France reveals first measures to combat climate change

France reveals first measures to combat climate change
Mont Ventoux in the southeast will become a regional park. Photo:AFP
The French government this week laid out the first package of 146 citizen-created measures that will be put in place in a bid to reduce the country's carbon emissions. Here's a look at what's changing and how it will impact daily life.

What is happening?

To do France’s part in the global fight to tackle climate change – and in response to the 'yellow vest' protesters' calls for more direct democracy – President Emmanuel Macron in 2019 set up a Citizen's Convention on Climate (CCC) of 150 randomly picked members of the public who, after months of discussions, came up with dozens of proposals to reduce France’s carbon emissions.

When the Council presented their proposals in June, Macron promised to retain 146 of the total 149.

This week the government has presented some of the first steps to be taken, including a controversial nationwide ban on heating terraces for the country’s bars and restaurants.

“People now understand that we are at risk and that, if we don't do anything, we'll have an ecological crisis after this health crisis,” Macron's new Environment Minister Barbara Pompili told French daily Le Monde on Monday when she presented the first batch of measures.

What will change?

Heating terraces will be banned as of 2021. This is a controversial step that comes amid a national economic downturn caused by the coronavirus health crisis, which hit the restaurant sector especially hard.

READ ALSO 'Energy monsters' – Can Paris cafés survive a ban on heated terraces?

 

Two new regional natural parks will be constructed in Mont-Ventoux in the southeast and in Somme-Picardy in the north. Alsatians will also get a national reservoir in the Robertsau forest. 

France has committed to protect 30 percent of its land surface from development, and this will be a step to keep with that commitment.

Housing 'decency' will become a legal criteria as of January 1st 2023.

In practice that means that from that date any tenant in a house consuming more than 500 kilowatt of energy per square meter per year can ask the landlord to renovate the building. Heating of buildings currently represents 20 percent of France's greenhouse gases.

Coal and oil heaters will be banned in 2022.
 
As of January 1st 2022, anyone building a new home will have to choose different means of heating, and anyone whose oil or coal boiler breaks down will have to replace it with a different kind of heater.

New limits on development will also be rolled out to limit the “concreting” of natural areas, though the government held back on an outright ban of new shopping malls outside cities, long demanded by green activists.

The measures were adopted by government decree to speed up the legal process, and parliament will receive a bill to vote over “in September-October,” according to Marc Fesnau, Deputy Minister in charge of relations with parliament and citizen participation.

“The bill should be examined in the beginning of 2021,” Fesnau told Le Monde.


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