France and the fight against global warming

Nelly Olin, French Minister for Ecology and Sustainable Development, stated on 31 October that she fully agreed with the conclusions of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change.

Indeed, on 3 July 2006, the French “Facteur IV” working group, tasked with determining how to reduce France’s greenhouse gas emissions by a factor of four by 2050¹, delivered its conclusions. Chaired by the French economist Christian de Boissieu, this working group was made up of 31 experts in the relevant fields. A meeting had even been organized in London in 2005 with the "Stern Review". The French and British working groups’ findings come to the same conclusion: we have to combat climate change effectively, and for this there must be major changes at the technological, industrial and societal levels.

For the French government, the battle against climate change has already been a priority for many years.

1) Environmental protection measures have been incorporated into national law.

By incorporating environmental protection into her Constitution, passing an energy policy Act and drawing up a climate plan, France has given herself the legal means to address the environmental challenges.

In March 2005, France added a reference to the Environment Charter² to the Preamble to her Constitution. This charter endorses inter alia the precautionary principle and reconciles the protection and husbanding of the environment with economic development and social progress. By putting this charter at the top of the hierarchy of standards, France showed her commitment to the environment issue.

The Multiyear Sectorial Estimates Act of 13 July 2005 sets the guidelines for France’s energy policy for the coming years. It was the result of a long consultative process launched in January 2003 with the National Debate on Energy, followed by the parliamentary debates in 2004. This Act sets four major goals, including that of safeguarding human health and the environment, particularly by combating the increase in the greenhouse effect. To achieve them, the government is giving priority to research and the development of new energy technology. The government gives Parliament an annual progress report on its action on renewable energies and energy savings. The Act also creates a Higher Energy Council dealing not only with gas and electricity, but also energy control and the development of renewables.

The Climate Plan, drawn up in 2004 and updated every year, includes measures in every area of France’s economy and her people’s daily lives with the aim of achieving an annual saving of 54 million tonnes of CO2 by 2010.³

2) Environmental concerns are taken into account at every phase of the energy supply chain, from producer to consumer.

Nuclear power and renewables offer an effective solution to atmospheric pollution and global warming. In France, 78% of electricity is generated by nuclear energy4. In 20 years, thanks to nuclear power, EDF has substantially reduced its emissions of pollutants (70% reduction of nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide emissions over the period) which translates into an overall 30% cut in atmospheric pollution in France5. France’s nuclear power programme has reduced CO2 emissions by 40%.

France is the main producer of renewable energy in the EU (15% of the total production of the 25-member EU). France is moving closer to the goal of the Act of 13 July 2005, envisaging meeting 10% of energy needs from renewable sources by 20106. 2005 saw wind power energy production rise by 61% and biofuel production by 14%.

With the Act of 28 June 20067, France was the first to frame a national policy for the long-term management of radioactive material and waste8. According to Hans Riotte, the OECD’s nuclear energy agency, the Act providing for burying waste deep underground and setting a timetable for this "has put France clearly in the lead in Europe"8.

As for energy savings, public awareness campaigns and incentives (e.g. tax deductions) have been used since the first oil shock over 30 years ago. New ones are regularly launched; indeed, the Climate Plan makes public awareness its first objective. "The International Energy Agency has calculated that the average French person was responsible for 6.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide, one of the lowest levels in Europe, one third of the US average and below Japan and Russia"8.

For example, 25,000 heat pumps were installed in 20059.

3) France is actively promoting the strengthening of international environmental protection mechanisms.

France has ratified the 1997 Kyoto agreement, which sets every country specific targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. A recent report stresses that France’s predicted CO2 emissions make her one of the few European countries to be on schedule for meeting its Kyoto commitments10.

In his speech at the G8 summit on 15 July 2006, President Chirac called on his fellow leaders to commit to the rapid creation of a United Nations Environment Organization11. The French memorandum stresses that the UNEO would increase funding capacity, rationalize the system of governance and give the environment issue a global institutional framework12. The President also announced that a major international meeting devoted to the creation of the UNEO would be held in Paris early in 2007.

Finally, Paris will also host in January 2007 the meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which next year will issue its fourth report on the damage caused by climate change./.

(Source : Ambassade de France au Royaume Uni)

Last modified on 16/01/2009

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