With its “CLEW Guide” series, the Clean Energy Wire newsroom and contributors from across Europe are providing journalists with a bird's-eye view of the climate-friendly transition from key countries and the bloc as a whole. You can also sign up to the weekly newsletter here to receive our "Dispatch from..." – weekly updates from Germany, France, Italy, Croatia, Poland and the EU on the need-to-know about the continent’s move to climate neutrality.
With contributions by Camille Lafrance.
*** Please note: You can find a full dossier exploring Franco-German approaches to climate and energy policy and effects on the EU here.***
- France, like all other EU member states, is heavily reliant on fossil fuels, which accounted for almost half of its primary energy mix in 2022, with oil accounting for 28 percent and gas for 15 percent.
- In coordination with government body SGPE (Secrétariat général à la planification écologique), French president Emmanuel Macron in September 2023 outlined key elements of a new climate plan (known as “ecologic planning”). It includes the promise to increase annual public funds from the national budget to finance the transition to a total of 40 billion euros in 2024, and the pledge to end coal power by 2027. The government also emphasised the importance of boosting the installation of heat pumps, the domestic production of electric vehicles (EVs), and pledged 700 million euros worth of investments in the creation of 13 commuter train projects in and around French cities. NGO Réseau Action Climat published a report on where France stands regarding its climate targets.
- After being the largest net power importer in 2022 due to an unstable nuclear output that raised energy security concerns in Western Europe, France became the biggest net power exporter of Europe in the first half of 2023, making it a key electricity producer in the 27-member bloc.
- With around two-thirds of France’s electricity produced by nuclear power, the emissions of the country’s energy sector are lower than those of several other European countries, such as Germany.
- Experts have found that France is not making sufficient progress towards its carbon neutrality goal and needs 66 billion euros in public and private investment per year by 2030 in order to reach its climate objectives.
- Launched in 2021, the country’s 54-billion-euro investment plan, France 2030, is expected to improve the competitiveness of its industrial sector, encourage investments and innovation and support the low-carbon transition, among other priorities.
- A combination of infrastructural issues at nuclear power plants and the energy crisis of last year have pushed the government to move ahead with a law to speed up the deployment of renewables and another one to accelerate the construction of new nuclear reactors.
- France adopted a new green industry bill in autumn 2023. It mainly aims at financing green industry, facilitating and accelerating the setup of new industry and rehabilitating brownfield sites, as well as making public procurement greener. A green industry investment tax credit (C3IV) was created as part of the package.
Major transition stories
- Climate protests – Climate demonstrations in France have been described as more radical than in the neighbouring countries, which has led the government to cite public safety risks following violent protests over megabasins in early 2023.
- Just transition – Last year, the European Commission laid down an investment strategy worth 18.4 million euros for the period 2021-2027 as part of a partnership agreement with France. The funds are set to promote the country’s economic, social and territorial cohesion, along with its green and digital transition.
- Energy sufficiency – Following on from efforts to save energy and avoid power cuts during the winter of 2022, the government proposed a follow-up energy sobriety plan across all sectors to ensure further savings (e.g. higher penalties for high-emitting vehicles, speed reductions on highways, limiting interior temperatures in buildings) and raise awareness overall.
- Decarbonisation strategy – The French government unveiled in September a new decarbonisation plan in a bid to reduce the country’s emissions based on sufficiency, energy efficiency measures, and the deployment of nuclear and renewables. France has also laid out a low-carbon national strategy (SNBC) with short-term budgets and a fixed emissions ceiling, which is currently being revised.
- Adaptation strategy – After a series of heatwaves, floods, wildfires and droughts in recent years, France rebooted its strategy to adapt to the consequences of climate change. This new plan includes proposals for adapting to 4 degrees Celsius of warming, signalling the environment ministry’s readiness to prepare for the worst. Another strategy is expected to be presented in December.
- Sustainable finance – In July 2023, the French national assembly adopted the “Say on Climate” amendment as part of the government’s green industry bill, which aims to promote the country’s homegrown clean industries. It would have made France the first country in the world to require listed companies to consult their shareholders on their climate strategies via “Say on Climate” resolutions. However, the amendment was dropped in autumn.
- Investment programme – The French government plans to invest half of its France 2030 programme aimed at improving the nation’s industrial competitiveness for the energy and ecological transition, mainly to decarbonise its economy.
- The sector is responsible for about 10 percent of total GHG emissions.
- Electricity mix in 2022: 63 percent from nuclear, 13 percent wind and solar, 11 percent hydropower, 10 percent gas.
- After shutdowns and stress corrosion outages sent France’s nuclear output to a 33-year low in 2022, fully state-owned utility company EDF saw power generation at its French reactors rise by 12.4 percent year-on-year to 22.7 TWh in June. Amid heatwaves, the power company continues to warn of high water temperatures, particularly in the Rhone river. Droughts also reduced EDF’s hydropower generation.
