France adopts long-awaited energy law

energy law

French energy minister Ségolène Royal. Creative Commons: Guillaume Paumier, 2007

All eyes are on France this week, as its government adopted its long-awaited Energy Bill which will introduce an ambitious carbon tax, cut fossil fuel use and boost renewables.

By adopting these measures the country joins a host of other countries, including its EU neighbours the UK, Finland, and Denmark, as well as South Korea, Mexico and Vietnam in enacting legislation to cut emissions and boost renewable energy production.

Prepared under four successive energy ministers, culminating with incumbent Segolene Royal the new rules will see the country adopt a new carbon price, to reach €56 per tonne by 2020 and €100 by 2030.

The law also commits the country to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030 on 1990 levels; reduce energy consumption 50 per cent by 2050 compared to 2012; and achieve a 32 per cent of renewable in energy consumption by 2030.

Together these measures send a signal that the direction of travel is away from dirty fossil fuels towards a clean energy future and have been welcomed by NGOs as a “positive sign” just “a few months ahead of COP21”.

Anne Bringault, in charge of energy transition for Réseau Action Climat said:

The trajectory for the raise of carbon taxation, a few months ahead of COP21, is a positive sign that will have to materialize in the finance law for 2016 with a raise on at least 3 years to finance the fight against fuel poverty and investments in solutions for the energy transition.

How these ambitious target are to be met, however, is less clear.

In the original draft bill, the government would have been required to produce a detailed three-year plan by the end of 2015, but in the final text, they must merely have open discussions by the year’s end to a “multi-year” implementation strategy. This effectively postpones the tough and costly decisions into next year.

While the Bill is being seen as a “positive sign” for the on-going transition away from dirty energy and towards a renewable energy future, NGOs are warning that postponing the implementation of the law, originally expected later this year, is a “dangerous and costly strategy” that leaves the door open for weakening the ambitious targets.

Yannick Rousselet, an Energy expert at Greenpeace France said:

We have been waiting for the Energy Transition to take place since the beginning of François Hollande’s mandate. A law has finally been adopted, setting clear objectives. Now the President has to take concrete measures to reduce the share of nuclear power in France, by closing nuclear reactors and expanding renewable energies.

petition launched by Greenpeace France asking him to take action now has already collected 49,000 signatures.

With the spotlight firmly on France to play the role of fair an ambitious COP president, a role which requires the government walking the walk on climate action and green groups are calling on them to urgently implement a robust pathway to achieving their ambitions.

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