View of Nouméa (New Caledonia)
28 June 2018

The environment: France takes the lead in furthering Europe's ambitions

Nicolas Hulot, Ministre d'État, Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, and Brune Poirson, Minister of State, attached to the Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, attended the Environment Council of the European Union on 25 June in Luxembourg. They particularly advocated for higher ambitions on climate action, new proactive rules on vehicle emissions and a strong European strategy for reducing plastic pollution. With France's biodiversity plan due to be presented in a few days' time, France also wanted to get its partners actively thinking about the stakes involved in its protection.


In conjunction with the Council, the environment ministers of 14 EU Member States signed a declaration urging Europe to announce, as early as the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), that it would upgrade its climate ambitions (appended). This will entail a pledge to go further than the 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The previous target had been announced ahead of COP21. But the most recent scientific research shows that greater reduction is required to limit global warming to 2°C; 1.5°C if at all possible. The declaration adopted also calls for the Commission to include in its long-term strategy a scenario aimed at achieving greenhouse gas emissions neutrality by 2050. To date, the European Council had committed to reducing emissions by 80-95% by 2050 compared with 1990 levels.


Portrait of France's Miniser Nicolas Hulot
"In keeping with the Climate Plan, we would like to see Europe setting more ambitious targets. A week ago, at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, we were once again challenged by the Marshall Islands whose territory risks being swallowed up by rising seas. We cannot afford to ignore this call, and we need to come through in taking up the mantle as EU leader. This is a strong message we are sending out today with the ministers of 13 other European countries, for a successful COP24."
Nicolas Hulot
Ministre d'État, Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition

If we are to achieve these targets, the transport sector, which is responsible for 30% of the EU's emissions, must play its part. This is the last main sector for which the 2030 targets still need defining. During the Council meeting, France therefore outlined ambitious targets in terms of reducing the harmful emissions from light passenger vehicles and heavy-duty vehicles. France aspires to go beyond the European Commission's proposal, and suggests reducing CO2 emissions by up to 40% by 2030 compared with 2021 levels. France firmly believes that Europe must have "zero-emission" vehicles in its sights for 2040, and that an overhaul of this sector is entirely possible thanks to future technological breakthroughs.

Nicolas Hulot and Brune Poirson also stressed the importance of aligning EU trade policy with the targets of the Paris agreement. The two ministers thus pressed for Member States to include the binding features of the Paris agreement in the key terms of trade agreements. "We can no longer countenance signing trade agreements with countries that are not participating in global efforts to tackle climate change, or are not complying with the minimum core principles of the Paris agreement," Nicolas Hulot maintained.

Regarding the elimination of plastic pollution, France urged a ban on single-use plastics which are a major source of marine waste – not least single-use lightweight plastic bags, polystyrene containers and straws and non-compostable disposable plates, beakers and cups.

France's Minister Brune Poirson
"Single-use plastics are a scourge for the oceans, biodiversity and human health. We need to turn the tide on a "100% plastic" way of life and, as such, France is backing the ban at European level on single-use plastics, which are a major source of marine waste – continuing in the same vein as the road map for the circular economy adopted on 23 April 2018 in France".
Brune Poirson
Minister of State, attached to the Ministre d'État, Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition

During the Council meeting, France also encouraged its partners to get fully behind the 2020 biodiversity protection agenda and to build international momentum on these issues – on the same scale as has taken place for the climate. In this respect, France supports the Commission's proposals on pollinators and has particularly called for pesticide use to be reduced and for this issue to be taken on board in the EU's common agricultural policy.

Finally, on the subject of water access, France has backed the Commission's initiative to guarantee this fundamental principle, which is recognised by the European Pillar of Social Rights, buoyed by strong demand on the part of European citizens. There are still many Europeans today who are not connected to a drinking water network, when all the citizens of Europe should have access to drinking water.

Common statement on the long-term strategy and the climate ambition of the EU