Policy Recommendation # 1: Ban the Sale of Gas and Diesel Cars by 2030
France will ban the sale of gas and diesel vehicles beginning in 2040; we strongly urge the country to shorten this timeline to 2030. Transport is the largest contributing sector to France’s greenhouse gas emissions as seen in Figure 1. Currently, 93.6% of sold vehicles in France are fossil fuel vehicles, 4.2% are hybrids, less than 1% are electric. The purchase of green vehicles is increasing, in part due to interventions from the French government. The country generously offers a 12,000-euro consumer subsidy for the purchase of an electric vehicle. Additionally, France recently increased a 12,500-euro tax on heavy and polluting vehicles (such as SUVs) to 20,000 euros. Regardless, polluting vehicles constitute the overwhelming majority of vehicles in France.
Figure 1: Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector, 2016
Other countries have announced more robust targets to eliminate the sale of gas and diesel vehicles; as seen in Figure 1, France has one of the weakest targets with 2040. An EU-wide ban on the sale of fossil fuel vehicles by 2035 has been discussed, rendering the current target by France possibly overdue regardless.
While polices to incentivize the expansion of clean vehicles is a good start, the current timeline of eliminating polluting vehicles by 2040 is not ambitious enough. To cut their annual greenhouse gas emissions and meet their climate neutral targets, France will need to decarbonize their transport sector quickly. Banning the sale of gas and diesel vehicles by 2030 will greatly support these goals. Luckily, France will be able to leverage the successes and failures of other countries decarbonizing their transportation on earlier timelines, such as Norway, to ensure a smooth transition. It is suggested that subsidies to support the purchase of electric vehicles continue and are targeted towards low-income households to ensure they are not disproportionately affected. Additionally, parallel investment in developing charging infrastructure to support a large electric vehicle fleet is necessary.
Policy Recommendation # 2: Strengthen Biodiversity Protection
Like much of Europe and the world, France’s biodiversity has been declining over the past several decades. In 2018 the country experienced a catastrophic decline in their farmland birds with dozens of species decreasing by one-third as a result of intensive farming and pesticide use. This has led to a decline in insects that bird feed on, consequently leading levels to approach an ‘ecological catastrophe’. Per the Red List, more than 9% of species in France are threatened and 8% are near threatened. France hosts 35% of European species on the Red List (very threatened), meaning they represent an important country for larger European biodiversity preservation goals.
To address these concerns, France enacted a National Biodiversity Strategy to run from 2011-2020. Additionally, they adopted a biodiversity framework law in August 2016 focusing on the restoration of landscape, nature, and biodiversity. In February 2020, President Macron made more concrete announcements including: (a) placing 30% of French territory into protected areas by 2022 with 10% under strong protection; (b) establishing the French Biodiversity Office as the environmental police to leverage it’s 2,800 agents to protect nature; and (c) ending the use of plastic through the adoption of anti-waste laws through a circular economy framework by 2040. Figure 3 depicts the twenty national biodiversity targets that make up the National Biodiversity Strategy. No new strategy to replace this one has been announced as of 2021.
As evidenced by the information in Figure 3, these targets are quite subjective and lack any measurable goals. This makes measuring the progress and success of targets quite difficult and could hide shortcomings within the government’s process. With the strategy set to expire in 2020, it is recommended that the updated strategy contain more quantifiable targets that start from current levels and set ambitious growth targets.
To ensure these targets are met, there should be adequate government support and funding. Additionally, as natural system modification is the largest contributor of threats to French specifics; as seen in Figure 4, France should consider increasing the size of protected areas from 30% by 2022 to 35%. As agriculture is another driving force, the use of urban agriculture and hydroponic farming should be explored and up scaled where possible. Small-scale projects, such as increasing honey beehives on rooftops in Paris, should be encouraged, funded, and scaled up through government assistance. While regulations have tightened the use of several pesticides in France, these should be revisited and strengthened where necessary. As some herbicides and fungicides are beneficial in protecting human and plant health, their use should be allowed yet in smaller quantities on selected crops. Finally, a new ecocide law would penalize environmental damage as an offense with fines and jail time, ensuring that biodiversity degradation and lack of protection fit within the scope of the law. Increasing the protection of France’s biodiversity, especially through increasing protected areas and preserving vegetation cover, will enhance carbon sinks through France positively impacting their net emissions.
Figure 4: France’s Species Under Threat by Reason
Policy Recommendation # 3: Introduce a Cap of 0.2 €/MWh on the Price of Electric Power
As seen above in Figure 1, electricity and heat are the fourth largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in France. In 2016, emissions from this sector amounted to 51.3 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. In order to dramatically cut their emissions, France will need to decarbonize their electricity sector. One factor that has slowed the replacement of fossil fuels in electricity generation is the increasing electricity prices. Electricity prices outlined in Figure 5 have consistently increased over the last decade totaling an increased 6 eurocents over eight years. Setting a cap on the price of electric power at the suggested level of 0.2 €/MWh will help encourage the replacement of fossil fuels by renewables in electricity generation, greatly decreasing French emissions.
Figure 5: Electricity Prices 2010 – 2018
Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, Minister in charge of transportation in the ministry of the Ecological transition
Telephone: +33 1 40 81 21 22
French Agency for Biodiversity
Address: French Biodiversity Office / 12, cours Lumière / 94300 Vincennes
Kreitz Therese, French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME)
This post was submitted by Climate Scorecard France Country Manager Stephanie Tapolsky