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on the environment


Climate change mitigation (France)

Why should we care about this issue

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 25 Nov 2010

Combating climate change is a major global issue. France, which has seen an average increase of 0.9°C throughout the twentieth century, is not immune to global warming.

This phenomenon could significantly affect our way of life and our economies, all the more so since it is happening so quickly. In particular, changes in the water cycle (quantities, frequencies, etc.) could have an impact on agricultural or industrial production, and may also cause changes to ecosystems. This in turn may result in the disappearance of ecosystem services. On the other hand, climate change may lead to the development of new economic activities. Controlling the change and mitigating its negative consequences will therefore be an issue in the future. Adaptation to climate change can be defined as ‘adjusting natural or human systems in response to present or future climatic stimuli or their effects, to mitigate the harmful effects or exploit beneficial opportunities’. Envisaged as a complementary policy to mitigation, it should allow the cost of the impacts of climate change to be significantly limited, and even enable them to be transformed into opportunities in some cases.

The state and impacts

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

Temperature change in France

In France as in the rest of the world, the last decade has seen a systematic increase in the mean temperature for 1971-2000, and seven of the ten hottest years since 1901. According to Météo-France, the average increase in temperatures in France during the twentieth century is around 0.9°C. The warming is more pronounced in the south than in the north of the country. Minimum temperatures have also increased more (from 0.9 to 1.5 C) than maximum ones (from 0.3 to 1.1°C).

Deviation in temperature in °C in relation to the 1971 2000 mean

Ecart de température en C° par rapport à la moyenne 1971-2000

Deviation in temperature in °C in relation to the 1971‑2000 mean

Example of impact: the retreat of the Alpine glaciers

The Alpine region has proved to be particularly sensitive to global warming. Like many mountain areas, the Alps are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna and numerous protected species that are especially sensitive to variations in climate. The Alps are also seen as Europe’s water tower, feeding several major European rivers, thanks to their mantle and glaciers. The regression of these glaciers should lead to a reconsideration of how water resources are managed in the Alpine region.

Cumulative change in the mass balances of three glaciers in the French Alps since 1994


Évolution des bilans de masse cumulée de 3 glaciers des Alpes françaises depuis 1994

Cumulative change in the mass balances of three glaciers in the French Alps since 1994

Bilans de masse cumulés (m.eau)

Cumulative mass balances (m. water)


The reduction in the mass of the Alpine glaciers has not been uniform over time. The sharp drops (as a consequence of winters with little snow and hot summers) has been interspersed with short periods of growth.


Example of impact: changes in numbers of birds over-wintering in France

The greylag goose (Anser anser) is over-wintering in increasing numbers at protected sites in France. European populations of nesting birds also increased significantly in the period 1990-2000. Although the monitoring of protected sites has undoubtedly improved and the number of birds has increased, one of the other explanations put forward is that this is due to climate change which enables the birds to overwinter, no longer only in southern Europe, but also at higher latitudes, and notably in France. The consequent reduction in migratory journeys would then have a positive effect on the reproduction of these species. This increase in over-wintering began at the end of the 1980s, at which time a significant increase in mean annual (and in particular winter) temperatures was noted in France. The rise in the population accelerated sharply towards the middle of the 1990s.

Change in the numbers of greylag geese in France over-wintering in protected sites

Change in the numbers of greylag geese in France over-wintering in protected sites


Sources: Bird Protection League (Ligue de Protection des Oiseaux, LPO); Wetlands International; Ifen, ONERC.


The key drivers and pressures

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

State of greenhouse gas emissions in France

In 2008, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the European Union (EU) totalled 4 940 million tonnes equivalent CO2 (Mteq CO2). Four countries are responsible for more than 53 % of these emissions: Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and France. France is ranked fourth, with 10.7 % of all emissions. With 527 million tonnes equivalent CO2 emitted, or 8.2 teq CO2 per inhabitant, France is one of the industrial countries emitting the lowest levels of GHG per inhabitant.

Greenhouse gas emissions for the 20 largest emitters in the European Union in 2008

Greenhouse gas emissions for the 20 largest emitters in the European Union in 2008


(Source: CITEPA, EEA, June 2010)

Changes in greenhouse gas emissions

In France in 2008, aggregate emissions of the six GHG were 6.4 % below their 1990 levels. Emissions of the EU-15 fell by 6.5 % over the same period. All sectors contributed to these reductions, except that of transport, for which emissions increased considerably in France and Europe throughout the period.

