France wins hard-fought agreement on flagship climate bill

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After a game of tug of war between France’s government and the upper house of parliament, agreement has finally been reached on the wording of a climate bill that will drive the country’s transition to a green economy.

It took a joint committee of senators and MPs nine hours of marathon talks on Monday before both sides found common ground on the so-called climate and resilience bill, which may now be adopted as early as next week.

"This is an important step forward," said Jean-René Cazeneuve, an MP from President Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique en Marche party – adding the compromise had allowed the government to accelerate its climate policy by six months.

Inspired by the proposals of the Citizens' Climate Convention, the bill is a densely packed piece of legislation intended to help France slash emissions by 40 percent this decade.

It includes new rules governing transport, housing, energy, advertising, food and land management, though has been fiercely criticised by environmental NGOs who say it lacks ambition.

Difficult compromise

One of the toughest battles between the centrist government and rightwing senators was over the extension of low-emission zones (LEZ) banning polluting vehicles in French cities with more than 150,000 inhabitants.

Mandatory weekly vegetarian menus in school canteens was also a sticking point.

"Everyone had firm positions, but we didn't want to take a step backwards,” Cazeneuve said.

Despite capitulating on the above issues, the senators succeeded in including interest-free loans for the purchase of clean vehicles for LEZ residents, the development of hydroelectricity, support for biogas production, and a ban on the use of nitrogenous fertilisers in non-agricultural areas.

The agreement marks a significant win for the French government, which was this month given a nine-month deadline to bring its climate policy in line with its Paris Agreement commitments by the Council of State, France's highest administrative court.

Ecological Transition Minister Barbara Pompili took to Twitter to praise both sides for overcoming their political differences.

“This will allow us to gain precious time to act in the face of the environmental emergency,” she posted.

“We are going to bring ecology into our lives.”

EU climate overhaul

Agreement on France's climate bill comes as the European Commission prepares to table a package of energy and climate laws designed to facilitate the EU’s transition to a net zero economy.

The EU hopes its "Fit for 55" policies will allow it to slash emissions by 55 percent this decade, and to become the world’s first carbon neutral continent by 2050.

The policies will completely overhaul the way Europeans insulate their homes, manage land and waste and produce materials such as steel and cement.

There is, however, disagreement among EU members over how the cost of the measures should be shared.

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