France is falling behind on tackling climate change - High Council on Climate

France is falling behind on tackling climate change

Paris, June 25, 2019 – France’s objectives for greenhouse gas emissions reduction are ambitious, but far from being achieved. Efforts underway are insufficient, and the government needs to strengthen its climate policies across the board in order to respect its commitments under the Paris Agreement, according to the first report of France’s independent climate advisory council, the Haut conseil pour le climat.

France’s official emissions reduction objective, the 2015-2018 carbon budget, the first in a proposed series of budgets, was not met. During this period, emissions decreased by only 1.1%, almost half of what was prescribed in the budget. This rate of reduction will have to triple by 2025 to meet the carbon neutrality commitments France is seeking to enshrine in law.

The French parliament is currently considering a draft energy and climate bill that contains the objective to be net zero emissions by 2050.

The gap between ambition and reality is due in particular to transport emissions, which have not decreased in the last 10 years, and emissions from buildings, which have decreased three times less quickly than anticipated.

The observed decrease in emissions in 2018 (-4.2% compared to 2017) is mainly due to weather conditions, with a mild winter leading to lower demand for heating, and is only marginally attributable to official actions to combat climate change.

The report notes that the objective of carbon neutrality by 2050 is ambitious and consistent with the Paris Agreement. However, it recommends that in addition to the overall objective, carbon budgets be enshrined in law to send a clear signal, and that the 2019-2023 budget currently under discussion be tightened to be more ambitious. In addition, the carbon neutrality objective should include international transport (air and sea); and additional measures and a strategy should be proposed to shrink the country’s global carbon footprint, which includes emissions from goods manufactured in other countries, but imported to France.


The report establishes a framework to support long-term action, to which stakeholders can contribute and benefit from its opportunities.

It recommends:

Fundamental reforms:

  • Ensuring the compatibility of each law and each major project with the carbon neutrality objective.
  • Integrating the carbon price into economic activity more boldly, efficiently, fairly and transparently, including through a fundamental review and update of the carbon tax.
  • Systematically assessing the impact on greenhouse gas emissions of investments and actions.

Preparing the French economy and society for carbon neutrality by:

  • Supporting employment in the long-term, and the economy, by planning the necessary structural changes.
  • Ensuring a fair and equitable transition, taking into account impacts on social or geographical inequalities.
  • Harmonizing national, regional and European climate policies.

“The urgency imposed by the climate crisis requires rapid and in-depth action,” said Corinne Le Quéré, president of the Haut conseil pour le climat.

“France’s commitments are ambitious, but at the current rate, they are unlikely to be met. As long as action on climate change remains on the periphery of public policies, France will not achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Achieving that objective requires that emissions reduction is a national priority, one that is central to decision-making in the public and private actors.”

The Haut conseil pour le climat will be heard by the Conseil de défense écologique in early July. Thereafter, the government must respond to the report within six months, before Parliament and the Conseil économique, social et environnemental. This process aims to establish a periodic review of France’s emissions, and is being implemented for the first time.

Read the report now (in French) on:

The Haut conseil pour le climat was created through Decree No. 2019-439 of 14 May 2019. It is an independent body currently composed of eleven members, appointed for five years and chosen for their scientific, technical and economic expertise in the field of climate science. It is charged with providing a neutral, independent and long-term perspective to support France in the transition to a low-carbon economy.  // Twitter: @hc_climat // #NeutralitéCarbone