Green energy policy was accelerated in France last September as the French economy faced its deepest recession since World War II with a projected GDP drop of 11% in 2020. In the face of severe economic distress, a 100 billion euro stimulus package was passed to simulate the economy and drive job growth—a third of which is focused on additionally promoting greener energy policy. A majority of this “green investment” package is targeted towards the pandemic-suffering transportation, construction, and industrial sectors; ideally this package will stimulate their recovery while accelerating their transition away from fossil fuels. 6 billion euros was provided to better insulate public buildings and homes order to decrease energy requirements, with 2 billion euros set aside for the Hydrogen industry. Development in the Hydrogen industry is essential in enabling the transition to renewable energy as it is predicted to play a vital role in the storing and transportation of energy generated from renewable sources. While the impact and success of these dual purposed investments will need to be monitored in the coming months and years, showing financial commitment when facing severe economic stress is a positive sign as France works to meet its various environmental targets.
Also in September of 2020, the European Union announced their revised pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. The announcement comes after an assessment on the economic, social, and environmental impacts of Climate Change wherein which France’s commitment was deemed realistic and feasible. These ambitious targets will put the EU – and France – on a meaningful path to reaching climate neutrality by 2050.
In addition to progress in government investments, France has committed themselves to making a just transition and address climate justice concerns with the culmination of the Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat. Commencing in October 2019, the Convention was a product of the Gilets Jaunes protests in 2018, which were ignited in part by the equity concerns of a gas tax that would have furthered France’s green transition. In the sprit of social justice, the 150 randomly chosen citizens met with the Ministry of Ecological Transition, economic players, and associations involved in the green transition to draw up proposals so as to ensure a just green transition. Of the 149 measures presented to the government, two of them are to be put to the people in a referendum: the inclusion of environmental protection in the constitution and the introduction of the crime of ecocide (defined as extensive damage to ecosystems). Of the remaining 147 measures, all but three were accepted by President Macron to be delivered to parliament, and therefore require regulatory or legislative approval and implementation by the government. Since September, the members of the convention have continued their work with assisting on the development of a bill to make 40% of their measures a reality. The aspect of monitoring the measures is a current challenge the citizens are facing. With other countries following suit and implementing their own Citizens Convention’s, France has helped draw attention to the social justice concerns regarding green transitions led by governments; this will perhaps affect climate justice concerns outside of France. While promising, the government response and implementation of the recommendations from the Convention Citoyenne will need to be monitored in the coming months.
While commitments and goals to green transition continue to be made and raised, the impacts from climate change continue to be felt throughout France. After coming off the driest July since 1959, the Southeast of France experienced the worst flooding seen in decades in early October. Storm Alex raged havoc and created landslides that have destroyed roads, bridges and homes, leading to loss of life and serious infrastructure damage. Prime Minister Castex sent emergency funds and deployed the army to help tackle the floods and assist those displaced and affected. Thousands of people lost power to their homes along the western Atlantic coast. Livelihoods are continuing to be impacted by climate change with wine makers – an agriculture sector which accounts for 15% of France’s agricultural revenue – in the Languedoc and other regions continuing to develop innovative measures to adapt to climate change. In addition to the timing of the harvest occurring earlier in the year and the alcohol content of the wine rising over the past thirty years, many wine growers have seen increasing losses of their harvest. Techniques such as increasing the organic matter in the soil, irrigation, experiments in the plots and in the barrels, and switching to more resistant grape varietals are being tested.
It is clear France has made improvements to their climate policy and investments over the past several months, however, more work must be done. Important sectors were left out of the recent green investment and key climate legislation and there are a lack of frameworks to make progress effective. For example, the agricultural sector – accounting for 18% -20% of total emissions – did not receive targeted stimulus support and is not currently in line with a low-carbon trajectory. The 0.9% reduction in emissions recorded in 2019 remains far from the 3% annual reduction expected by 2025, highlighting the need for continued and more progress by France.
Activity Rating: *** Right Direction
Over the last several months France has invested in their green commitments through targeted stimulus in addition to strengthening the aggressiveness of their pledges.
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard France Country Manager Stephanie Tapolsky