France's international commitments

During the past 30 years and more, the French authorities have made commitments under different international Conventions and Protocols on atmospheric pollution and climate change to limit or reduce the quantities of certain air pollutant emissions by certain dates. These conventions, and the protocols applying their provisions, enter into force subject to certain conditions such as ratification by a sufficient number of States covering a minimum level of emissions in absolute terms. Additional to these international commitments are those made under European legislation (regulations, directives and decisions), which often reinforce international objectives in the same topic areas.

The coverage of emissions usually differs, depending on the sectors and geographic areas concerned by the different commitments.

Current French commitments and corresponding indicators

Governing body
Framework Scope Target Current position
for France
Target reached
United Nations UNFCCC(a)
Kyoto Protocol(b)
Mainland and part of the overseas France(c) Stabilization of CO2e(d) emissions between 1990 and the 2008-2012 average (for France) The average from 2008-2011 is lower than the 1990 reference emissions (-9,6%) yes
European Commission EU-ETS(f) Certain facilities and air transport Mainland and part of the overseas France(c) No quantified target but 21% reduction in total quantities of AAUs in 2020 vs baseline 2005 (for all EU under ETS) -20% of reduction between verified emissions 2011 vs verified emissions 2005 yes
Non EU-ETS Sources and GHGs not covered by EU-ETS (Mainland and part of the overseas France(c)) -14% by 2020 vs (baseline 2005 (for France) -13% from 2005 to 2011 likely to be
Climate and Renewable Energy Package(e) Mainland and part of the overseas France(c) 20% reduction in CO2e emissions by 2020 (baseline 1990) (for all EU) 486 Mt CO2e in 2011, i.e. -13% vs 1990 likely to be

(a) UNFCCC: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, adopted in 1992 and ratified since by almost every country in the world (France on 25 March 1994 and EU on 31 December 1993). Came into force on 21 March 1994.

(b) The Kyoto Protocol adopted in 1997 extends the UNFCCC. Signed by most States and ratified simultaneously by France and the EU on 31 May 2002 (but not ratified by all States, e.g. the United States); sets out more binding emission reduction commitments than the UNFCCC, subscribed to by 41 Parties including France and the EU. Came into force on 16 February 2005.

(c) In common with some other States (e.g. United Kingdom, Netherlands, Denmark, United States), France has a number of overseas territories. International commitments do not always cover the same geographical area, and especially scattered overseas areas. In the case of France, a distinction is sometimes made between overseas territories that belong to the European Union (as of 1 May 2012: Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Reunion, Saint-Barthélemy and the French part of Saint-Martin) and those that do not, i.e., Mayotte, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, Wallis et Futuna, the French Southern and Antarctic territories (TAAF) and Clipperton, which make up the PTOM (Pays et Territoires d'Outre-mer). These are denominations used in the European Treaty and are not the same as the overseas department (DOM) and overseas community (COM) denominations used internally in France.

(d) These commitments concern six direct GHGs or GHG families: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). A weighting system is used to express the effect of these six substances through a single indicator, called the Global Warming Potential (GWP), which is expressed in CO2 equivalent and written as CO2e.

(e) The Climate and Renewable Energy Package is a series of six legal texts including Decision 406/2009/EC on the efforts assigned to Member States to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and EU regulation (CE) 443/2009 establishing CO2 emission standards for new passenger cars. Came into force on 25 June 2009.

(f) The European GHG emissions trading system (ETS) is defined by Directive 2003/87/EC (as amended). It was established in 2005 and will enter a new 7-year phase in 2013.

