Look what the French are up to on the climate change front. According to Nature, a wide coalition of government, business, labor and environmental advocates have agreed on the following:
All newly built homes to produce more energy than they consume by 2020. Renovate all existing buildings to save energy. Ban incandescent light bulbs by 2010. Reduce greenhouse-gas emission by 20% by 2020.
Increase renewable energy from 9% to 20-25% of total energy consumption by 2020.
Bring transport emissions back to 1990 levels. Reduce vehicle speed limits by 10 kilometres per hour. Taxes and incentives to favour clean cars. Shift half of haulage by road to rail and water within 15 years. Develop rail and public transport.
Reduce air pollutants quantitatively.
Create a national network of ‘green’ corridors and nature reserves.
Increase organic farming from 2% to 6% of total acreage production by 2010 and to 20% by 2020.
Ecological groups to be stakeholders, like trade unions, in government negotiations.
Create a body to review planting of genetically modified crops on a case-by-case basis.
That first point is truly remarkable. Why don’t we ever hear anyone, let alone a presidential candidate, calling for such things? We have the technology, just not the will, imagination or courage, it would seem.
Of course, this being France, there are some caveats:
But despite the wide consensus on many areas, two major issues, the future of nuclear power — which meets nearly 80% of France’s electricity needs — and the planting of genetically modified crops, eluded agreement. The meetings were too short to overcome existing entrenched positions here, Guillou says regretfully. Sarkozy has made it clear that there will be no scaling back of nuclear power. The government’s final position on genetically modified crops is less clear. Although these seem set to face tighter restrictions with the proposed creation of a separate body to consider approvals on a case-by-case basis, a moratorium cannot be ruled out.
The groups’ conclusions, released on 27 September, include 60 pages of recommendations, and more than 1,000 pages of conclusions from some 300 participants in 8 working groups. They are now open to public consultation on the Internet, with the government deciding on its final actions at the October summit.
Plus, I’d still like to hear a sincere apology for blowing up the Rainbow Warrior and killing one of Greenpeace’s photographers ….