Within the context of its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, France has a target of stabilising GHG emissions for the period 2008-2012 compared with 1990.

Aggregate emissions of 6 greenhouse gases: France and Europe of 15

Aggregate emissions of 6 greenhouse gases: France and Europe of 15


Source: SOeS according to UNFCCC Inventory, June 2010 – European Environment Agency.


Indice base 100 en 1990

Base 100 index in 1990

Objectifs du protocole de Kyoto

Objectives of the Kyoto Protocol



Europe des 15 (UE15)

Europe of 15 (EU-15)


Changes in greenhouse gas emissions by sector of activity

It is possible to compare emissions of GHG relative to each activity (transport, industry, farming, etc.) in terms of the overall warming power of the different gases (CO2, N2O, CH4, HFC, PFC, SF6).

In 2007, 71 % of France’s GHG emissions came from the use of fossil fuels; the remaining 29 % were the result of agriculture (excluding energy combustion), waste processing, industrial processes and the use of fluorinated gases and solvents.

With almost 27 % of GHG emissions in 2007, transport is the main polluting activity, followed by agriculture and the manufacturing industry (20 % each), the residential-tertiary sector (18 %), the energy industry (14 %) and waste processing (2 %).

Emissions of transport GHG increased by 19 % between 1990 and 2007, with a slight decrease (around -1 % a year) observed since 2005. In this sector, road transport accounts for the lion’s share, producing 94 % of CO2 emissions by transport. It is also worth noting that biofuels have increased significantly over the past three years, reaching 2.5 million tonnes equivalent petrol (Mtep) in 2008, or around 5 % of all fuels, compared with less than 1 % in 2005.

The residential-tertiary sector saw its GHG emissions increase by 6 % between 1990 and 2007. Energy combustion represents 92 % of the sector’s emissions, with a fall of 1.4 % between 1990 and 2007. But this change is strongly linked to meteorological conditions, which directly affect heating requirements. The remaining 8 % are chiefly linked to fluorinated gases, the growing use of which explains the sharp increase for the sector.

The most significant reduction in GHG emissions for the period 1990-2007 comes from the manufacturing industry (-26 %). Emissions linked to energy combustion in industry, which represent almost three-quarters of the sector’s entire GHG emissions, fell by 12 % over the period in question. Major efforts to save energy, combined with an increase in the use of gas and electricity to the detriment of coal and petrol, brought about this significant fall. Industrial processes make up the second largest source of GHG emissions. Their level was halved between 1990 and 2007.

Among the energy industries, the generation of electricity and heat by classic power stations accounts for almost 72 % of GHG emissions. This component fluctuates from year to year, depending on the climatic conditions, although the trend is stable and actually represents an extra contribution in addition to nuclear and hydraulic generation.

Changes in greenhouse gas emissions by sector in France between 1990 and 2007

Changes in greenhouse gas emissions by sector in France between 1990 and 2007


Note: The percentages given in brackets correspond to the changes in emissions between 1990 and 2007. Scope: Mainland France and overseas, excluding LULUCF.


Source: Citepa, UNFCCC format, December 2008.


¢ Emissions en 1990

¢ Emissions in 1990

¢ Emissions en 2007

¢ Emissions in 2007



Industrie manufacturière

Manufacturing industry

Agriculture et sylviculture

Agriculture and sylviculture

Rèsidentiel, tertiaire, institutionnel et commercial

Residential, tertiary, institutional and commercial

Industrie de l’énergie

Energy industry

Traitement des déchets

Waste processing

Existing and planned responses

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

The Grenelle de l’Environnement in the fight against climate change

The Grenelle de l’Environnement has reminded us of the need to reduce GHG emissions by a quarter before 2050. It recommends accelerating the advance of energy efficiency in construction, giving priority to less‑polluting forms of transport, questioning urban sprawl and developing an energy policy to reduce consumption and the carbon content of production. In this context, a development plan for renewable energies was put in place in November 2008. It aims to increase to at least 23 % the share of renewable energies in energy consumption by 2020. The Grenelle II bill also provided for the introduction of regional energy air climate schemes.

The Grenelle de l’Environnement also recommended anticipating the consequences of climate change in order to minimise its socio-economic impacts and reduce the vulnerability of those concerned. Defining and evaluating the effects of climate change facing those concerned will allow the most appropriate adaptation measures to be considered.

