France will come close to reducing emissions by 50% by 2030 if it does the right things

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a synthesis of its three-part Sixth Assessment Report in March 2023. The report warns that without stronger action on climate, the world is on track to warm 2.7°C (5 °F) by 2100. This is well above the goal of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 °C, which will require “decreasing global carbon pollution by 48% from 2019 by 2023, reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and achieving net-negative carbon emission,” according to the IPCC report. Even under these conditions, the globe will likely still warm by 1.6 °C between 2041 and 2060 before dropping below 1.5°C by 2100.

In response, France asserted that “the report strengthens France’s determination to continue its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in particular through the Climate and Resilience Act, but also to prepare for the inevitable impacts of climate change, through the second National Climate Change Adaptation Plan.” France acknowledged the report’s urgency and reiterated their leading role within the European Union in achieving climate targets through their Fit for 55 package, which describes the EU’s target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030​.

To determine if France will be able to reduce its emissions by 50% by 2030, one can start by looking at emissions trends from the past year. In 2022, Greenhouse gas emissions decreased by only 2.5%, according to provisional figures released in early April 2023 by the French Interprofessional Technical Center for the Study of Air Pollution (CITEPA), which compiles official French emissions data. The data reminds us that after a historic decline in emissions in 2020 due to pandemic conditions (-9.6%), emissions rebounded in 2021 (+6.4%) before falling again in 2022 (-2.5%). This resumption of a downward trend is reassuring. However, it remains to be seen if such trends are largely attributable to specific circumstances or hallmarks of permanent emissions reduction linked to structural factors. For example, emissions fell in the fourth quarter of 2022 due to specific conditions related to the mild winter temperatures and rising energy prices driven by the war in Ukraine.

I assess that France will come close to reaching the 2030 50% goal but not quite meet it. ­The High Council on Climate (HCC) is an independent body tasked with issuing advice and recommendations to the French government on delivering public measures and policies to reduce France’s greenhouse gas emissions. In October 2020, they issued a report stating that France’s annual rate of emissions reduction must double to an average of 4.7% per year between 2022 and 2030. While a decrease of 2.5% is a little more than half the decrease needed per year, my assessment is that France will fail to meet its targets and be forced to increase its carbon budget. The government failed to meet its emissions reduction targets for 2015-2018, raising its emissions caps from 2019 to 2023. I suspect the same will be true for 2023-2030.

Several key elements and challenges inform my prediction of France coming close to reaching the 2030 50% goal. For example, one key element is a rise in energy conservation. This past year witnessed a 15% fall in emissions in the residential sector to the lowest level since 1990. This is due to factors such as the energy crisis and unusually warm weather, such as France’s warmest October ever recorded. If the behavioral modifications associated with this level of energy conservation continue, France could conceivably come close to its 2030 emissions targets. Another heartening emissions trend was an 8% fall in the manufacturing industry due to “a reduction in the consumption of natural gas in small industries, a reduction of coal and ferrous metals in iron and steel plants, and a decrease in the production of certain sectors (inorganic chemistry, cement).” In addition to reducing carbon, it is essential to reduce other greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases. To that end, emissions from agriculture, in particular methane, are also on a downward trend due to decreases in the cattle population in France.

However, these key elements in France’s emissions reduction efforts are also faced with key challenges. For example, in 2022, emissions rose by 2% in transport which remains the highest emitting sector in France at 30% of national emissions. In addition, France relies in part on carbon sinks to absorb emissions that have been collapsing due to repeated droughts, insect attacks, and fire. In addition, France must distinguish between domestic, imported, and exported emissions. To ensure that France’s imported emissions contribute the least possible to global warming and to dispel any suspicion that the country might be reducing its domestic emissions by importing more – thereby burdening its trade partners with the task of mitigation – imported emissions must fall.

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

Learn More

HCC Rapports Empreinte En – Haut Conseil Pour Le Climat, Accessed 22 May 2023.

Lindwall, Courtney. “IPCC Climate Change Reports: Why They Matter to Everyone on the Planet.” IPCC Climate Change Reports – Findings, Purpose, Report History, 14 Apr. 2023,

Ministère de l’Europe et des Affaires étrangères. “Publication of the IPCC’s New Report: France Reiterates the Need to Continue Reducing Carbon Emissions and Speeding up the Adaptation of Vulnerable Countries (01 Mar. 2022).” France Diplomacy – Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Accessed 22 May 2023.

Robert, Colas. “Baromètre Mensuel Des Émissions.” Citepa, 7 Apr. 2023,

Image: Technicians working on a massive wind turbine in Normandy, France Credit: Andia/UIG via Getty Image


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