Is France a climate change role model?

By Fiachra Gibbons and Nora Schweitzer ,AFP

PARIS — U.N. climate change chief Christina Figueres may have called Paris “a beacon of hope for the world” as leaders gathered last week to begin hammering out a deal to slow global warming. But how good is the city’s — and France’s — environmental record? France leads the G-20 group of industrialized countries in low-carbon energy, but experts point out that is only because of its massive reliance on nuclear power. With Paris, which is hosting the climate talks, often so choked with traffic that schools have been forced to keep children indoors during peaks of pollution, many insist that France is in no position “to give lessons to anyone.” Yannick Jadot, a member of the European Parliament for France’s small and divided Green party, is even more scathing. “The only area that we are leading the world in is in our environmental rhetoric … I really struggle to think of an area in which we set a good example.” Paris has pioneered a much-copied bicycle hire scheme, Velib, and its electric car equivalent, which has been extended to utility vehicles for small business. Yet it has been reluctant to follow some 200 other European cities that now charge or restrict car drivers, despite chronic problems with diesel pollution. French carmakers have also been slow to get on the hybrid bandwagon, according to Anne Bringault of the NGO, Reseau Action Climat.

“We have only just started to explore making vehicles which run on biogas while in Italy they have 72,000 on the roads.” No Real Progress Jadot insists the big picture shows that “France is very behind. Many think we may not even make the legally binding target to produce 23 percent of our energy from renewables by 2020.”