This item was first published in July 2019.
Why is the French Government failing to meet its own goals on limiting CO2 emissions?
A blog by Pierre Calame provides insights into why France is not meeting its targets on energy and the climate emergency. The messages apply to many other countries too. Calame points out that successive French governments have set national “carbon budgets” every four years. Drawing on data from a new report by the French Supreme Council for the Climate, Calame demonstrates that the 2015–2018 budget was not complied with. While direct consumption of fossil energy, not including the energy embodied in export products, decreased by 1.1% per year, this was less than the 1.9% set by decree, and well short of the 3% per year needed to comply with climate-related commitments. Indeed, “since 1995 import-related greenhouse gas emissions, called grey energy, have doubled while those related to domestic production have diminished no more than 20%.” In other words, France’s national reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is not explained by energy-efficiency efforts, but rather by deindustrialization in France, which effectively has transferred energy-consuming production to other countries. The fundamental point then is that an energy policy that only addresses emissions within the national territory is flawed, even misleading. You might add that it shifts the blame for failure to cut emissions away from wealthy “consumer countries” and places it on poorer “producer countries”.
The report from the Supreme Council exposes further failings. It notes that while public authorities set energy goals, it is business-as-usual in most of their other fields of policy and practice. This is a familiar problem, reflecting more general failures to connect across policy silos. However, Calame introduces a second and more original line of analysis. He identifies the way that the legal status of limited liability not only protects companies from what should be responsiblities, but also then creates “societies with unlimited irresponsibility.” So it is that governments can set climate goals which they can also ignore with impunity. Legally there is nothing to make them adhere to their targets, no penalty for missing them.
Similarly, the blog reveals that the main French life-insurance companies do not mention climate risk in their portfolio of risks. What they do identify is reputational risk.”In plain language what this means is that these portfolios are threatened, not by climate disaster but by the fact that society is starting to believe in it and might decide to frown on companies not taking this risk seriously,” says Calame.