In a Nutshell
- France has started considering the role of CDR for its long-term climate neutrality goal of going climate neutral in 2050, looking primarily at land-based CDR methods, while also assuming the reliance on bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), and the saturation of biogenic land-carbon sinks in the long run.
- With its Label bas-carbone, France has furthermore established a certification framework relevant to a range of carbon removal methods.
- France is revising its Energy and Climate Strategy, including the new Loi de programmation sur l’énergie et le climat, which will define the objectives and the priority actions for the national energy policy for the next five years.
Role for carbon removal in national climate policy
The National Low Carbon Strategy (Stratégie Nationale Bas-Carbone) specifically states that achieving carbon neutrality requires compensating emissions with carbon sinks such as human-managed ecosystems (forests and farmland), products and materials from the bioeconomy based on plant matter (wood and straw), and industrial processes (carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon capture and utilisation (CCU)).
The LULUCF sector plays a central role in France’s carbon removal considerations (focused on forests and agriculture-related sinks mostly). Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) was explicitly mentioned in the second iteration of the Low Carbon Strategy, though no deployment incentives are in place yet. In the third iteration of the Low Carbon Strategy, mentions of BECCS have been removed.
Relevant legal frameworks
The National Low Carbon Strategy sets the goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and refers to the role of several CDR methods in doing so, including BECCS and land-based CDR methods. The strategy proposes greenhouse gas (GHG) emission and removal projections for 2050 based on the expectation that France will emit roughly 80 million tons (Mt) of CO2e, with GHG sinks taking up just over 80 Mt CO2e each year (including general CCS in its sink consideration). The Strategy foresees that by 2050 roughly 10 Mt of negative CO2 emissions will be generated via BECCS annually, while forests are expected to store roughly 35 Mt CO2e, wood products roughly 20 Mt CO2e, and other land roughly 10 Mt CO2e per year.
As part of Member States emissions reporting in the EU, France’s decree no. 2020-457 of April 21, 2020, sets legally binding GHG budgets for three separate periods from 2019-2033. These budgets are broken down first by major emission trading sectors, then by economic sector, and finally by GHG (in MtCO2e). These budgets include removals from the LULUCF sector which amount to -39 Mt CO2e from 2019-2023, -38 Mt CO2e from 2024-2028 and -42 Mt CO2e from 2028-2033. The decree also gives a non-binding indication of the GHG budget per year.
The French Climate and Resilience Law aims to put in place some of the policy requests made by the Citizen’s Convention for Climate with the goal of meeting the EU’s emission reduction targets. It is, however, currently under review. Articles 12 and 147 of the Law introduce some elements on compensation/offsetting projects and derived environmental claims for products and services. Article 12 establishes a reporting framework requiring a GHG emissions balance sheet including direct and indirect emissions, a net zero plan with quantified annual targets, and information on compensation mechanisms. Article 147 sets rules and targets for offsetting emissions from the domestic aviation sector preferably through agriculture, forestry and soil carbon. It states that only measurable, verifiable, permanent and additional emissions reductions and removals are eligible to compensate for other emissions. Decree no. 2022-539 from April 2022 relates to carbon offsetting and claims of carbon neutrality in advertising. It expands on these measures but does not address the issues of non-fungibility between emissions reductions and removals, the long-term and short-term carbon cycle, and the lack of clarity on what constitutes ‘residual emissions’.
Before a certification framework for carbon removals was developed at the EU level, France had already introduced its Label bas-carbone (French Carbon Standard), which acts as a certification framework at the national level. The label serves as an official framework to certify emissions reductions and removals in France. Afforestation, reforestation and soil carbon storage are among the first CDR methods eligible, while other types of projects are currently under evaluation. See here for more details on the Label bas-carbone and Carbon Gap’s analysis of the framework.
Support for R&D and Innovation
Several projects currently explore geological storage of CO2, among them project Pycasso in the southwest of France, project CO2-Dissolved, and project PilotSTRATEGY, focused on carbon storage in strategic territories (industrial regions).
Support for industry focuses on CCS. For example, project “3D” in Dunkirk, part of the Horizon Europe research program, aims to demonstrate an innovative process for capturing CO2 from industrial activities, and the new decarbonisation strategy aims to halve the emissions of 50 industrial sites that are among the 120 biggest carbon emitters in France over the next ten years. A CCUS strategy has recently been submitted for public consultation.
Label bas-carbone can incentivise ecosystem-based CDR (enhancing natural sinks). CDR methods such as biochar and enhanced weathering could potentially benefit from these incentives, but the certification methods are yet to be developed (the structure of the Label bas-carbone allows for the onboarding of new certification methods on a rolling basis).
Further funding is provided via the “France 2030” Strategy. As part of this plan, EUR 3 billion will be made available to decarbonize industry with CCS and for deeptech/frontier startups. CDR can fit the description of the technological innovation the Strategy is aiming at, but it is not explicitly targeted.
On the horizon
France is engaged in a revision of its blueprint climate and energy laws, which will be gathered under the revised Energy and Climate Strategy (Stratégie française sur l’énergie et le climat, SFEC).
The first piece of this roadmap is the new loi de programmation sur l’énergie et le climat, which will define the objectives and priority actions for the national energy policy in response to the ecological and climate emergency. LPEC is currently under development and is expected to be passed before the end of 2023 and is set to be revised every 5 years thereafter. (The initial proposal should have been published by July 1, 2023, but should now be presented to Parliament in Q3 2023).
The LPEC will be followed by a new iteration of the Stratégie Nationale Bas-Carbone (SNBC3), as well as the next multiannual energy framework (PPE3, 3rd iteration for 2024-2033) which will set out the energy policy management tools, and the revised Climate Change Adaptation Policy (Politique nationale d’adaptation au changement climatique, PNACC3, 3rd iteration). These three legislative initiatives will provide technical roadmaps to implement the SFEC and the LPEC.
Another development of potential relevance to CDR is a legislative proposal aimed at supporting decarbonisation technologies backed by the Minister of Finance (Projet de loi Industrie Verte), which provides a broad range of the technologies recognised.
- Net zero target: 2050
- Net Negative Target:
- First interim target: 2030
- Type of interim target: Emissions reduction target
- GHGs covered: Carbon dioxide and other GHGs
- Separate target for emission reduction and removals: Yes
- Comprehensive CDR Target: no
- CDR Target for Conventional Removals: yes
- CDR Target for Novel Removals: no
- Historical emissions: No
- Annual reporting mechanism: Annual reporting
- Plans for carbon removal (CDR): Yes (unspecified)
- Planning to use external carbon credits: No
- Conditions on use of carbon credits:
- Direction générale de l’énergie et du climat (DGEC): Government agency under the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion and the Ministry of Energy Transition in charge of energy and climate policies, main body behind the National Low Carbon Strategy.
- ADEME (National Agency for the Ecological Transition) advises the French government on environmental and climate matters.
- High Council for Climate (Haut conseil pour le climat), public body under the supervision of the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion, the Ministry of Energy Transition and the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, offers advice and recommendations to the French government regarding climate change mitigation.