June 24. 2024. 6:34

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France cuts emissions by 5.8% in 2023: Politicians celebrate, NGOs sceptical

Politicians have been quick to celebrate France’s 5.8% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in 2023 from a year earlier, but environmental NGOs questioned whether the progress can be sustained without additional policy measures.

“It’s unprecedented!” French President Emmanuel Macron said on X on Wednesday (22 May) as he shared the figures from CITEPA, the body responsible for monitoring France’s greenhouse gas emissions.

CITEPA’s official figures show that France reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 5.8% between 2023 and 2022.

If maintained, this rate of reduction would allow France it to meet its national, European, and international decarbonisation targets, such as those set out in the Paris Agreement.

2023’s emission reductions follows a reduction of 2.7% in 2022. Between 2017 and 2023, French emissions have fallen from 460 million tonnes of CO2 to 370 million tonnes, a drop of around 20%.

“This is the result of our action in France and in Europe. It’s working!” French MEP Pascal Canfin, chairman of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, said on X.

The reaction from environmental NGOs was more guarded, however.

“A little modesty would be welcome” Anne Bringault, director of programmes at the Climate Action Network, posted on X, adding that while “the fall in greenhouse gas emissions in France is good news, it’s important to analyse the causes before congratulating ourselves”.

A combination of drivers, say NGOs

The reduction in 2023 is largely due to the return to play of France’s nuclear fleet, half of which was shut down in 2022, forcing the country to import and reignite electricity from fossil fuels, Bringault explained.

Industry recorded a 9% drop in emissions in 2023 – but Bringault attributed this mainly to a fall in economic activity, rather than structural improvements in industry’s climate impact.

Not all sectors are experiencing a large decline, structural or otherwise. Transport emissions, for example, are down by only 3%. Worse still, air transport recorded a 16% increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

In other words, “this trajectory [of lower emissions] will only be sustainable if additional measures are implemented,” Bringault warned.

European targets

By 2030, France wants to achieve a 50% (55% net) reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels – in line with the ambitions of the European Green Deal.

A 5.8% annual reduction rate will allow France to achieve these targets – but only if it becomes structural – i.e. if France achieves similar reductions every year.

Germany is also reducing emissions at record levels, achieving a 10.1% reduction between 2023 and 2022, and 46% since 1990. However the overall current plans of the 27 member states will only enable them to reduce emissions by 51% by 2030, short of the 55% target.

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