Governing body Framework Scope Target Current position
Target reach
United Nations UNECE(g)
Göteborg Protocol(h)
Mainland France 400 kt SO2 by 2010 255 kt yes
860 kt NOx by 2010 1 005 kt no
1 100 kt NMVOC by 2010 734 kt yes
780 kt NH3 by 2010 674 kt yes
Aarhus Protocol on heavy metals(j)
Mainland France Lead (Pb) emissions below levels observed in 1990 128 t (i.e. -97%) yes
Mercury (Hg) emissions below levels observed in 1990 4.7 t (i.e. -81%) yes
Cadmium (Cd) emissions below levels observed in 1990 2.5 t (i.e. -88%) yes
Aarhus Protocol on POPs(j)
Mainland France PAH(l) emissions below levels observed in 1990 19 t (i.e. -53%) yes
Dioxins and furans emissions below levels observed in 1990 92 g ITEQ(m) (i.e. -95%) yes
Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) emissions below levels observed in 1990 16 kg (i.e. -99%) yes
European Commission NEC Directive(k) Mainland France 375 kt SO2 by 2010 255 kt yes
810 kt NOx by 2010 1 005 kt no
1 050 kt NMVOC by 2010

734 kt

780 kt NH3 by 2010 674 kt yes

(g) The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe adopted the Convention on Transboundary Air Pollution, known as the Geneva Convention, on 13 November 1979. It came into force on 28 January 1988 and is implemented under several successive Protocols. Those currently in force are the Gothenburg Protocol (known as the "multi-pollutant, multi-effects Protocol" as it concerns several pollutants involved in acidification, eutrophication and photochemical pollution) and the two Aarhus Protocols, one on heavy metals and the other on persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

(h) The Gothenburg Protocol came into force on 23 October 2003 (ratified by France on 25 July 2003). A revised version adopted on 4 May 2012 and including new ceilings to be complied with by 2020 will enter into force subject to ratification by a certain number of states.

(j) The Aarhus Protocols came into force on 23 October and 29 December 2003 (POPs and heavy metals respectively) and were ratified by France on 25 July 2003 and 26 July 2002.

(k) Directive 2001/81/EC of 23 October 2001 ("NEC Directive") aims to limit emissions of pollutants causing acidification and eutrophication and forming ozone precursors. It sets ceilings for SO2, NOx, NMVOC and NH3 emissions to be complied with by 2010. It is currently being revised to define new ceilings for 2020.

(l) This agreement covers only 4 compounds in the PAH group (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons): benzo(a)pyrene, benzo(b)fluoranthene, benzo(k)fluoranthene and indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene.

(m) ITEQ: international toxic equivalent.

For more details:

Climate change

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

The UNFCCC establishes an overall framework for the intergovernmental effort to address climate change. It recognizes that the climate system is a shared resource whose stability may be affected by industrial emissions of CO2 and other heat-trapping gases.

The UNFCCC requires governments to:

    • compile and share information on greenhouse gases, national policies and best practices,
    • launch national strategies to address GHG emissions and adapt to predicted impacts, including by making financial and technological support available to developing countries.

The overarching objective of the UNFCCC is to "stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at a level that will prevent dangerous interference with the climate system" (Article 2). Under the Convention, the developed countries listed in Annex 1 (called the Annex 1 Parties) made individual or joint commitments to reduce their emissions of CO2 and other GHGs not covered by the 1987 Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting substances, to 1990 levels by the year 2000.

The Kyoto Protocol, adopted under the Climate Convention, sets out an aggregate emissions reduction target for a "basket" of six GHGs, expressed in terms of Global Warming Potential (GWP): CO2, methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and three fluorinated gases: hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). The Annex 1 Parties to the Climate Convention have committed to an overall 5.2% reduction in their emissions during the 2008-2012 period compared to 1990 levels. The EU has committed to an overall 8% reduction package commonly referred to as the European "emissions bubble".

The Kyoto Protocol provides for several market-based, or so-called flexible mechanisms that, in addition to the policies and measures to be implemented nationally, were designed to help countries achieve their binding emission reduction targets by introducing greater flexibility and reducing the costs arising from emission reductions. The three main mechanisms are:

    • the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM):
    • Joint Implementation (JI):
    • international emissions trading (of tradable emissions allowances).

The 15 EU Member States of the time reached an agreement on 16 June 1998 ("burden-sharing" agreement) defining how emission reduction efforts within the EU would be distributed in order to comply with the overall 8% objective. This agreement was formalized in Annex II to Decision 2002/358/EC and became legally binding on the Member States when the EU ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The efforts to be made range from -28% for Luxembourg to +27% for Portugal. Further negotiations take place on an annual basis at the so-called Conference of the Parties (COP) (of the Climate Convention) on the different commitments and measures applying to the different Parties (Marrakech agreement, Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban, etc.).

