Transport Sector Policies in France

Spotlight Activity: Transport Sector Policies in France

For France to reach compliance with the Paris Agreement by 2030 and to remain within the 1.5- degree Celsius limit, the most important policy area to focus on is transport. 31% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in France originate from the transport sector, and the sector’s emissions have shown no sign of decreasing in the past decade. Of the sectoral emissions, 52% derive from cars, 19% from heavy goods vehicles, and 19% from commercial vehicles. The remaining 10% comes from public transport, water transport, domestic flights (international flights are not counted in the emissions), and other sources. Against this background, the transport sector presents itself as the one where climate policy measures are both most needed and have the most potential for making a significant difference.

Two interrelated policy instruments have been particularly relevant in this regard. The first of these is the carbon tax (Contribution Climat-Énergie, CCE). Carbon taxes, imposed on fossil fuels in proportion to their carbon content, have been heavily endorsed by leading economists as ‘the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary’. Research findings provide support this argument, showing reduced levels of emissions in countries and regions where a tax is in use. In France, the carbon tax was set at

€7/CO2-tonne at the launch of the system in 2014, rising to €44.60 by 2018. However, during this timeframe the tax apparently had no effect on curbing emissions, in part due to global oil prices simultaneously dropping to a 10-year low and neutralising the tax mark-up. In 2018, President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to raise the tax to €86.20/CO2-tonne by 2022 was perceived as socially unjust and met with violent protests by the yellow vests movement. The tax increase was consequently discarded, and the tax remains frozen at the 2018 level.

A second path to tackle transport sector emissions is the Mobility Law (Loi mobilités, LOM) adopted in September 2019. The new initiative sets out a more comprehensive reform of the transport sector, addressing the daily needs of citizens and the lack of means of transport other than private cars in large parts of the country. The Law foresees €13.4 billion of public investment in transport in 2018-2022 (up by 40% from the previous five-year period), with a focus on commute infrastructure, facilitating the use of bicycles and electric cars, and bolstering pooling, sharing, and public transport solutions to replace private driving. Compared to the carbon tax instrument, the Mobility Law provides solutions that are socially sustainable and democratically feasible, but also slower and likely less effective.

Environmentalist organisations, while welcoming the initiative, have criticised the Mobility Law for lacking ambition, determination, and resources to effectively combat climate change.

Climate Scorecard concurs with these assessments and supports reinstituting a carbon tax beside the Mobility Law. However, in order for social sustainability goals to be met, the new carbon tax should be introduced in a climate income framework. Climate income imposes a carbon tax on the sale of fossil fuels, and then distributes the revenue of this tax over the entire population as a monthly income or regular payment, thus overcoming the social justice problems of the tax.

Status: Right Direction

Climate Scorecard sees that France is making cautious progress to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions in its most problematic sector. The elimination of the carbon tax was a defeat in this respect, but the Mobility Law does seek to take active steps towards emissions cuts. We urge the French Government to ensure that the Mobility Law will indeed be effective against emissions and recommend the reinstitution of the carbon tax under a climate income system.

Take Action

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,


The Loi mobilités initiative adopted in September 2019 is a commendable step in attempting to address the outstanding challenges of climate change and social polarisation and inequality. We advise you to take all applicable measures to ensure that the LOM will be implemented efficiently and effectively, with concrete indicators and milestones in place and a detailed plan for how to reach those milestones. Public support for the initiative should be safeguarded through transparency, clear communication, and strong stakeholder inclusion.


More importantly still, we urge you to reintroduce a carbon tax through a climate income system. The carbon tax is the most effective way of tackling emissions, and a climate income system, wherein the tax revenue is distributed over the entire population as regular payment, is a socially just way of enacting it.


With our respectful and best regards, [sign name]

Send Action Alert Message to:

Mr. Emmanuel Macron

Website: Ms. Élisabeth Borne

Email: Ms. Brune Poirson

Email: Ms. Emmanuelle Wargon


Leave a Reply


Climate change is real, and what governments do matters.

Help us work with key stakeholders globally to ensure continued support of the The Paris Agreement.