France passes climate law, but critics say it fails
PARIS – France on Tuesday adopted a far-reaching law to fight climate change, creating a series of bans, incentives and quotas on transport, housing and consumption aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions greenhouse and waste, despite criticism from environmental groups that the measures are not ambitious enough.
The law comes amid extreme weather episodes that have heightened concerns about the impact of global warming, particularly in Europe, which recently unveiled an aggressive plan to move away from fossil fuels, and where countries like the Germany and Belgium were hit last week by deadly floods which put climate change high on the political agenda.
President Emmanuel Macron, candidate for election next year, has tried to put France at the forefront of the fight against climate change.
But his support for a “pragmatic ecology” – made of small concrete steps and concerned with economic impacts – has been the subject of criticism from left-wing politicians and environmental activists who say his policies are too weak to make an impact. real difference. Court rulings and reports from leading expert bodies have also warned that his government is not on track to meet France’s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Jean-François Julliard, executive director of Greenpeace France, said the law was not up to “the urgency of the situation”.
“This is a missed opportunity,” Julliard said during a small demonstration of around 30 activists in Paris on Tuesday.
The climate law was passed in final votes by the upper and lower chambers of the French parliament after the two chambers compromised on a joint version of the bill earlier this month. The Senate, dominated by the right, passed the law by a show of hands; the National Assembly, where the party of Mr. Macron has a majority, passed the law with 233 votes in favor and 35 against.
The law is a mishmash of bans, financial incentives and other measures aimed at reducing waste, improving energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions in everyday life. Some will take effect immediately.
Among the changes: landlords are no longer allowed to rent poorly insulated properties; single-use polystyrene food packaging will be banned from 2025; advertising for fossil fuels, such as gasoline, should be phased out; and weekly vegetarian menus will become the norm in publicly funded school cafeterias.
Domestic flights for journeys that can be made by train in less than 2.5 hours are prohibited, unless they correspond to an international flight. Subsidies for drivers who trade in a polluting car for a cleaner one have been extended to the purchase of electric bicycles. The law will also create low emission zones in urban areas of more than 150,000 inhabitants by 2025, limiting the circulation of certain polluting vehicles.
Barbara Pompili, French Minister for the Ecological Transition, told lawmakers on Tuesday that the planet was “out of breath”, and cited recent floods in Germany and Belgium as proof that “the climate is becoming a threat”.
“We live in troubled and difficult times,” she said. But “our future is ours,” she added, calling the new law a “cultural change” that would bring ecology directly into people’s lives.
The law was inspired by the Citizens’ Climate Convention, a panel of 150 randomly selected people from across the country who were tasked with formulating proposals, with the help of experts, that would balance ambitious climate legislation with l economic equity.
Mr Macron convened the convention last year following the yellow vests protests in late 2019, when anger over a fuel tax hike turned into broader and sometimes violent unrest.
But environmental activists – and even some members of the citizens’ panel – have complained that the final version of the climate bill falls short of the convention’s original ambitions.
“In the context of climatic cataclysms in Europe at the moment, this law is an aberration”, declared during the demonstration Manon Castagné, activist of the environmental group Friends of the Earth.
The law gives the regions the possibility, but does not oblige them, to tax the polluting activities of the transport of goods of goods from 2024. And a tax on polluting nitrogenous fertilizers used in agriculture will be “considered” only if the objectives reduction is not achieved.
Earlier this month, the government also abandoned plans to enshrine the fight against climate change in the French constitution – a significant setback for Mr Macron, who had presented the change as the symbolic backbone of his policies. environmental issues and had promised to hold a referendum on the publication.
The High Council for the Climate, an independent body, warned in a recent report that France’s efforts were “insufficiently” in line with its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 – compared to 1990 levels – to stay on track with his Paris. Agreement commitments. France’s highest administrative court also recently gave the government nine months to take “all necessary measures” to achieve its emissions reduction targets, under penalty of possible financial penalties.
Léontine Gallois contributed reporting.