“I said that we will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we did it twice as fast as before: -12% in this five-year period.”

  • The 12% drop in greenhouse gas emissions was “miscalculated,” according to Citepa, the body responsible for measuring those emissions.
  • In mainland France alone, emissions fell by 9% between 2017 and 2021. This is almost twice as much as in the previous five-year period (-5%).
  • This performance is largely due to the sharp drop in activity levels following the health crisis, as well as measures taken prior to 2017.
  • France is currently unable to meet its 2050 carbon neutrality target.

Even after the first round of the presidential election, Emmanuel Macron presented himself as a pioneer in the fight against air pollution: “In the past five years, we have reduced greenhouse gas emissions twice as fast,” he launched in front of his supporters on April 12 in Strasbourg. “That’s twice as much as in the previous five-year term,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal explained in detail to France Inter the day before.

When his candidacy was announced on March 17, 2021, the presidential candidate was proud of his track record in this area, more specifically: “I said that we will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we did it twice as fast as before: – 12 % over that five-year period,” he said.

Is this complacency justified?

A miscalculation

To find out, we called Citepa. This association is the reference organization in France for the calculation and analysis of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It is mandated by the Ministry of Ecological Transition and works in particular with the European Union and the UN.

According to their latest report, published in July 2021, greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 14.5% in the three years since Emmanuel Macron was elected. They have fallen from 463 million tonnes of carbon equivalent in 2017 to 396 million in 2020, according to a preliminary estimate. The “Carbon Equivalent” ton (CO2e for short) aggregates all greenhouse gases and enables the carbon footprint to be determined. Last March, Citepa presented an estimate of 402 million tonnes of CO2e for 2021, an increase of 5.2% over one year. But it included an important detail that the government seems to have neglected by being too quick to communicate about its balance sheet…

According to a Citepa engineer interviewed by Veracités, the -12% drop claimed by the President of the Republic was “erroneously calculated”. This figure compares an estimate of greenhouse gas emissions in 2021, covering metropolitan France only, with previous emissions assessed on a larger scale, including metropolitan France and the departments and most overseas communes (more specifically, the part of the European Union). .

Realization: WeDoData

In the absence of a coherent comparison for all these areas and the entire period, the association informs us that emissions at metropolitan level alone “have decreased by 5% (excluding carbon sinks) over the years that of the five-year tenure of François Hollande, and by 9% during the years corresponding to Emmanuel Macron”. The specification “without carbon sinks” means that the effect of CO2 uptake by forests, soil or the sea is not taken into account…

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Realization: WeDoData

While it’s impossible to confirm or deny the 12% drop across France until emissions figures for 2021 are available – Citepa is due to release them next May – the recorded performance nonetheless seems close to a doubling of the reduction come . In addition, “the emissions observed in 2019 and 2020 in all French territories represent the lowest values ​​​​recorded since 1990”, the association points out. But can the president get credit for that?

Good results related to the health crisis

The latest Citepa report once again provides the answer. He notes that after “starting to rise again between 2014 and 2017 (+0.7% per year) (…), emissions are falling again: -4.1% in 2018, -1.9% in 2019 and -9.2% in 2020”. But this last – spectacular – reduction “happened in the context of the measures taken since March 2020 to deal with the health crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which have led to a sharp decrease in the level of activity and, moreover, and consequently the level of greenhouse gas emissions” , explains the document.

More specifically, two sectors were particularly affected: “Transport recorded a drop in emissions of 22 million tonnes in 2020, while the sector recorded no drop in 2019. For the industrial sector, the drop reached 8 million tons against a much smaller drop in 2018 and 2019,” Citepa continues.

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Realization: WeDoData

So the whole problem is knowing whether the sharp fall associated with the crisis will not be followed by a catch-up. The first steps seem to go in this direction. In fact, emissions from transport increased by 12% to 121 million tonnes in mainland France in 2021. A figure approaching the 135 million tonnes emitted before the crisis in 2019, including overseas.

The fact remains that the first few years of Emmanuel Macron’s five-year term were also marked by a reduction in emissions. But it seems difficult to blame governments alone.

Delayed Effect Policy

“The developments observed during the period may be ‘late’ effects of earlier policy decisions. For example, it can take several years between the government decision to create a law, the submission of the law, its finalization after discussion in Parliament and Senate, the publication of any implementing regulations and finally the start of concrete implementation, ”explains Citepa.

Nor is the government the only one deciding on measures to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The implemented measures are also the result of “political and regulatory decisions resulting from international frameworks (Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement), European (climate-energy package), national (climate plan, SNBC, etc.) and local”, specifies association further .

The developments observed during the period may be ‘delayed’ effects of previous policy decisions

Finally, it must be admitted that the results also depend on factors independent of public policies, such as the weather: “The evolution of emissions in the 2010s was also associated with the severe winters, leading to an increase or decrease in emissions led to warming and associated emissions,” notes Citepa. In 2018, for example, the winter was particularly mild. Result: “The reduction in emissions between 2018 and 2019 is mainly related to the residential and tertiary building sector (-2.7 million tonnes CO2e or 31% of the reduction) and more specifically to the reduction in emissions from heating and hot water (-0.9 million tons of CO2e),” the report notes.

Is it then possible to assess concretely the impact of Emmanuel Macron’s policies on the development of greenhouse gas emissions during his tenure? “It would be necessary to isolate that part of the emissions trend that relates not only to national-level decisions, but also to the only policy actions of the five-year period that interest us, and not to past actions. What would be an extremely complex and uncertain public policy assessment! “, estimates the Citepa.

France must reduce its emissions faster

Be that as it may, France needs to cut its GHG emissions faster if it is to meet its self-imposed targets. In fact, since 2015, the state has implemented the National Low Carbon Strategy (SNBC), which aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. In order to achieve this, lower emission limits are set each year. They serve as a guide to achieve an average reduction target over a period of four years. This is called the carbon budget.

Since its inception, however, results have been more than mixed. The first carbon budget (SNBC-1), set at 442 million tonnes of CO2, was not met: “It was exceeded by 61 million cumulative tonnes over the period 2015-2018 (ie an excess of +3.4% over all four years ). Emissions fell by an average of 1.1% per year between 2015 and 2018 (compared to 2011-2014), which is below the 1.9% per year reduction target of SNBC-1, the Ministry of Ecological Transition recognizes his website. This failure has led to the state being condemned for inaction on climate change.

The results of the 2019-2023 sequence look better. It must be said that Emmanuel Macron’s government has increased the approved carbon budget, taking it from an average of 398 million tonnes per year over the period to 422 million tonnes, actually reducing the effort that needs to be made to to stay on the nails. . In 2019, the annual upper limit was thus met and should be met again in 2020, Citepa states.

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Realization Wedodata

For the next few years, on the other hand, the experts are rather skeptical and even very pessimistic about the chances of achieving the goals of the low-carbon strategy. According to forecasts by the Ministry of Ecological Transition, if nothing is done, French greenhouse gas emissions will reach 367 million tonnes of CO2e in 2030, well above the target of 310 million tonnes. And according to the scenarios, they would still increase between 327 and 335 million tons in 2050. That’s light-years away from the 80 million tons hoped for by SNBC.

“There are things that have been done, but we are moving at a snail’s pace, we need to introduce much more dynamic policies,” warns Camille Weisse, head of emissions and energy at Atmo Grand-Est, an air quality monitoring association. An acceleration that is all the more necessary as the latest IPCC report gives states three years to take action that will limit global warming to 1.5 degrees in 2050 and avoid its catastrophic consequences for the planet.

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