What do the experts from the High Council for the Climate say?

What do the experts from the High Council for the Climate say?
What do the experts from the High Council for the Climate say?

DOverwhelmed hospitals, postponed operations, a wave of excess mortality among the ranks of the most vulnerable people. Four years ago, this was the dramatic reality of Covid-19. But tomorrow, the day after tomorrow and for times to come, a more diffuse threat is taking shape for the French population, tossed around by the severe impacts of global warming. “European health systems are currently unable to cope with the simultaneous occurrence of epidemics of vector-borne diseases and diseases linked to heat stress”, notes the High Council for the Climate (HCC), in reference to the a fatal combination that looms on the horizon of stifling summers: outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya caused by the dispersal of mosquitoes while ferocious heatwaves strike.

The HCC, which evaluates the country’s climate policies and advises public authorities, publishes its sixth annual report this Thursday, June 20. One of its key messages is easy to grasp: we are not ready. “Adaptation efforts remain out of step with needs while climatic hazards worsen,” regrets Corinne Le Quéré, the Franco-Canadian climatologist who chairs the High Council. The finding is hardly surprising. Three months ago, the annual report of the Court of Auditors, which had as its main theme the adaptation of public action to climate change, put the same words on the same ills.

The prose of the High Climate Council is enriched with concrete examples. “In June 2019, heatwaves led to the closure of more than 1,800 schools and led to the postponement of the national patent diploma exams for 800,000 students,” he recalls. 33,000 deaths were attributable to heat between June 1 and September 15 over the period 2014-2022. Episodes of shrinkage-swelling of clays, caused by droughts, have pushed the authorities to recognize the state of natural disaster for more than 6,700 municipalities in 2022. And these are obviously only the beginnings of cascading impacts , according to the High Council which urges the State to “protect the population”, the subtitle of its report.

2030 goals within reach

To do this, the government would be well advised to finally update the planning documents that are within its jurisdiction. Experts note that neither the national climate change adaptation plan, nor the multi-year energy programming, nor the national low carbon strategy have been updated even though the law requires it. They are supposed to link the two pillars of climate policy: on the one hand adaptation to partly inevitable warming, on the other the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

These signs of casualness contrast with the results. According to provisional data, France reduced its emissions by 5.8% in 2023 compared to 2022, after a more modest decline of 2.7% in 2022. This is a notable acceleration. “Gross emissions in 2023 are the lowest since the beginning of inventories,” notes the HCC. “Around a third of the decline recorded in 2023 is due to cyclical factors, such as the resumption of electricity production by nuclear power or the drop in livestock numbers in livestock farming,” says Corinne Le Quéré.

The decline of agricultural policy

Nevertheless, for the first time, France finds itself roughly aligned with the European objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55% in 2030 (compared to 1990). On the other hand, the long-term perspective, carbon neutrality in 2050 – which consists of not emitting more carbon gases than we capture – is not on track. A simple comparison illustrates the concern. The carbon footprint of the French – the greenhouse gases emitted by their lifestyles – is, on average, 9.2 tonnes per person per year. We agree that it should not exceed 2 tonnes for the country to play its part in stabilizing warming at 1.5°C. A hole.

Only resolute and coherent public action could fill it. That’s not really the case. Illustration at the European level, the CAP (common agricultural policy) has just been revised by the 27 Member States, panicked by the discontent of farmers that their representatives have channeled against environmental regulations. “We can expect in the future a reduction in the mileage of hedges, which will have a direct impact on carbon storage,” mentions Jean-François Soussana, one of the members of the HCC.

-

-

PREV When it came to hygiene, the Romans had practices that were as painful as they were surprising.
NEXT To lower electricity prices, the next government will have to change the rules