 Commitments under the EU burden-sharing agreement on emission reductions of the six GHGs from 2008 to 2012 compared to 1990

Engagements pays UE EN

The Emissions Trading System (ETS) Directive 2003/87/EC as amended

In pursuance of Article 17 of the Kyoto Protocol, Directive 2003/87/EC (the ETS Directive), which came into force on 25 October 2003, established a GHG emissions trading system (EU-ETS) within the EU taking effect on 1 January 2005. After an initial three-year trading period (2005-2007) and a second five-year period (2008-2012) corresponding to the first Kyoto Protocol commitment period, the EU has defined a third emissions trading period from 2013 to 2020.

The industrial facilities covered for 2008-2012 are those involved in the activities listed in Annex 1 to the Directive:

    • in the energy sector, all combustion plants (except kilns) with a total rated thermal input of more than 20 MW, including manufacturing plant for ethylene, propylene, carbon black and rock wool, drying plants for starch and dairy production and flares used in gas and petroleum production. Incineration plants for municipal and hazardous waste are not included.
    • in cases other than the above, all plants releasing GHGs in the following production sectors: refineries, iron and steel, coke production, cement (capacity >500 t/day), lime (if capacity >50t/day), glass (if capacity >20t/day), tiles and bricks (if capacity >75t/day), paper and paper pulp (if capacity >20t/day).

Until now, the level of verified CO2 emissions from facilities covered by the EU-ETS has always been lower than their assigned amounts. The difference was in fact greater during the first period (2005-2007) than in the subsequent period (2008-2012), due to the impact of the economic crisis, especially from 2009.

A substantially negative difference tends to force assigned amount unit (AAU) prices downwards (because supply outstrips demand), but as trade is international, prices cannot be significantly affected by the situation in France alone.

Overall, both emissions and quotas covered by the system are declining, particularly because the coverage of facilities is tending to increase with successive commitment periods. Detailed analyses must address differences between sectors, as these overall trends are not representative of a single sector or facility, as well as facilities entering or leaving the system over time (new plant, modifications, closures, etc.).

Differences between verified CO2 emissions and AAUs in France

Years AAUs (Mt) Verified CO2 emissions (Mt) EU-ETS emissions vs. total emissions Difference between verified emissions and AAUs
2005 150 131 31% -13%
2006 150 126 31% -16%
2007 152 127 32% -17%
2008 133 124 32% -7%
2009 136 111 30% -18%
2010 139 116 30% -16%
2011 139 105 29% -25%

Directive 2008/101/EC of 19 November 2008 amends Directive 2003/87/EC to include activities in the air transport sector. As from 1 January 2012, the EU-ETS covers all flights arriving at and departing from an airport within the territory of an EU Member State, thus including flights within the EU and between the EU and other countries.

The directive sets out the total quantity of AAUs:

    • for the period from 1st January to 31 December 2012, the total quantity of AAUs assigned to aircraft operators must be equivalent to 97% of historic GHG emissions in the aviation sector (i.e., the average level of emissions generated during 2004-2006 by aircraft involved in the flight activities concerned),
    • during the 2013-2020 and subsequent periods, the total quantity of AAUs assigned to aircraft operators will drop to 95%.

These total quantities are the GHG emission ceilings for the aviation sector: GHG emissions from the airline companies concerned must therefore drop by 3% by 2012, then by 5% during the period from 2013 to 2020.

Climate and Renewable Energy Package

The EU "Climate and Renewable Energy Package" is a series of six legal texts drawn up to implement the climate change commitments made in 2007 by the EU by applying an integrated approach to climate and energy, in particular to reduce GHG emissions and increase the security of supplies.The EU's GHG emission reduction target for 2020 (1990 baseline) is a firm and unilateral commitment to reduce emissions by at least 20% by 2020, pending an overall global post-2012 agreement. A 30% reduction by 2020 is still being considered, provided that other developed countries (Japan, United States, etc.) undertake to achieve comparable emission reductions and that the most economically advanced developing countries (China, India, Brazil, etc.) also contribute commensurately with their respective responsibilities and capacities.

