Climate warming is, for the first time, one of the major issues in the French presidential elections. Each candidate pledges his credibility on the answers he proposes but these ones are frequently hazy and even sometimes in contradiction with the other proposals inscribed in their programs. To announce ambitious objectives about the reduction of greenhouse emissions is not enough. The achievement of these objectives must be credible and square with the challenges with which the world is confronted. To bring convincing answers, it is necessary to take into account three realities.
First, climate warming is a global phenomenon. It is the whole emissions generated by each State which is its cause. But it exist very high disparities according to the size of the countries and the policies they adopted. The United States have reduced the CO2 emissions provoked by fossil fuels utilization by 400 million tons between 2010 and 2019 to reach 5 billion tons. That year, France emitted 300 million tons, a 20% reduction, when Germany emitted 680 million tons with a 14% diminution. China has seen its emissions, during the same period increase by 20% to reach 9 800 million tons. These differences are huge. It is why an international negotiation is necessary and the compliance with the international concluded agreements indisputable. To imagine that the action of one State will have consequences on the life of its present and coming population is a non sense as to imagine that it can, itself alone, solve the problem. The results will only come from the action of everyone in order to profit to everyone.
Then, it is a slow but irreversible phenomenon. It is why only lasting actions are able to cope with it because it is the continuity of the policies put into practice which is the condition of their success. That situation is not very frequent in the political action. Political leaders expect quick results from which they could prevail themselves in front of their electors. That does not impeach them, in their speech, to fix objectives whose term largely overpasses their mandate duration. That harms their credibility because everyone can ask himself what is the scope of a program which announces objectives in 2040 and 2050 knowing that most of theit authors won’t be any more in function at that time.
The third characteristic of the climate warming is that it is certain phenomenon and to that, political leaders are not very much used because in economic issues and, as we see it today with the sanitary crisis, countries live in uncertainness. It is why the chosen remedies must bring certain results. Yet, especially in the energy transition field, many proposals lay on new technologies like these allowing power storage, CO2 capture, bio-methane or hydrogen production whose results, them, are far from being certain. So they cannot constitute appropriate answers to climate warming, as soon as they have not proved their ability to deliver the expected results along with acceptable prices.
The success of the fight against climate warming lays first on the ability of the States to transform their energy production modes with in first place the power one, which will be destined to substitute itself to fossil fuels. But if its production is based on fossil fuels, this policy will not contribute to the achievement of the announced objectives. Then, it must be found and put into application efficient incentives in order that economic agents consume less energy without that affects the enterprises capacities and the quality of life of household.
Regarding power, the American example shows it, it is the reduction of the coal and its substitution by natural gas, made possible by the exploitation of the shale fields which has allowed the country to significantly reducing its emissions. Coal consumption between 2010 and 2019 has been reduced by half when in Germany it has only fallen by one third and has increased by 10% in China. So tensions observed on the natural gas market in Europe are not only due to geopolitical situation. It appears more and more clearly that regarding the countries which have renounced to nuclear power production, the only way to reach, on an acceptable time, their objectives lays on the substitution of coal power plants with natural gas power plants, because a continuous increase of the electricity consumption is expected in transportation as in domestic uses. The intermittent power sources are not able to guarantee supply security, and that has been confirmed these last months in Germany as in the U.S. The European Commission reservations to include natural gas as an energy source contributing to the energy transition are incomprehensible.
Incentives to reduce fossil fuels consumption must also be better focused. Regarding mobility, the concentration of the public aids on electric vehicles for individuals is excessive because these aids are very costly and they lowly contribute to the realization of the proposed objectives. To the opposite, if a share of these incentives was transferred to professional vehicles, mostly old and using diesel, the result would be much better because the main obstacle regarding individuals, i.e. the autonomy and the availability of recharging points, is less important for enterprises which frequently have locations for installing them and which essentially use the vehicles for short trips. On a longer term, the truck transportation electrification or the use of natural gas in sea transportation must be the purpose of aggressive policies. The probability of their success is definitely higher then the one regarding the development of airplanes using hydrogen whose it doesn’t even exist a prototype.
The same observation can be done about the reduction of power consumption in buildings. The achievement of works is highly complex for shared properties and for flats which are rented. The efficiency of this policy depends of the easiness with which it is put into operation. So it is much better to focus it on individual houses occupied by their owners and on buildings belonging to institutional, whatever they are social ones or not. The State and also the local authorities have an huge responsibility about
the respect of the isolation regulations in the vast locals they occupy and they have the capacity to finance and to achieve the needed works.
France alone is not going to rescue the planet. Regarding its very low level of its emissions, the energy transition, along being as aggressive as elsewhere, must also follow economic considerations. Power consumption to be increasing, it is urgent to launch a large nuclear program dedicated to the modernization of the existing plants and to the construction of new capacities which will replace the power plants coming at the end of their duration of life. That will also allow the renaissance of a strategic industrial tool. The same voluntarism, supported by the State, but to the condition of being focused and prevented against any dispersal to the profit of hazardous project, must concern the vehicles new motorizations. So could be, at least partly, recovered a level of production in france of this sector which has been for twenty years the main cause of the country de-industrialization.
The energy transition, to the condition of not being a slogan and of laying on sure and lasting bases, can contribute both to the respect of international commitments and to the realization of economic objectives. It is a rare enough situation not to miss its opportunity.