After weeks of heated debates, French deputies are preparing to vote on a new climate law on Tuesday, supported by the ruling party of President Emmanuel Macron, but which environmentalists consider “insufficient” in the face of the climate emergency.
The bill will almost certainly be approved at first reading by the lower house of parliament, where Macron has a majority, but it has been heavily criticized by environmental groups. Once approved, it will go to the Senate in June.
The text includes the abolition of domestic flights of less than two and a half hours to destinations that can be reached by train, the creation of a “crime of ecocide”, the introduction of a voucher for the purchase of electric bicycles and the ban on renting poorly insulated housing from 2028.
The overall goal is to put in place measures that will allow France to meet its goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by the 2030 deadline.
French Environment Minister Barbara Pompili has defended the text saying that it will have an impact “on the daily lives of all our citizens” and that it is “one of the greatest laws of the mandate” of Macron.
But NGOs like Greenpeace and the Climate Action Network denounce instead a “missed opportunity” and a “bill to pretend to act.”
In addition, it is less ambitious than the new 55% cut targets agreed at the EU level and falls short of a German plan that was rejected last week by the country’s Constitutional Court as “insufficient”.
Climate change and environmental protection are likely to be bigger issues in next year’s presidential election than in past 2017, in which Macron won with little or no campaigning on the issue.
The main party of the Greens in France made significant gains in cities such as Strasbourg, Bordeaux and Lyon in local elections last year, reflecting a trend across Europe in favor of environmental groups.
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The climate law has also been a test of what Macron has announced as a more inclusive form of government for which he invited members of the citizenry to help draft it.
One hundred and fifty people were randomly chosen to form a “Citizen’s Climate Convention,” which was tasked with recommending measures that would allow the country to meet its emissions targets.
But after seeing the legislation presented to parliament, many members were disappointed and accused Macron of reneging on a commitment to adopt their ideas.
The government replies that it is trying to find a balance between reducing emissions and protecting workers and industry at a time when the economy has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even if approved by the Lower House and Senate, the new law will almost certainly have to be updated in order for France to meet the European Union’s emissions reduction targets.
The European Parliament and EU member states agreed in late April on a reduction target of at least 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels, compared to the 40% target set in French law.