PARIS: France is falling short of its greenhouse gas reduction targets, with major sectors continuing to emit too much CO2 and carbon sinks not working as expected, according to the latest Climate-Energy Observatory revealed on Thursday.
This annual observatory was designed by the Climate Action Network (RAC) with other partners including the ecological transition agency Ademe.
It compares national emissions with the targets France has defined as part of its plans, the National Low Carbon Strategy (SNBC) and the Multiannual Energy Program (PPE).
The country aims for zero net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, which means that in this horizon residual emissions must be compensated by absorption by carbon sinks.
The year 2021 led to a recovery in gross emissions (excluding absorption) of greenhouse gases with a partial recovery of economic activity. However, France is still respecting the trajectory it has set for this crude indicator, the observatory notes.
“We are on a trajectory”, noted the Ministry of Ecological Transformation, recalling the 23% decrease in French emissions compared to 1990. France has committed to reducing them by 40% by 2030, an ambition that needs to be strengthened to take into account the new European targets ( -55%).
On the other hand, in terms of net emissions (including absorption by forests and soil), “the indicative annual share of the carbon budget is exceeded by 20.4 million tons of CO2 equivalent, taking into account the degradation of the forest well over several years,” the observatory notes.
The country thus produced 404.4 million net tons of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) last year, with a target of 384 million net tons.
It is in the forestry and soil sectors, which should serve as carbon sinks, that the gap between the stated goal and what actually happened is the widest.
This absorption target has been “overstated”, estimates Zélie Victor, head of the Energy Transition Unit at the Climate Action Network. CO2 absorption, which is still difficult to calculate, is weakened by artificial land management, drought or fires.
“It reminds us above all that we will have to focus primarily on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and not only on their absorption, but also better take into account the development and protection of forests and soil”, emphasized Zelie Victor.
Regarding this issue of carbon sequestration, the Ministry of Ecological Transformation acknowledged the situation “more alarming due to drought, various diseases that have affected our forests, etc. Not to mention this summer’s fires that could have an impact this year.
By activity, the transport sector remains the largest producer of emissions with 30.1% of national emissions, followed by agriculture (19.4%) and industry (18.6%).
According to the observatory, transport and buildings met their “carbon budget” in 2021, with the two sectors benefiting from traffic restrictions and mild weather. Agriculture and industry, on the other hand, deviated from their trajectories.
Finally, in the crucial energy sector, the transition away from fossil fuels remains “difficult”, while the country lags behind “significantly late in the field of renewable energies and the decline of energy consumption”, the observatory points out.
On Thursday, President Emmanuel Macron correctly concluded that France should speed up not only nuclear but also wind and solar energy.