France sets 2050 carbon-neutral target with new law

PARIS (Reuters) - French lawmakers on Thursday voted into law the first article in a climate and energy package that sets goals for France to cut its greenhouse gas emissions and go carbon-neutral by 2050 in line with the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

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French Ecology Minister Francois de Rugy said in a statement that the adoption of the law places France among the first countries to adopt concrete measures to go carbon neutral.

Britain announced on June 12 it would enshrine a new commitment to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 into law, marking a first among G7 nations facing increasingly severe impacts from the climate crisis.

At a European Union summit on June 20, a push by most EU nations for the bloc to go carbon-neutral by 2050 was dropped to a footnote after resistance from Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

Environmental groups and France’s own independent climate advisory council (HCC) have warned it was falling short of its own previously set targets to curb emissions and was doing little to change consumer behavior.

De Rugy said in the statement that quantified emission reduction targets have been written into the new law.

“At a time when we are confronted by climate change with phenomena such as the current heatwave, we reaffirmed our ambitions with this law... by inscribing in marble the principle of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050,” he said.

The law raises France’s target of reducing consumption of fossil fuels by 40% by 2030 compared with a 30% target cut today. It also includes targets to speed the development of low carbon energies and renewable hydrogen.

A key measure of the bill aims to cut emissions and reduce energy consumption from around 7.2 million badly insulated homes in France and would push proprietors through incentives to carry out renovation works by 2028.

The housing sector accounts for around 45% of energy consumption in France and a quarter of carbon emissions.

The measures in the climate and energy bill will give the government the legal muscle to force France’s remaining four coal-fired power plants to close by 2022 by imposing restrictive emissions targets on them.

It would also provide a roadmap for the application of France’s 2019-2028 medium-term energy policy known as the PPE.

Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Mark Heinrich