The -20% target for energy is detailed as follows:

    • renewable energy: a binding 20% share of renewable energy in total final energy consumption by 2020,
    • biofuels: a binding minimum share of 10% biofuels in total petrol and diesel consumption for transport within the EU by 2020.
    • energy efficiency: a non-binding target of 20% savings on EU energy consumption compared to the baseline scenario for 2020.

The six legal texts adopted by the European Parliament and Council are:

    • Directive 2009/28/EC on promoting the use of energy from renewable sources,
    • Directive 2009/29/EC amending Directive 2003/87/EC in order to improve and extend the EU GHG emissions trading system (EU-ETS) after 2012,
    • Decision n° 406/2009/EC on the efforts assigned to the Member States to reduce their GHG emissions (in sectors not covered by the EU-ETS) in order to comply with EU commitments up to 2020,
    • Directive 2009/30/EC amending Directive 98/70/EC as regards specifications for petrol and diesel and introducing a mechanism to monitor and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,
    • Directive 2009/31/EC on geological storage of CO2,
    • Regulation (EC) n° 443/2009 setting out performance standards for CO2 emissions from new passenger cars. As this is a Regulation, it is directly applicable in all Member States and compliance with all items is mandatory (since 8 June 2009).

Decision 406/2009/EC (ESD)

Decision 406/2009/EC sets out the contribution of each of the 27 Member States during the 2013-2020 period to the -20% target for GHG emissions from sectors not covered by the ETS Directive. It provides for some flexibility in the efforts required by allowing the use of emission credits resulting from reductions achieved through the flexible mechanisms (CDM and JI).

The total reduction effort (-20% compared to 1990 levels) is distributed between the different EU-ETS sectors (which currently account for about 40% of total GHG emissions in the EU) and sectors not covered by the EU-ETS (buildings in the residential and tertiary sector, transport, small-scale industrial installations, waste, agriculture, etc.), which at present account for the remaining 60%. The following approach was defined as part of the climate and renewable energy package:

    • a 21% reduction by 2020 in the EU-ETS sectors (baseline 2005) under Directive 2009/29/EC.
    • an average reduction of 10% by 2020 in the EU-27 in non-EU-ETS sectors (baseline 2005).

Taken together, these targets correspond to an overall reduction of 14% compared to 2005, i.e. the equivalent of a 20% reduction compared to 1990.

GHG emissions reduction targets for 2020 in the EU-ETS and non-EU-ETS sectors

Articulation objectifs GES

To ensure an equitable contribution from each Member State to compliance with the EU's unilateral emission reduction commitment to -20% by 2020 compared to 1990, no Member State must be required to reduce its GHG emissions by 2020 by more than 20% compared to 2005 levels and no Member State may be authorized to increase its GHG emissions by 2020 by more than 20% compared to 2005 levels. During 2013-2020, each Member State must therefore limit its GHG emissions from non-EU-ETS sectors by the percentage set out and established in the Annex to the Decision 406/2009/EC (compared to the 2005 baseline). These percentages vary from -20% to +20% to ensure that individual targets assigned to the Member States are technically and economically feasible without incurring excessive additional costs.

Total GHG emissions from each Member State in 2013 in sectors not covered by the EU-ETS must not exceed average annual GHG emissions from the same sources in 2008, 2009 and 2010. As from 2013, each Member State must achieve an annual linear reduction in its GHG emissions so that it does not exceed the individual ceilings that it must comply with by 2020.

The target assigned to France for non-EU-ETS sectors is -14% from 2005 to 2020.

