France has passed new laws aimed at reducing carbon emissions in the country. The laws include [1,2]:
- Rules preventing landlords from renting properties that are badly insulated.
- Bans of some single-use food packaging as of 2025.
- Domestic flights to be scrapped if a train can make the same journey in less than 2.5 hours (subject to exceptions).
- New speed limits and restricted access for dirty vehicles in large cities.
- Mandatory “environmental labelling” of goods and services.
The measures are part of France’s wider target of reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990 levels.
Many climate activists  (including World Wide Fund for Nature France and Greenpeace) are unimpressed with the new laws, claiming that they do not go far enough.
Fingers have been pointed at both the French president Emmanuel Macron and both houses of parliament, for watering down the rules compared to the original aspirations of the panel behind the recommendations.
Emissions targets have been at the forefront of European politics for a long time and show no signs of disappearing from the radar. The issue has perhaps most recently been underscored by deadly flooding in Germany and Belgium, which have been widely attributed to climate change.
The latest development  has been the release of the ‘Fit for 55’ package which, if approved, would put the EU on course to reduce emissions by 55 percent by 2030 (relative to 1990 levels).
The European Commission has set a target of banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2035 . This is keeping the European Union’s ambitions for sustainable transport in a more general sense, as transport currently accounts for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions within the bloc . The European Green Deal is seeking to reduce emissions from transport by 90% by 2050. A big element of realising this target will be the deployment of electric charging stations. The city of Brussels has announced a strategy  to deploy up to 11,000 charging stations by 2035.
The climate change bill was approved by the French parliament in May of 2021. At that time, the Environment Minister (Barbara Pompili) made a point of saying  “Rather than big words and huge and unachievable objectives that only generate social resistance, we are putting in place effective measures”.
A similar sentiment was expressed by former senior EU policymaker Jos Delbeke, in the context of the EU’s ‘Fit for 55’ package, who observed  that “Everybody has a target. But translating it into policies that lead to real emission reductions, that’s the most difficult part”.
Whilst politicians in France claim to be concerned with ‘social resistance’, the EU’s loftiest goals have mostly been resisted by industry and by differing opinions on the subject between the member states.
The French law has clearly come in below the expectations of some, but there may be merit to the argument that clearing a low bar is better than falling short of a high one. It remains to be seen how effective the new law will be in practice and how it will stack up against the efforts of France’s contemporaries.
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 Breeden, A (10 July 2021), France Passes Climate Law, but Critics Say It Falls Short (link), New York Times.
 Huet, N (20 July 2021), France’s new climate law has just been approved. So why are activists so unimpressed? (link), Euronews.
 Abnett, K (12 July 2021), A leader in climate policy: The EU’s masterplan to slash carbon emissions within a decade (link), Euronews/Reuters.
 Euronews, 27 July 2021, Brussels to install 11,000 electric charging stations by 2035 (link), Euronews.
 European Commission, Sustainable transport (link), European Commission
 Reuters (4 May 2021), French parliament approves climate change bill to green the economy (link), Reuters
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