France - climate

French MPs set to approve new climate law criticised by green groups

Environmentalists say the French government's new law falls short
Environmentalists say the French government's new law falls short LOIC VENANCE AFP/File

The French parliament is set to vote through a new climate change law on Tuesday intended by President Emmanuel Macron to reinforce his green credentials one year ahead of national elections.


The draft legislation is almost certain to be approved in a first reading by the lower house of parliament, where Macron has a working majority, but it has been heavily criticised by environmental groups.

Campaigners see it as too timid given the pace of climate change globally and accuse the French leader of half-hearted commitment to a cause he has admitted to embracing belatedly.

France's environment minister, Barbara Pompili, has defended the text, saying it "will affect the daily life of all of our citizens" and is "one of the biggest laws of the (president's) term".

Measures include bans on domestic flights under two and half hours that can be done by train, restrictions on renting badly insulated properties, or the creation of a new "ecocide" crime to punish polluters.

The overall aim is to put in place measures that will enable France to meet its target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent compared with 1990 levels by a deadline of 2030.


Lobby groups such as Greenpeace have called it a "lost opportunity of Macron's term", while even the president's own environmental advisory council said it would "have a potentially limited impact".

It is also less ambitious than new targets for 55 percent cuts agreed at the EU level and falls short of a German plan which was rejected last week by the country's constitutional court as "insufficient".

Climate change and protection of the environment are likely to be bigger themes in next year's presidential election than the last one in 2017, which Macron won while barely campaigning on the issue.

The main Green party in France made major gains in cities such as Strasbourg, Bordeaux and Lyon in local elections last year, mirroring a Europe-wide trend in favour of environmental groups.

In Germany, the Green party has overtaken Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives in recent polls.

Citizen's Climate Convention

The climate law has also been a test of what Macron billed as a more inclusive form of government that has seen members of the public invited to help draft the legislation.

After the anti-government Yellow Vest protests, which began in 2018, he pledged to change his leadership style which was seen by critics as too centralised and removed from the wider public.

A hundred and fifty people were chosen at random to form a "Citizen's Climate Convention" which was tasked with recommending measures that would enable the country to meet its emissions targets.

But after seeing the legislation submitted to parliament, many members felt let down and accused Macron of reneging on a commitment to adopt their ideas.


Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Keep up to date with international news by downloading the RFI app