Directive 2009/29/EC

Directive 2009/29/EC amends Directive 2003/87/EC in order to improve and extend the EU-ETS for the third trading period (2013-2020). First of all, the new directive rationalises and widens the scope of the EU-ETS in order to include, in particular, other GHGs (N2O emissions from the production of nitric, adipic and glyoxilic acid and PFC emissions from aluminium production) and other sectors with the inclusion of all combustion equipment and kilns in particular (CO2 emissions from the petrochemical industry and from ammonia and aluminium production).

Unlike Directive 2003/87/EC, Directive 2009/29/EC establishes a single GHG emissions ceiling in the sectors concerned for the EU as a whole. In order to improve predictability and transparency in the EU-ETS, this Directive also provides for the harmonization of AAU allocation rules.

It defines the rules for calculating the EU ceiling. As from 2013, the total number of AAUs must decrease in a linear manner each year. The baseline is the average annual quantity of AAUs fixed by the Member States for the 2008-2012 period, adapted in order to take the EU-ETS extension in 2013 into account. The annual linear reduction factor is set at 1.74%. This linear factor is defined on the basis of the overall 20% reduction in GHG emissions (baseline 1990), or 14% compared to the 2005 level. However, the EU-ETS sectors are required to achieve a larger reduction of -21% by 2020 (baseline 2005).


Air pollution

Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (UNECE/LRTAP)

This Convention signed under the aegis of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe covers a geographical zone extending across the European continent and a large part of the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and adjacent Central Asian countries.

Several Protocols have been adopted in order to reduce emissions of the different substances concerned. These Protocols assign to each signatory Party either a commitment to reduce emissions by a given percentage compared to a baseline year, or emission ceilings it must comply with. Before the Protocols currently in force indicated above, several others were adopted under the Convention:

    • Helsinki Protocol (adopted 8 July 1985, came into force on 2 September 1987, ratified by France on 13 March 1986): France's target was to reduce its SO2 emissions by 30% from 1980 to 1993. France had also undertaken to reduce its emissions by 60%, following the example of 12 States committing to emission reductions of at least 50%. These objectives have been achieved.
    • Sofia Protocol (adopted 1 November 1988, came into force on 14 February 1991, ratified by France on 20 July 1989): France's target was to stabilize its NOx emissions from 1987 to 1994. France made an additional commitment to reduce its emissions by 30% from 1980 to 1998. This was achieved eight years after the target date.
    • Geneva Protocol (adopted 18 November 1991, came into force on 29 September 1997, ratified by France on 12 June 1997): France agreed to reduce its emissions of non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) by 30% from 1988 to 1999. This target has been achieved.
    • Oslo Protocol (adopted 14 June 1994, came into force on 5 August 1998, ratified by France on 12 June 1997): the new SO2 target for France was a further gradual reduction in emissions (868 kt in 2000, 770 kt in 2005 and 737 kt in 2010). This target has been achieved.

NEC Directive

Directive 2001/81/EC ("NEC Directive") aims to limit emissions of pollutants causing acidification and eutrophication and forming ozone precursors. It establishes national emission ceilings to be complied with by 2010 for the four substances covered by the Gothenburg Protocol, i.e.: SO2, NOx, NMVOCs and NH3 (NB: this Directive is currently being revised by the European Commission to define new ceilings for 2020 following the recently adopted amendments to the Gothenburg Protocol).

Furthermore, each Member State has introduced a programme to achieve gradual reductions in national emissions of these four substances in order to comply with national emission ceilings for 2010. The French programme was adopted by decree on 8 July 2003 and has been reviewed several times. All targets have been achieved except for NOx.

LCP Directive

Directive 2001/80/EC of 23 October 2001 ("LCP Directive") regulates emissions of SO2, NOx and dust from the large combustion plants covered by the Directive in each of the Member States. It applies to combustion plants, whatever the fuel used (solid, liquid or gas) with a nominal thermal output of 50 MW or more. In 2010, 246 combustion plants were covered by this Directive in France.

The LPC Directive does not set emission ceilings beyond 2003, as the NEC directive introduces national ceilings. The ceilings set for SO2 and NOx emissions from large combustion plants have all been complied with. This Directive is to be repealed on 7 January 2016, when LCPs will come under Directive 2010/75/EU on industrial emissions.