France badly hit by climate change and ill-prepared for its effects, warns report

An independent climate body warned on Wednesday that France is being hit hard by climate change and is not yet ready to deal with its impacts or adequately reduce emissions.


France’s Higher Council for Climate (HCC) said in its annual report that last year’s record heat and unusual drought had “significantly affected France” and exceeded the capacity of current prevention and crisis management systems to respond.

The western European country was 2.9 degrees Celsius above the 1991-2020 average, the report said.

“We are already behind the curve,” the group’s president and climate scientist Corine Le Quere told AFP, calling on governments to break out of reactive mode and develop pre-emptive, “transformative” adaptation strategies.

Agriculture has been hit hard, with crop yields down 10-30%, while dry conditions mean some amphibians are “almost unable to reproduce” and waterfowl have “low or abnormal reproductive rates”.

Drinking water tensions have affected more than 2,000 cities and another 8,000 have called for it to be designated a “natural disaster” because of the drought, which has caused clay to shrink and swell, causing cracks in buildings, the report said.

Meanwhile, the health system recorded “2,816 excess deaths in 2022,” the HCC added.

The report also said France was underprepared to fight forest fires and had to call in reinforcements from abroad.

These effects will only intensify as climate change progresses.

Europe is the world’s fastest-warming continent, with temperatures last year some 2.3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, according to a report last week by the World Meteorological Organization and the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

The continent has warmed twice as fast as the global average since the 1980s, and last year experienced its hottest summer on record, with countries including France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom experiencing warming on record hottest year.

France has pledged to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

Given the new European target of 55%, this target needs to be strengthened, Le Quere said.

The HCC called for “far-reaching economic policies” requiring public and private funding “around €30 billion a year between now and 2030” to decarbonise the economy and prioritize transport, the biggest emitter sector.

“This means that all tax loopholes to finance fossil fuels must be abolished within a fixed timetable,” the HCC chairman said.


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