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Ambition gap

What is Franceʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

1.5°C compatible pathways

France’s domestic emissions would need to be reduced by 62% excluding LULUCF by 2030 compared to 1990 (59% below 2010 levels) to align its economy with 1.5°C compatible domestic emissions pathways. This is 22 percentage points below the current national target of 40% below 1990 and 44 percentage points below current policy projections.

Not only this represents an ambition gap of around 120 MtCO₂e in 2030, but France is one of the EU member states not having revised its national emissions target since 2015, as compared to others such as Germany or Italy. The new EU emissions reduction goal – itself not yet compatible with 1.5°C – also makes it necessary for France to significantly increase its goal as it has a much higher capability to do more than most other EU member states.

The lack of stringent policies, notably in transport and buildings, the largest emitting sectors in the country, sets the country to miss its national target. This has led the French Council of State – the highest judicial authority in France – to order the government to align policies with the current target by 2022.2

A full fair share contribution to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions compatible with the Paris Agreement would require France to go further than its domestic emissions target, and provide substantial support for emission reductions to developing countries on top of its domestic reductions.

Long term pathway

France’s Long-Term Strategy aims for “carbon neutrality” by 2050. It interprets this as a net zero target for all GHG aiming to reduce its emissions by over 83% below 1990 levels and reach about 80 MtCO₂e of emissions, to be balanced by removals by 2050, mostly coming from the LULUCF sector but also to a lesser extent from CCS technologies.1

To be 1.5°C compatible, France’s domestic emissions should be reduced by 92% by 2050 compared to 1990 (91% below 2010 levels), excluding the LULUCF sector, or around 42 MtCO₂e/yr by 2050. This is 9 percentage points lower than the current long-term strategy 2050 target.

1 Ministère de la Transition écologique et solidaire. La transition écologique et solidaire vers la neutralité carbone. (2020).

2 Conseil d’Etat. Émissions de gaz à effet de serre : le Conseil d’État enjoint au Gouvernement de prendre des mesures supplémentaires avant le 31 mars 2022. (2021).

3 Observatoire Climat Energie. Transports – OBSERVATOIRE CLIMAT-ÉNERGIE. (2019).

4 Haut Conseil pour le Climat. Agir en cohérence avec les ambitions. Premier Rapport Annuel Du Haut Conseil Pour Le Climat. (2019).

5 Haut Conseil pour le Climat. Agir en cohérence avec les ambitions. Rapp. Annu. Neutralité Carbone (2019).

6 Government of France. National Climate and Energy Plan. (2020).

7 Ministère de l’Écologie. The Ecological and Inclusive Transition Towards Carbon Neutrality. 1–29 (2018).

8 Haut Conseil pour le Climat. Renforcer L’Attenuation , Engager L’Adaptation. Rapport Annuel 2021. (2021).

9 International Energy Agency database. Energy Data and Statistics. (2021). supply&indicator=TPESbySource

10 Ministère de la Transition Ecologique. Les énergies renouvelables en France en 2020 – Suivi de la directive 2009/28/CE relative à la promotion de l’utilisation des énergies renouvelables | Données et études statistiques. (2021).

11 European Commission. Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive (EU) 2018/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council, (…) as regards the promotion of energy from renewable sources (…). (2021).

12 Legifrance. LOI n° 2015-992 du 17 août 2015 relative à la transition énergétique pour la croissance verte (1) – Légifrance.(2015).

13 Ministère de la Transition écologique. Loi de transition énergétique pour la croissance verte | Ministère de la Transition écologique. (2015).

14 La Tribune. La France ne sortira finalement pas du charbon en 2022 : la reconversion de la centrale EDF de Cordemais est abandonnée. (2021).

15 Haut Conseil pour le Climat. Rapport annuel 2021. (2021).

16 Ministère de la Transition écologique. Plan de rénovation énergétique des bâtiments | Ministère de la Transition écologique. (2021).

Methodology

Franceʼs total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

Displayed values
Reference year
−100%−50%0%19902010203020502070
Reference year
1990
1.5°C emissions level
−62%
2030 National Target
−40%
Ambition gap
−22%
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Current policy projections
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Historical emissions
2030 emissions levels
Current policy projections
2030 National Target
1.5°C emissions level
Ref. year 1990
548MtCO₂e/yr

Energy system transformation

Renewable energy provides the greatest contribution to decarbonising the energy system. The 1.5°C compatible pathways analysed here indicates an uptake of 20-40% of the energy supply in 2030 and 40-60% in 2050. Although France currently relies heavily on nuclear, there are opportunities to transition to zero emissions technologies such as renewable energy and could reach levels of 37-70% by 2030 and up to 100% by 2050.

Through the EU Directive on renewable energy (Directive (EU) 2018/2001), France has a target for renewable energy to reach 32% by 2030 in final energy consumption, which would increase to 55.6% by 2030 if the Fit for 55 package were to be adopted as published in July 2021.6 This would require more stringent policies to speed the deployment of renewables and meet this target.

The decline in energy consumption is a key component in some 1.5°C scenarios we analysed. Three scenarios show reduction in energy consumption of 25-40% between 2017 and 2030, which would translate to levels of 150-186 Mtoe in 2030, and of 16-59% between 2017 and 2050. France’s law on energy transition for green growth targets primary energy consumption of 202.2 Mtoe in 2030 – which is not in line with these reductions.12

While our analysis shows the deployment of negative emissions technologies from bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) starting in 2040, they stay well below 20% of energy demand by 2050, except in a high energy demand scenario. The country envisions in its low carbon strategy the use of BECCS to a limited extent, aiming at contributing to around -6 MtCO₂e/yr of negative emissions by 2050.6

Finally, CO₂ emissions, largely dominated by those arising from energy production, show reductions of 48-65% below 2015 levels by 2030, in contrast with France’s Low Carbon National Strategy, targeting emissions reductions of 33% below 2015 levels by 2030.

Methodology

Franceʼs primary energy mix

petajoule per year

Scaling
SSP1 Low CDR reliance
201920302040205010 000
SSP1 High CDR reliance
201920302040205010 000
Low Energy Demand
201920302040205010 000
High Energy Demand - Low CDR reliance
201920302040205010 000
  • Negative emissions technologies via BECCS
  • Unabated fossil
  • Renewables incl. Biomass
  • Nuclear and/or fossil with CCS

Franceʼs total CO₂ emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂/yr

−200−100010020030040019902010203020502070
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Historical emissions

1.5°C compatible emissions benchmarks

Key emissions benchmarks of Paris compatible Pathways for France. The 1.5°C compatible range is based on the Paris Agreement compatible pathways from the IPCC SR1.5 filtered with sustainability criteria. The median (50th percentile) to 5th percentile and middle of the range are provided here. Relative reductions are provided based on the reference year.

Reference year
Indicator
1990
Reference year
2019
2030
2040
2050
Year of net zero GHG
incl. BECCS excl. LULUCF and novel CDR
Total GHG
Megatonnes CO₂ equivalent per year
548
436
206
176 to 241
85
57 to 136
61
−29 to 71
2047
Relative to reference year in %
−62%
−68 to −56%
−84%
−90 to −75%
−89%
−105 to −87%
Total CO₂
MtCO₂/yr
400
327
135
119 to 178
27
11 to 79
2
−69 to 27
2052
2042 to 2062
Relative to reference year in %
−66%
−70 to −55%
−93%
−97 to −80%
−99%
−117 to −93%

Footnotes