France: A Climate Look Past and Forward

Looking Back 2022: Summer of Extreme Weather Events/

Looking Forward 2023: France’s Embrace of the Bridgetown Initiative

Arguably the most important climate event that took place in France in 2022 was a summer of extreme weather events. These weather events – including successive heatwaves, forest fires, droughts, and storms –  gave France a foreboding preview of the summers to come. The Minister of Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher described the situation in unsparing terms. “The experts are very clear on the subject, the summer of 2022 is probably the coolest you have experienced or will experience in the next 20 years.” Temperatures in this summer in France were 2.3 degrees higher than the seasonal average, resulting in the second hottest summer on record since 2003. Record temperatures were recorded in Nantes (39.1°C), Bordeaux (40°C), Biarritz (42.9°C) and Toulouse (35°C) with sustained heat lasting over twenty days. In 2022, the summer experienced three heatwaves starting as early as June, which exacerbated severe drought. Annual rainfall was almost 25 percent lower than normal, putting France on track for one of the driest years since 1989 which experienced a 25 percent rainfall deficit. In July alone, the country experienced rainfall which was 85 percent below average. Wildfires touched all parts of France and were no longer confined to the south of France with a major fire burning in Brittany in August. Climatologist Valérie Masson-Delmotte co-chairs the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and described how the extreme weather events experienced in France this summer were predicted in the IPCC’s latest report, “This summer, three of the main risks associated with global warming have materialized: risks to health and ecosystems on land and at sea due to extreme heat; water shortages; and the loss of agricultural yields. The fourth, yet to come, is the risk of flooding.” Climate impacts such as these are predicted to increase if global temperatures rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius, and the average global temperature has already risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels. The United Nations reports that the planet is on track for a temperature rise of between 2.4 and 2.6 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.

The most important climate event of 2023 in France would address weather events not only in mainland France but weather disasters all over the world. This past November at the United Nations climate summit held in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt a proposed reform to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund presented what could be the largest mobilization of international finance in history to combat the effects of climate change. The proposed reforms are referred to as the Bridgetown Initiative, named for the Barbadian capital and spearheaded by the Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley. If embraced, the reforms would make more money available to developing nations to address the effects of climate change, release funds more quickly, reduce interest rates for developing nations struggling with climate effects, and pause debt payments in the aftermath of major disasters. Critically, the reforms would seek to change the risk ratings and resulting interest rates developing countries must pay on loans from the World Bank where currently some countries can borrow at 3 percent and others at 15 percent. For a nation like Barbados subject to frequent and severe storms, such changes would help break a cycle of debt and climate calamity. This plan is supported by French President Emmanuel Macron who called for the formation of a task force to formulate recommendations on climate financing programs for the World Bank and I.M.F. “Those institutions,” Mr. Macron said, “need to come up with concrete proposals to activate these innovative financing mechanisms, to develop access to new liquidity, new concessional financing ideas for emerging economies, to propose solutions taking into account vulnerability.” According to the president of the Rockefeller Foundation  Raj Shah, “If used to help developing nations transition to renewable energy sources like wind and solar, the money unleashed by reforming the World Bank and I.M.F. could help keep average global temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels.”Embracing this reform would be the most important climate event to take place in France for 2023 because not only could it unlock $1 trillion in new climate funding it would also serve as a long overdue acknowledgement on the part of France and other developed nations of the responsibility they have to help poorer nations overcome the climate disasters created largely by the emissions of richer nations.

Learn More Resources

“Agnès Pannier-Runacher Évoque Un Possible Scénario De ‘Rationnement Ponctuel’ CET Hiver.” France Inter, 30 Aug. 2022,

Gelles, David, and Max Bearak. “Poor Countries Need Climate Funding. These Plans Could Unlock Trillions.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 Nov. 2022,

ROUQUETTE, Pauline. “Will France’s Record-Breaking Summer of 2022 Boost Efforts to Fight Climate Change?” France 24, France 24, 4 Sept. 2022,

Royer, Solenn de. “Climate Change and the French: The Summer That Ended Indifference.” Le, Le Monde, 22 Aug. 2022,

Image: People watch on from a field as a fire consumes the forest of Broceliande, in Brittany, western France, which broke out during the night of August 11 to 12, 2022. GUILLAUME HERBAUT / AGENCE VU

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard France Country Manager Liana Mehring


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