road and air transport. There is also a positive commitment from the government on the end of public support for coal energy (if there is no technology based on CO2 capture and storage). However, the role of France within the OECD and the G7 on the coal question still needs to be clarified. France proposes as well to postpone the reform of energy taxation at the EU level to avoid the end of fossil fuel subsidies. Moreover, just before the COP21, the Ministry of sustainable development issued three new research permits for hydrocarbons. It has also been very much criticised that EDF and Engie, two companies partially owned by the State, sponsored the COP 21 despite the fact that their coal power stations are responsible for more than half of France’s GHG emissions. This lack of coherency can be mainly explained by the difficulty to balance economic interests with environmental conservation. France, as do most countries, struggles to find the right balance to ensure that its development remains sustainable.
- Difficulties to change people behaviour: promoting clean mobility means convincing the population to change their habits and switch from using their cars to public transport or using bikes. This is slowly happening in France but the great majority of people have difficulties to renounce the use of their cars. To achieve this change, there is a need to raise awareness in the population (e.g. a communication campaign) and to provide incentives to ensure that people will embrace this change (e.g. economic incentives and measures supporting the use of public transport). In France, trains remain and are seen as quite expensive and often people consider it more advantageous to travel by car, especially now that petrol is quite cheap.
–Submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager Charline Gaudin