New French energy law puts off difficult climate decisions

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France has set more ambitious targets to cut carbon emissions by 2050 but few measures will take effect on President Emmanuel Macron’s watch as the “yellow vest” protest movement limits his scope for environmental protection.

A draft new “energy transition law”, presented to cabinet on Tuesday and seen by Reuters, pledges to reduce carbon emissions by a factor of more than six by 2050 compared to 1990. That increases the emissions’ reduction target from a factor of four stipulated in a 2015 energy law introduced by Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande.

Months after coming to power in 2017, Macron dropped that law’s key provision – despite a pledge to respect it – to reduce nuclear energy’s share in French electricity production to 50 percent by 2025, from 75 percent currently.

The new law will delay the 50 percent nuclear target to 2035, transfer the European Union’s 2018 “Winter Package” energy targets into French law and will also form the framework for a detailed “PPE” 2019-2028 energy strategy.

However, it includes no landmark measures to reduce CO2 emissions now, and replaces an election promise to close coal-fired power stations with a CO2 emission cap that would not take effect before Jan. 2022, just before the end of Macron’s term, according to Reuters.

“This government systematically makes vague and very long-term commitments, but never any concrete, short-term policies that would be implemented during this president’s term,” Greenpeace energy campaigner Alix Mazounie said.

Macron was breaking his promise to close coal-fired plants by 2022, she said, adding that under the new system their life spans could be extended forever.

A senior environment ministry official denied the president was backtracking on environment pledges but acknowledged that no major new measures would be implemented on Macron’s watch.

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