ISSN 2330-717X

French Climate Bill Draws Fire After Government Snubs Citizens’ Convention

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By Lucie Duboua-Lorsch

(EurActiv) — France’s ‘climate and resilience’ bill – due to be examined by the Council of Ministers on Wednesday (10 February) – has already come under fire, particularly after a report published on Monday denounced tactics used by the industry to torpedo proposals made by the Citizen’s Climate Convention (CCC).

Three days before the climate bill’s official presentation, 110 environmental and social organisations have denounced its lack of ambition and called for the government and MPs to “revive (its) initial ambition” in an open letter.

The signatories emphasised that “this bill gives way to incitement and simple encouragement to change practices where intervention by the public authorities is required”.

‘Insufficient reduction in GHG emissions’

While criticism coming from environmental NGOs is hardly surprising, the French consultative assembly, the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (Cese), warned once again “of the urgency to respect the planned climate trajectories” in its opinion presented on 27 January.

“The numerous measures in the bill are generally relevant, but nevertheless often remain limited, deferred or subject to such conditions that their implementation in the near future is uncertain,” the rapporteurs said.

The National Council for Ecological Transition (CNTE) also expressed “concern about the insufficient reduction in GHG emissions induced by this law” in its opinion of 26 January.

At the core of the debate is the issue of non-compliance with climate targets.

While Paris has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, after it had committed at the EU level to reduce overall emission levels by at least 55% by 2030, the impact study accompanying the climate bill acknowledged that the measures laid out in the bill will not achieve the 40% target.

Non-compliance with climate objectives

National Assembly MP Matthieu Orphelin, formerly with En Marche, expressed anger at the climate bill’s “lack of ambition” in a letter to the president and prime minister.

According to Orphelin, a former engineer with the French environment and energy management agency, barring some miscalculation, France would emit “21.9% less than in 1990” in 2030 – which is far from the expected 40%.

Faced with this shortfall, Orphelin recommends integrating “the most impacting measures into the bill that will really put France on the right track for climate action”.

A few days after this letter was sent, the lawmaker set out five measures on his Twitter account that would make it possible to reduce French CO2 emissions “by four”.

The measures recommended by Orphelin all stem from the CCC’s proposals but were postponed by the government in recent months. They include the obligation to comprehensively renovate housing, zero-rate eco-loans for the purchase of low-emission vehicles, advertising regulation, a levy on nitrogen fertilisers, etc.

A drop in standards explained by a huge lobbying offensive

The latest criticism comes from the Observatory of Multinationals’ report published on Monday (8 January), which complained of the industry’s tactics to torpedo the CCC’s proposals.

“As soon as the convention’s proposals were published, the main industrial sectors concerned (automobile, aeronautics, agrochemicals, advertising) launched a major lobbying offensive to obtain their dismantling,” the report reads. However, according to the president’s promises, the 146 proposals should have been retained in the bill.

The bill “is now only a very pale copy of the proposals made last June because “industrialists have gone to great lengths to empty it of all ambition,” the report adds. It also highlighted the extent of private sector support and intermediaries within ministries and public institutions.

With a wealth of resources at their fingertips, industry lobbyists used arguments related to safeguarding employment, threatening relocations, and potential loss of competitiveness. Lobbyists also used their connections with public officials and proposed the financing of think tanks capable of providing “seemingly objective technical arguments”, according to the report.

The Citizens Climate Convention was “designed to open the discussion beyond the boundaries of industry and government, in order to bring about real change,” said the report’s coordinator, Olivier Petitjean. “There are powerful industrial interests that basically refuse to do their fair share […] to deal with the climate emergency,” he added.

What’s missing?

Some of the CCC’s flagship measures are absent from the bill, including the introduction of eco-conditionality for public bailouts and the ban on financing new agro-industrial livestock farms.

Other measures have been weakened, for example, the obligation for homeowners and landlords to renovate now only concerns landlords and does not specify the required energy performance targets.

Besides, the ban on domestic flights which can be completed in less than four hours by train has been reduced to less than 2.5 hours, with many exceptions, the report says.

Also largely absent is the advertising ban for products that emit high levels of greenhouse gases. The measure has been replaced by a much more limited ban on direct advertising for fossil fuels (oil, coal, and gas), which in reality hardly exists at all.

It remains to be seen what the High Climate Council, an independent body that rarely minces its words, will say about the government’s bill, and its assessment is expected before 25 February.

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