Shopping, driving, home: What France’s new climate law would change

The law has been voted through by MPs and will be examined by the Senate next month. We explain how - if passed - it will affect many areas of everyday life in France

5 May 2021
SUV, plane, bicycle, vegetarian food. Shopping, driving, home: What France’s new climate law would change

The new law covers areas of life including transport and vegetarian options in school and work canteens Pic: Chait Goli / Brett Sayles / Bulbfish / Emanuele Intagliata / Pexels / Pexels License

By Hannah Thompson

French MPs yesterday (May 4) voted in favour of a new climate change law that, if passed, will “affect the daily lives of all citizens” in France. 

Measures include regular vegetarian meals in school, more restrictions on certain vehicles and a reduction in domestic flights.

Ecology Minister Barbara Pompili welcomed the ‘loi Climat et résilience’ bill as “a law that will affect the daily lives of all our citizens” but many environmental campaigners and the independent council le Haut Conseil pour le Climat say it does not go far enough.

Read more: Green groups attack new climate change bill in France

The law lays out changes affecting many areas of everyday life. We explain.

Roads and driving

  • Vehicles that are judged to pollute too much will no longer be sold by January 1, 2030. This will include new cars that “emit more than 123g of carbon dioxide per kilometre”, the text reads. It will also apply to diesel HGVs in France. The law will also aim to end the sale of HGVs that use fossil fuels by 2040.
  • Some cars will no longer be allowed in urban centres. This rule already applies in some cities such as Paris, Grenoble and Lyon, and is already set to come into force in seven others. By 2025, low-emission zones will be imposed in towns with more than 150,000 inhabitants.
  • Road fuel will no longer receive financial benefits after 2030.
  • Certain ‘eco taxes’ may return. The text mentions “specific voluntary contributions” for goods vehicles that will “take in account the cost of road infrastructure and the negative impact of this form of transport”.

Read more: France to tax polluting vehicles that weigh over 1,800 kg
Read more: French government increases help-to-buy car scheme
Read more: New Crit’Air sticker video surveillance for drivers in Paris

Planes and airports

  • Domestic flights will be phased out, where train journeys of less than 2.5 hours exist instead. This will include Paris-Nantes, Paris-Lyon or Paris-Bordeaux, with the exception of connecting flights. In May 2020, Air France said it would already stop running said routes.
  • Domestic flights must be carbon-offset by the airline, by 50% from 2022, 70% by 2023, and 100% by 2024. 
  • Airports will not be allowed to expand, if the final result will lead to an increase in emissions due to the airport operation. Yet, the nine airport projects that are currently underway in France will not be stopped from going ahead, climate change campaigners Réseau action climat have said.

Read more: French domestic flights set to stop if 2h30 train journey available

At home

  • Eco-friendly renovations form a major part of the bill. From 2025, accommodation with an energy rating of G; from 2028, a rating of F; and from 2034, a rating of E, will no longer be classed as “decent housing” and will no longer be allowed to be rented. This will apply to 1.8 million rental homes, the government has said.
  • Advice may be given on your home renovation to help make it more eco-friendly. “Free and personalised” advice may be given throughout the work, the text reads.

Read more: MaPrimeRenov: How to claim grant for energy upgrades in French home

In court

  • The term ‘ecocide’, and the offence of the same name, will enter into law. It will refer to any intentional - or by wilful negligence - pollution or damage to water, air, or ground.  

Read more: France introduces new ‘ecocide’ offence with €4.5m fine

At school

  • Classes on sustainable development will be introduced to students at all ages, aimed at “enabling pupils to master the issues of climate change, respect for living beings and the preservation of land and marine biodiversity" and to prepare them "to exercise their responsibilities as citizens". The classes will also aim to include "an awareness of the environmental impact of digital tools” and a section on “digital moderation".
  • Vegetarian meals will be introduced in school canteens at least once a week, as standard.

In shops

  • A ‘carbon score’ score showing products’ carbon impact will appear on packaging, especially on clothes. A new French flag logo will also appear on all textile products that are entirely made in France, including materials and all construction stages.
  • Buying in bulk will be developed. Article 11 of the text says that by 2030, shops with a surface area of more than 400m2 must allocate at least 20% of its area to bulk sales, in a bid to reduce packaging.
  • Fewer marketing leaflets through letterboxes, and fewer samples. Samples will be banned except at the express request of the consumer, to reduce excess waste, but “July 1 2022 at the latest”. 
  • Extra financial help to buy a push bike. The ecology ministry says there will be an increase in financial aid "for people wishing to replace an old polluting vehicle with an electrically assisted bicycle", as well as a "bicycle [financial] bonus" especially for "the acquisition of more expensive trail bicycles, but which allow much more varied uses".
  • Manufacturers will be required to offer spare parts, on sale separately, to enable more repairs. This will especially apply to “manufacturers or importers of motorised DIY and gardening tools, bicycles, including electrically assisted bicycles, and motorised personal transport devices”, the text says.

Read more: French MPs back more cycling aid including for electric bikes
Read more: French MPs want shops to swap plastic packaging for refill stations

In public places

  • More rules on advertising. There will be bans or limits on advertising for fossil fuels, or anything that suggests “greenwashing”: the practice of ascribing misleading eco-friendly virtues to fossil fuels, or “suggesting wrongly that a service is carbon neutral or has no negative climate effects”. Mayors will also be given more powers to limit the use of bright publicity screens in public.
  • Cars and white goods will be required to list their carbon dioxide emission rating from A-G.
  • Advertising aeroplanes will be banned by 2022.
  • The roofs of some buildings will need to be “planted”, with office buildings over 1,000m2 in size required to have at least 30% of their roof surface covered in greenery, or the production of renewable energy sources such as via solar panels. This rule already applies to warehouses and commercial spaces. This will now apply to these buildings of at least 500m2, and also to overground car parks.
  • Limits imposed on artificial ground. The text states “a general principle of prohibiting the creation of new commercial premises that would lead to the artificialisation of land", as well as the construction of commercial centres over 10,000m2 that would threaten local businesses.
  • Reduction of new car parks by 50% in the next 10 years, compared to the last decade.
  • Existing car parks will require shaded areas to be installed across 50% of the surface area to avoid heat islands, and all car parks must include vegetation by 2025.

In local communities and workplaces

  • From 2023, a vegetarian alternative must be available in canteens every day, in public places and public companies.

The proposal will now be examined in a public session in the Senate from June 14.

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Major supermarkets in France to stop giving paper receipts at till

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