Last week, from the United Nations General Assembly in New York, French president Emmanuel Macron spoke about the hurricanes that have lashed the Caribbean and the US, saying hurricanes were a direct consequence of global warming and reaffirming his commitment to tackling climate change.
The adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 urged the international community to commit to the fight against climate change, whilst on a national level, France took a step forward by adopting Article 173 of the Law on Energy Transition and Green Growth in the same year, hoping to encourage nation-wide engagement on sustainability issues.
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The law comprised a number of targets to curtail energy consumption, exchange fossil fuels for renewables, reduce greenhouse gases and increase the price of carbon.
A week ago, Nicolas Hulot, the French minister of ecological and solidary transition, revealed his first four measures intended to accelerate the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement, with a particular focus on lower-income households.
The flagship measures make up what Hulot refers to as the climate solidarity package which he hopes will enable all people, no matter what their financial situation, to participate in the fight against climate change.
However, given the sense of urgency set out to us by scientists, NGOs and Macron himself, are these measures sufficient?
La prime a la caisse
After announcing plans to end the sale of all diesel and petrol vehicles by 2040, the first measure, known in France as la prime a la caisse is a scrapping incentive.
It is meant to encourage people to switch from an old polluting vehicle to a cleaner car with lower CO2 and is more ambitious than the initial plans laid out during Macron’s presidential campaign.
The premium, which will range from €500 to €1,000, is currently only available to low-income households and has, so-far, been successful.
Commencing in 2018, it will be extended to all French owners of petrol vehicles from before 1997 or diesel vehicles before 2001 and will be valid for the purchase of a new or new-used vehicle.
For non-taxable households, the premium is doubled to €2,000.
For those who want to switch to an electric car, the premium will be €2,500. In some cases, the incentives have been shown to be around 50 percent of the price of the vehicle.
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The second measure is the energy cheque.
This action has already been trialled across four of France’s regions but will again be extended to the whole country.
It aims to help 4m households with very low incomes (less than €7,500 annual income for an individual or €16,000 for a couple with two children) to pay their energy bills.
While previously this was a complex process, the cheque will now be paid automatically and will range from €48 to €227 per year.
Beginning in 2019, the cheque will be revalued and the average amount will increase each year, with the ultimate objective of getting houses to renovate to become more energy efficient and better insulated.
The third measure relates to insulation work on households.
France currently has an energy transition tax credit called Cite, which allows for the financing of insulation work.
However, the tax credit is only received months after the completion of the work. For lower income households, the implications were that they often did not have the means to finance the project.
To counter this the tax credit has been transformed into a bonus, paid instantly after completion of the work.
Energy saving certificate
The fourth and final measure is what are known as energy saving certificates.
These will be allocated to the households with lower levels of income who want to change their polluting oil-fired boilers to renewable energies. These certificates could represent a value of €3,000.
Do they go far enough?
The measures have divided opinion, attracting praise from some areas and criticism from others.
Joel Vormus, co-director of the NGO the Energy Transition Network, thinks the energy cheque is not sufficient, suggesting lower-income households are often poorly insulated and so energy bills can sometimes soar, reaching thousands of euros.
Some have accused the government’s scrapping incentive as benefiting the automobile industry over the environment.
Critics have said the government should be looking to reduce the number of cars on the road and investing in better public transport networks, offering rewards and benefits to pedestrians and cyclists, instead of individuals who may just be driving a slightly less polluting car.
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