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Plastic pollution is an entirely man-made problem, with single-use plastic being discarded and dumped into landfills and the ocean at unprecedented rates. This is despite some plastics being recyclable, if only once or twice.
Plastic pollution is causing a major threat to aquatic life in particular, with oceans in some areas of the world choked with plastic debris causing widespread deaths among fish, turtles, and seabirds.
Both issues of emissions and plastic pollution are unfortunately highly politicized, meaning progress to rectify the damage done to the environment can be slow.
France is one European country that has been publicly striving to reassess and improve its environmental impact by reducing emissions and plastic waste. Below is a summary of the country’s current goals to tackle the emissions and plastic problem.
40% of plastic packaging is used only once before being discarded, and less than a fifth of plastic is recycled globally. Europe recycles 30% of its plastic waste; China recycles 25%; the US recycles just nine percent. However, despite being forward-thinking in its approach to tackling pollution, France has the second-worst plastic recycling rates in Europe at 25.5%.
The EU is considering a ban on all single-use plastic products, from straws, takeaway cups, and other food packaging, balloons, plates, and cotton buds. However, France has taken on this ban already, having set goals to completely ban single-use plastic by 2020.
Speaking to news outlet Al Jazeera, environmental campaigner Arash Derambarsh spoke on the scale of France’s plastic problem.
“Here in France, we have approximately one to five billion [tonnes of plastic]. That’s huge. We passed a law in France in 2015, that supermarkets aren’t allowed to sell plastic bags of a certain size in supermarkets and certain shops. Why? Because we’re trying to generate an ecological revolution.”
Additionally, France plans to make bottles made from recycled plastic cheaper than those made from virgin plastic by applying a lower VAT rate on recycled bottles, giving buyers a financial incentive to purchase recycled plastic products.
Reducing France’s Emissions Pollution
In July 2017, the Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition revealed the government’s Climate Plan.
In 2018, a draft of the country’s National Low-Carbon Strategy (SNBC) was made public. It states that transport is responsible for 28 % of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, the building sector 20%, and agriculture 19%.
The SNBC includes specific targets and methods for each sector with a significant share in France’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The target for transport is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 29% by 2024-2028 when compared to rates in 2013.
France plans to action this goal by improving the efficiency of its vehicles, advance the development of low-emission vehicle quotas in public transport, and recharging infrastructures for electric vehicles. It also plans to promote alternatives to using cars for transport, including tax incentives for cycling.
Building Sector Targets
The target for the building sector is to reduce emissions by 54 percent by 2024-2028 compared to 2013 and to reduce energy consumption by 28% by 2030, compared to 2010.
To do this, the SNBC states it will renovate buildings to high standards of efficiency by 2050, and speed up the management of energy consumption, which includes the development and connection of smart meters, helping those in the industry to identify hidden energy consumption and the least efficient appliances so they can choose more efficient ones.
Agriculture and Forestry Targets
The target for agriculture and forestry is to reduce agricultural emissions by 12% by 2024-2028 through the agro-ecology project, store and conserve carbon in soils and biomass, and to consolidate material and energy substitution effects.
To make this goal a reality, the SNBC states that it will speed up the implementation of the agro-ecology project by developing crop-growing and livestock-rearing practices that harbour lower emissions, reduce the amount of nitrogen surplus by using synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, and increase the amount of products made from natural sources by harvesting more wood in a sustainable way.
The SNBC also states that France aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 9 to 10 Mt per year over the next 35 years.
Environmental Targets for the Capital
The city of Paris has set the following targets in its Climate Plan for the 2020 to 2030 period:
- Reduce local greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent (compared with 2004)
- Reduce the Paris carbon footprint by 40 percent (compared with 2004)
- Reduce energy consumption by 35 percent (compared with 2004)
- Have 45 percent of energy consumption sourced from renewable energy
- Become a zero fossil fuel and domestic heating oil area
- Conform to the WHO air quality recommendations.
For 2050, the goals set for Paris include reducing local greenhouse gas emissions to zero and reducing the city’s carbon footprint by 80 %.
Paris is also aiming to phase out diesel-powered vehicles entirely by 2024, and petrol-powered vehicles by 2030.
The reduction of emissions and plastic pollution poses a number of benefits to any country. For France, these include saving energy across all sectors, using new, clean modes of transport, boosting the circular economy through promoting recycling and eco-design, and growing the country’s GDP and increasing the amount of jobs available to its citizens. Of course, the environment at large will also benefit from a reduction in emissions and plastic pollution, and France aims to be at the forefront of the push towards a cleaner, greener society in the EU.
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