Spotlight Activity: Climate Advisory Reports Indicates France is Falling Short in Meeting Paris Agreement Commitments; Major Heatwave Scorches the Country
A report by the climate advisory council (Haut conseil pour le climat, an independent expert body established in November 2018), published June 25, 2019 shows that France is far from meeting its commitments under the Paris climate agreement. Despite ambitious political promises, during the country’s first carbon budget period of 2015-2018, CO2 emissions decreased by only 1.1%, instead of the envisaged 2%.
The most problematic sector identified in the report is transport, making up 31% of total emissions in France. Transport emissions have largely stalled in the past decade. Last winter, in an attempt to tackle transport emissions, the Macron Government announced the introduction of a vehicle carbon tax to tackle transport emissions. However, the proposed tax was perceived by many as unfair, provoking the yellow vests protestations, and the bill was eventually withdrawn.
A second important emission source is buildings, which constitutes 19% of total emissions and the decrease of emissions has been much slower than predicted. Although 2018 saw a notable decrease of emissions of -4.2% compared to 2017, this was mainly attributable to a lower demand for heating due to a mild winter. Meanwhile, renovation of buildings has not been effective and oil heating continues to be too widespread.
The report recommends that the level of ambition of carbon budgets should be increased and defined in law. Furthermore, policy measures should be extended to the international sphere, including a carbon neutrality objective for international transport and a strategy for reducing the global carbon footprint, including manufacturing emissions of imported goods. Since France already relies to a great extent on low-emissions nuclear energy, emission cuts will have to be made through changes in consumption.
Corinne Le Quéré, chair of the High Council, stated that the climate crisis cannot be left to an environment ministry alone to handle “on the periphery of public policies”. Instead, it must be a national priority and central policy for all public and private actors.
In the meantime, France and Europe experienced two record heatwaves in June and July this summer. The highest temperature in the history of France, 45.9 degrees Celsius, was hit on June 28, close to Montpellier in the south of the country. Local records were beaten elsewhere, including 42.6 degrees Celsius in Paris. A European study linked the heatwaves to man-made global warming. By late September, a great part of the country had suffered from weeks or even months of drought, which has been a hard blow on the important agricultural sector.
September saw heightened climate action across the country in connection with the UN Climate Action Summit in New York on September 23. At the start of the school year in early September, the parent federation FCPE, Greenpeace, and the French Vegetarian Association AVF reminded local governments that as of November 1, 2019, school canteens will be legally obliged to offer students at least one vegetarian meal option per week. On September 17, a group of high-profile university and student representatives published an appeal for climate action in higher education in the national daily Le Monde. On September 20-21, climate marches took place in several French cities as part of the global movement. In Paris, the demonstration gathered an estimated 15,000 participants, but was disrupted by violent confrontations between the police and yellow vest and black bloc protesters, who had joined in the procession.
Status: Falling Behind
Having reduced its CO2 emissions by 1.1% in 2015-2018, France has not reached its goal of a 2% emissions reduction. The climate advisory council warns that at the current rate, France will not reach either its short-term goals or its long-term goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.
Write to the President of France, Mr. Emmanuel Macron, and Ministers for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, Ms. Élisabeth Borne, Ms. Brune Poirson and Ms. Emmanuelle Wargon:
Dear Mr. President, Dear Ms. Ministers,
Although France has set ambitious climate objectives, the June 2019 report by the Haut conseil pour le climat indicates that the policy measures taken so far are insufficient to reach either the short-term carbon budgets or the long-term goal of France reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. The report shows that least results and greatest problems are found in the transport and building sectors. We implore that your Government rapidly take the necessary measures to reduce emissions especially in the above-mentioned two sectors, while ensuring that the measures are socially and geographically fair and sustainable.
With our respectful and best regards,
Send Action Alert Message to:
Mr. Emmanuel Macron
Ms. Élisabeth Borne
Ms. Brune Poirson
Ms. Emmanuelle Wargon