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01 August 2018

Climate plan, national low carbon strategy, multiannual energy framework: How France will catch up with the delay in its climate policy?


On the occasion of the first anniversary of the Climate Plan on July 6th, French Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition Nicolas Hulot made a bleak observation: “this year was a sinister trailer of what we are going to experience on climate change”. Indeed, after a long period of steady decline, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in France have been rising again in recent years. On July 19th, a joint steering committee of the SNBC (National Low Carbon Strategy) and the PPE (Multiannual Energy Framework) assessed the delays in meeting the climate objectives and suggested possible solutions.

The first observation is ruthless: due to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, France will exceed its first carbon budget, covering the 2015-2018 period, by about 18 Mt/year. Gaps with the targets can be observed in the transport sector, due to the increase in road traffic and the level of emissions from new thermal vehicles, and the building sector, the number and performance of energy renovations of which are not on track in a low energy prices environment. Given the inevitable effects of inertia, France will also exceed its second carbon budget, for the 2019-2023 period, by at least 24 Mt/year, despite additional measures to get back on track. These chronic excesses should force France to be more ambitious in the subsequent carbon budgets, as excess greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere.

France plays its international credibility on the implementation of the Paris Agreement

France is therefore at a crossroads, while the European Commission will publish a new long-term decarbonation strategy by November, based on the roadmaps of each Member State. Considering the depth of carbon sinks, France has maintained its ambition to reduce its annual emissions to 80 Mt CO2eq by 2050, i.e. to carbon neutrality. The SNBC scenario for achieving this objective outlined on 19 July aims to return to the initially planned trajectory from the third carbon budget only (2024-2028 period), provided that ambitious additional public policy instruments are put in place.

What measures to get back on the right track?

The scenario, which will be integrated into the future PPE, does not quite succeed in catching up in terms of energy savings, since the drop in consumption would reach 17% in 2030, when the law aims for a 20% decrease. It will nonetheless meet the climate objectives thanks to a greater effort on fossil energies, leading to a 40% drop in energy consumption when the law aims for -30%. This logic of energy efficiency prioritizing fossil fuels reduction maximizes the positive macroeconomic benefits for France. In this scenario too, the demand for carbon-free final energy will remain high in 2050. This will require mobilising the full potential of biomass, the resources of which nevertheless remain under pressure, as well as the production of electricity and carbon-free gas. According to this scenario, electricity demand decreases (excluding hydrogen production) until 2030, then rises again until 2050, due to the acceleration of shift of uses towards carbon-free electricity, particularly in the transport and industrial sectors.
Concretely, the administration’s modelling shows that the means to live up to our ambitions will be based on a bouquet of complementary solutions, in all sectors of the economy. In the building sector, renovation efforts will have to be complemented by better control of energy demand thanks to smart consumption technologies, while the replacement of the most polluting boilers will be incentivised thanks to the “helping hand” system of Energy Savings Certificates. In the transport sector, the evolution of uses to the benefit of public transport and the acceleration of the replacement of thermal vehicles by electric vehicles will be essential. In the industrial sector, fossil fuels will be replaced by carbon-free solutions, especially with the emergence of hydrogen produced by electrolysis of water to replace grey hydrogen.

The next steps for the government will be to consult on SNBC and PPE projects, starting this summer. For the first time, and this was a strong request of UFE, the PPE will be complemented by framework for jobs and skills. This will be an opportunity not only to recall how a driving energy for a carbon-free economy electricity is, but also to insist on the issue of reskilling and professional shift. Indeed, if electricity today represents only 25% of our final energy consumption, it is the first energy in number of jobs in the territory, because it is one of the few that can be produced locally.

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