Climate: the French government’s plan to progressively end support to fossil fuels

Published by Cécile D. · Published on 12 November 2020 at 14h20 · Updated on 12 November 2020 at 17h46
The French government supports an amending offering to list in the budget 2021 a plan to end projects supporting fossil fuels abroad. A plan spread to 2035 condemned by environment NGOs.

Authentic measure or smokescreen? The French government is please to support an amending proposition for the budget 2021 stating France’s support to oil and gas projects abroad will be progressively reduced by 2025 for oil project and 2035 for gas projects. A measure far from being enough for environment NGOs.

In 2019, at the United Nations, Emmanuel Marcon committed himself to set up a climate plan in France: “The big countries of this world must stop financing new polluting installations in developing countries. We still continue today to have export financing and projects in so many countries, financed by developed countries. (…) It is inconsistent, it is irresponsible. Let’s be clear about ourselves.” Reported by Le Monde, this speech sounds ironic to the ears of environment militants.

The government indeed supported an amending aiming at putting an end to the French support to fossil fuels, but by following a too-spread over time calendar to the taste of NGOs. Is it because the State keeps financial advantages in the exploitation of fossil resources?

Public investment bank BpiFrance enables the State to manage an export-guarantee system. Therefore, thanks to BpiFrance, the State vouches to banks for the French companies participating in gas or oil projects, refineries or fitting power plants with gas or coal. A major government support since the State’s security encourages other investors to commit to these projects and by extension giving birth to those.

Among the recipients of this system, there is major gas site Yamal LNG supported by Total in Russia or gas turbines exported by the General Electric plant in Belfort.

According to Le Monde’s research, since 2009, France has delivered about 9.3 billion euros of guarantees according to the treasury director. This amount, environmental associations translate it into a subsidy to fossil fuels; a gesture in total disagreement with France’s climate goals.

Financial interests

Postponing the end of support to fossil fuels for 15 years is like denying and even ignoring the climate emergency weighing on the environment, environmental militants say. Faced with this situation, MEPs defend themselves: “I get they can be some form of unsatisfaction, but France truly is ahead of this topic, it can create a movement on the international level” Gard MEP Anthony Cellier says as he will promote the amendment at the Assembly. “2035 is a deadline, I’m convinced gas support will end before” he explains. Furthermore, the amendment plans the Parliament can assess the topic again in 2023 to adjust its angle if need be.

Is the French state prioritizing its financial interests instead of the climatic imperatives? What is sure is that industrialists in the fossil fuels sector prefer delaying as late as possible the end of the state support. Most of these industries have not started their transition to greener energies. On the contrary, these companies are fully into oils and hydrocarbons.

French oil-related sector – totaling 50,000 jobs – makes over 90% of its revenues with exportation. The State is also a stakeholder of some groups of the sector such as TechnipFMC and Vallourec.

To try and change the trend, the government is considering setting up a “climate bonus” system to help more “tenable” projects.

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