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Traffic jam with cars in Paris, France. view of Arc de Trio.

France falling short of own emission targets, new climate council admits

Image credit: Johnypan | Dreamstime.com

According to France’s new climate council, the country is falling way short of its self-set climate targets as carbon emissions from transport and buildings are not dropping as planned, with the government having to triple its efforts to get back on track.

In its first report, France’s newly appointed independent climate advisory council, the Haut Conseil pour le Climat (HCC) said that between 2015-2018, emissions fell by just 1.1 per cent, just over half the 1.9 per cent that was previously imposed.

France was the driver behind the 2016 Paris Agreement to limit global warming and now the French parliament is debating an energy bill that targets net zero emissions by 2050.

However, environmentalists have argued that apart from setting bold but faraway targets, French President Emmanuel Macron is doing little to change consumers’ behaviour and is leaving hard decisions to his successors.

The head of the new climate council, Corinne Le Quere, echoed this critique from some environmentalists, saying that while France’s commitments are ambitious, they are unlikely to be met with current policies.

“As long as action on climate change remains on the periphery of public policies, France will not achieve carbon neutrality by 2050,” said Le Quere, who is also a Franco-Canadian climatologist.

Set up in May this year, HCC’s role is to advise on the change to a low-carbon economy and is inspired by the British Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

“It’s not enough to talk about climate emergency, Emmanuel Macron and his government need to seriously start tackling the problem,” said Greenpeace France chief Jean-François Julliard.

The HCC report also said France’s failure to reach climate targets is mainly due to transport emissions, which have not decreased in the last 10 years, and emissions from buildings, which have decreased three times more slowly than anticipated.

Efforts to curb transport emissions through taxation have repeatedly run up against protests throughout the country in recent years, with Macron dropping a planned increase in car fuel taxes in late 2018 after “yellow vest” protests against it morphed into a sometimes violent movement challenging his wider reform plans.

Francois Hollande, Macron’s predecessor, also had to back down from a plan to reduce road transport after truck drivers destroyed gantries meant to charge fees on trucks.

HCC’s report also recommends that France’s carbon targets should include imported emissions, to account for the carbon emissions hidden in goods manufactured in other countries.

Macron’s environment minister Francois de Rugy is now looking ways of taxing foreign trucks driving through France and wants the new European Commission to reduce tax exemptions on airline travel.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said in a statement that he had received the HCC’s report and that the government would formulate a first response to its recommendations early next month.

“Climate change is now, more than ever, a government priority,” he said

This is not the first time that France has announced that it failed to meet its climate goal. In early 2018, France’s ecology minister said it would revise its carbon emissions target after it failed to meet its 2016 goal, with the ecology department saying despite the country’s effort to maintain global momentum on sticking to the agreement, its carbon dioxide emissions rose 3.6 per cent over the targeted 447 million tonnes of CO2 emissions equivalent.

To help reach the targets set at the time, the French government asked automakers to help fund an expanded trade-in programme, in late October 2018, to get older, more polluting cars off the road in an attempt to encourage their citizens to buy more environmentally friendly cars.

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