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France must act or drought will hurt power stations, crops and tourism

Former UN climate official adds France has plenty of space to build wind and solar power plants but must do it now

Power station in France

Power stations risk closure if there is not enough water to cool them Pic: thieury / Shutterstock

Some power stations may have to be shut if there is not enough water flow to cool them, a climatologist and former vice-president of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned. 

Questions are already being asked about Blayais station in Gironde, said Jean Jouzel.

Tourism will be affected as canals, lakes and rivers start to dry up, added Dr Jouzel, who was among experts invited to discussions at the Elysée last month. 

Crops are also affected. We might have a poor wheat harvest this year, compounded by lack of exports from Russia and Ukraine.  

Dr Jean Jouzel

Dr Jean Jouzel, climatologist and former vice-president of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Photo: Alexandra Khlopotova

Dr Jouzel said longer droughts will be a trend but it is unusual that this time we also had low rainfall last winter, as predictions suggest wet winters and dry summers. 

Higher temperatures will also mean more evaporation, so less water in the ground and rivers, especially in the south, where less rain is predicted.

Read more: Drought alerts now expected for almost every department in France

France is not doing well 

“Some countries are more vulnerable but we still have to pay more attention to our water resources,” he said.

Dr Jouzel said: “France is not doing well. It is behind in its targets in developing renewable energy: we were meant to be at 23% of production by 2020 but we’re only at 19%.

“Emissions have decreased but not fast enough. We must go twice as fast to respect the objectives we have put into law.

“The ambition of President Macron’s announcements is very much what is required but these have to be made concrete. I fear we won’t manage it. 

Macron not delivering promise

“Five years ago, he said in his first mandate he would double power from wind turbines and solar but it’s only increased 30%. The fact ‘ecological planning’ has been made a responsibility of the PM is important but we will see.

“He is now suggesting half as many wind turbines on land as planned previously, but an ambitious programme at sea – though less so than in the UK. 

“But in Europe there are 4-5,000 working turbines at sea and we haven’t got one linked to the grid yet.

France has space for major wind and solar projects

“Increasing solar production 10-fold is another aim. Projects must become concrete very quickly for France to catch up.”

Dr Jouzel said installing solar panels on our roofs can help but we also need dedicated solar farms. 

There is enough space in France for major use of both wind and solar power but incentives are needed, he said.

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