- French energy minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher is pushing for a new European alliance of nuclear countries, which together could produce up to 150 GW capacity by 2050 (compared to 100 GW currently) through the continued operation of existing facilities, the construction of 30 to 45 large new reactors, and the establishment of an industrial alliance on small and modular reactors (SMRs).
While the court of Auditors has recently confirmed that France is lagging behind and highlighted the obstacles to the sector's development, France is redoubling its efforts to speed up the development of renewable energies after missing its target in 2020. By 2050, the government is targeting a tenfold increase in solar power to exceed 100 GW of installed capacity, hopes to double onshore wind output to 40 GW and aims to deploy 50 offshore wind parks to hit 40 GW of capacity as well. But experts estimate that the current deployment rate is insufficient, especially as the European Union agreed to a renewable goal of at least 42.5 percent by 2030. The country also wants to become a leader in green and low-emission hydrogen, with the target of producing 10 percent of the decarbonised hydrogen needed for the industry in 2023 and between 20 percent and 40 percent in 2028. It plans to subsidise green hydrogen production with 700 million euros and to put out a call for tenders for new electrolysis development in 2024.
- France is looking to produce between 24 and 42 TWh of biogas in 2028 (four to six times the production in 2017), according to its multi-annual energy plan PPE, and overall double the pace at which it adds new biogas capacity before the end of the decade. The government also renewed its focus on electrifying transport with incentives aimed at promoting electric car use.
- Russia’s war on Ukraine and the associated fossil fuel import cuts have compelled France to find alternative sources of energy, including renewables, and also an investment push in LNG import infrastructure to secure gas supplies. France increased its LNG imports from Russia in the last two years, with major oil and gas producer TotalEnergies continuing its operations in the energy-rich nation.
- In the first half of 2023, France overtook Sweden as the largest net exporter of power in Europe, at 17.6 TWh in total. In 2022, the country was the largest net power importer due to an unstable nuclear output that raised energy security concerns in Western Europe.
- France’s two remaining coal-fired plants, which the country fired back up at the onset of the conflict in Ukraine, will operate until the end of 2024 for 500 hours more than the 1,300-hour ceiling initially authorised in order to avoid winter blackouts. This is permitted by a relaxation of GHG standards. As part of its new climate plan, the government plans to convert these plants into biomass by 2027.
- The sector is responsible for about 18 percent of total GHG emissions.
- France’s most energy-intensive industries include steel, chemicals, cements and non-ferrous metals, which led the government to publish a series of roadmaps in 2021 with a view to reducing emissions by 26 percent between 2015 and 2030 for the chemical sector, by 24 percent for cement, and by 31 percent for mining and metallurgy. The government also aims to have 50 of the most climate-damaging industrial sites sign a deal by November to reduce their GHG emissions by 45 percent by 2030.
- As part of efforts to decarbonise its industry, France plans to scale up clean technology innovation and ensure competitive conditions for national startups and large companies.
- France’s green industry bill, which will be discussed in autumn 2023, aims to support the creation of new sites for green hydrogen, battery production, wind power, heat pumps and solar panels. Inspired by the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the bill includes a tax credit designed to attract industrial investments in green technologies from 2024.
- The sector is responsible for about 18 percent of total GHG emissions.
- As part of its new decarbonisation roadmap, the government intends to reduce the carbon footprint of construction products and systems and develop a culture based on the low-carbon operation of buildings.
- Launched in 2018, France’s energy renovation plan for buildings, known as 'France Rénov’, is spurring consumers to renovate their homes. By allocating home renovation grants, the main aim is to reduce power bills and increase efficiency.
- The government also plans to triple the domestic production of heat pumps over the next four years as part of its new climate plan.
- The sector is responsible for about 29 percent of total GHG emissions.
- France aims to produce one million EVs by 2027 and is looking to onshore more manufacturing capacity. This was demonstrated by the recent inauguration of the first lithium-ion battery production gigafactory in northern France by Automotive Cells Company (ACC). Its initial production capacity will be over 13 GWh by the end of 2024, before rising to 40 GWh by 2030.
- As part of its new decarbonisation roadmap, the government is looking to reduce the automobile sector's carbon footprint (including heavy vehicles) by decarbonising materials and components, increasing subsidies for domestic output, allowing tax reductions around industrial sites, and favouring the recycling of used battery materials.
- The government has announced 30 million euros in funding for two automotive battery recycling projects as part of the France 2030 plan. One of them, led by Veolia, Solvay and Renault, is expected to reach a capacity of 10,000 tonnes in 2023.
- The country is also planning to further develop low-carbon liquid fuels, biogas, electricity and hydrogen to decarbonise its fleet of heavy vehicles.
- France will invest 500 million euros of public funds in the coming years to develop low-carbon aircraft, engines and sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs), in addition to planning to build the first low-carbon plane by 2030.
Land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF)
- The sector had net-negative emissions of about 14 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2020.
- Greenpeace has called for a national moratorium on the construction of new livestock and poultry farms.
- The carbon storage capacity of forest ecosystems in France has halved in 10 years. According to the government, the country needs to invest up to 10 billion euros over ten years to adapt its forests to climate change.
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