24 June 2010

France catching up with other member states on environment

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The French government has launched an ambitious plan to meet the EU's '20/20/20' climate objectives on emission reductions and renewable energy. The Grenelle 2 law, adopted in May 2010, was widely welcomed as an improvement, but many voices criticised the government for backtracking from its initial objectives. EurActiv France reports.

In 2007, with France lagging behind other European countries in the fight against climate change, the President Nicolas Sarkozy's government decided to give a new impetus to sustainable development. He seemed ambitious and even talked about a 'New Green Deal'.

A wide consultation with civil society followed, the so-called 'Grenelle de l’Environnement', which led to a 2009 law setting out the principles and objectives that France should follow. The law was adopted almost unanimously by the French parliament. A second law, Grenelle 2, will establish concrete measures for achieving the initial objectives and should be adopted very soon.

On 20 June, EU member states adopted the 'Europe 2020' strategy for growth and jobs. The new strategy includes the '20/20/20' targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions and renewable energies outlined in the EU's climate and energy package, but also allows for a possible further increase in emission reductions – to 30% – if the European Commission sees this as attainable.

The EU's 20/20/20 objectives on greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency were integrated into Grenelle 1 and were not called into question by the political parties. Regarding the 20% objective of renewable energy sources, France decided to go further and established a target of 23%. Measures dedicated to implementing this goal are contained in Grenelle 2.

While political consensus emerged during Grenelle 1, Grenelle 2 sparked fierce debate. The socialist and green opposition accused the majority of backtracking on some ambitious measures due to pressure from lobbyists wanting looser regulation. This setback would not enable France to meet its EU objectives, they claimed.

A deputy minister in charge of ecology, Chantal Jouanno, even expressed disappointment after the vote and immediately called for a third law to go further in ''revising our growth pattern''.

(EurActiv.com)

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