Explainer

What’s in France’s New Climate Law

Policies affect farms, food, transportation and urban planning.

France train
High-speed train in France (Adobe Stock/Chlorophylle)

French lawmakers adopted a far-reaching climate law this week that puts the country on track to meet its Paris commitment of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

That is short of the 55-percent cut the European Commission has proposed in its “Green Deal”, which has yet to be approved by member states.

The French measures do align with the EU’s new Common Agricultural Policy, which sets aside 20 to 25 percent of funding for “eco-schemes”, which can range from organic farms to forests and wetlands being retained for carbon sequestration.

Some of the policies flow from the citizen consultations President Emmanuel Macron held across France in the wake of the 2018 Yellow Vests protests, which were sparked by a rise in gasoline tax.

Here is an overview.

Agriculture

  • Farmers need to reduce the use of mineral nitrogen fertilizers 15 percent by 2030 compared to 2015.
  • Ammonia emissions need to fall 13 percent compared to 2005.
  • Farms that fail to meet the targets two years in a row will be taxed for their excessive fertilizer user.
  • To protect farmlands and forests, the pace at which such areas are being given over to construction must be cut in half.
  • Farmers are encouraged to preserve and plant hedges and trees between plots to absorb carbon, combat soil erosion and improve water quality.

Food

  • Schools must offer a vegetarian menu at least once per week.
  • All canteens and catering services in the public sector must offer a daily vegetarian menu by 2030.
  • Food service managers will have to give preference to products that meet environmental preservation standards.
  • Culinary training courses must include a module on the environmental and health benefits of diversifying protein sources.
  • Supermarkets will have to dedicate at least 20 percent of their space to bulk sale in order to curb packaging.

Transportation

  • Advertising fossil fuels will become illegal in 2022.
  • Domestic flights are banned when there is a train alternative of two-and-a-half hours or less.

This is expected to affect 2 percent of flights in France.

  • Passenger cars that emit more than 95 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer will be banned by 2030.

For comparison, the average new Renault emits about 126 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer.

Urban planning

  • Cities with 150,000 inhabitants or more (currently nineteen) will be required to create low-emissions zones by 2024 where polluting cars are banned.
  • Landlords will not be allowed to rent out poorly insulated homes from 2025. Additional insulation requirements will come into effect in 2028 and 2034.

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