Within the context of the Kyoto Protocol (1997), France undertook to stabilise aggregate emissions of the six GHG during the period 2008-2012 at 1990 levels. These are emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrogen protoxide (N2O), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs).

Renewable energies: considerable potential for development and diversified regional situations

The share of renewable energies in France’s energy mix is close to 7 % in 2008, out of a total approaching 20 Mtep. This share, after a slow decline until the beginning of the new millennium, is now recovering thanks to the emergence of new activities, biofuels, wind power, heat pumps and solar power in particular.

Nevertheless, the two main traditional activities (wood and hydraulic energy) still represent almost three-quarters of the consumption of renewable energies. Any monitoring of the generation of hydraulic electricity must take account of the influence of climatic conditions on water supplies: extremely low in 2005, these gradually recovered to a normal level in 2008. The biofuels supported by the 2006 biofuels development plan have recently made significant gains (12 % of consumption of renewable energy in 2008). The other renewable activities, some of which are experiencing a considerable boom, still only account for a small amount (less than 8 % for wind power, heat pumps, biogas, geothermics, harvest residues and solar).

An analysis of the production of renewable energy at regional level reveals a wide range of situations, both in terms of the variety and importance of natural resources and the level of their exploitation. The involvement of regional and local players is proving to be an important factor in the recent development of new forms of energy, as shown by the analysis of regional changes from 2002 to 2007: the mass arrival of biofuels enabled poorer farming regions in terms of natural resources to take their place in the development of renewable energies. Similarly, wind power is growing in significance in those regions involved. Haute-Normandie and Picardy, for example, have seen their renewable production double in the space of five years.

In 2007, the four main regions producing renewable energy were Rhône-Alpes, Midi-Pyrénées, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Alsace, which together account for close on 45 % of production in 2007, while the seven smallest barely produce more than 15 %. Wood-energy (wood and wood by-products) is present in all the regions of France, and is often still the main renewable activity. Conversely, hydraulic energy, the potential of which is almost entirely exploited, is concentrated in those regions that are sufficiently hilly. Finally, some energies are geographically specific, such as geothermics (Île-de-France, Aquitaine) or renewable waste close to major centres (Île-de-France, Rhône-Alpes).

It should be noted that the predominance of the two main traditional renewable activities (wood-energy and hydraulic) masks the presence of most other activities (geothermics, renewable waste, biogas, wind power, thermal and photovoltaic solar power, in particular), whose share remains small, despite their rapid development in some cases.

Regional production of renewable energies in 2007

Regional production of renewable energies in 2007

Encouraging the capture and storage of CO2

For several years France has encouraged the development of CO2 capture and storage technologies (CSC). The development of CSC is a key environmental issue, and complements the efforts made in the field of renewable energies and energy efficiency. The Grenelle de l’Environnement highlighted the need to test technologies.

This recommendation has been followed up in particular by the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME)’s creation of a demonstrators’ fund amounting to EUR 400 million, intended to fund research demonstrators in the field of new energy technologies, including CSC technologies. In January 2010, the first industrial pilot scheme to capture and store CO2 began in the region of Lacq, near Pau. The project is entirely funded by the company Total, and its budget is EUR 60 million.

The International Energy Agency believes that CSC could contribute to reducing global GHG emissions by as much as 20% by 2050 (on top of energy savings, energy efficiency, renewable energies, etc.).



  • Changement climatique, coûts des impacts et pistes d’adaptation; ONERC, La Documentation française, 2009, 195 pages; downloadable:
  • Changements climatiques dans les Alpes: Impacts et risques naturels, rapport technique n°1, Onerc, March 2008.
  • Impacts du changement climatique dans les îles subantarctiques, rapport technique n°2, Onerc, May 2009
  • Les oiseaux d’eau préfèrent les espaces protégés en hiver; ‘Le 4 pages’, N°110, May 2006; L. Duhautois; Ifen (
  • Rapport à la Convention Cadre des Nations Unies sur les Changements Climatiques (CCNUCC), CITEPA: rapport complet, mise à jour avril 2010; downloadable: (
  • Recensement des études concernant les effets du climat et du changement climatique sur les espaces côtiers dans les DOM-TOM, note technique n°1, Onerc, March 2005.
  • Recensement des études concernant les effets du climat et du réchauffement climatique sur les espaces de montagne en France métropolitaine, note technique n°4, Onerc, version actualisée March 2008.


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