Greening France

Drivers complain that Paris these days is a vast construction site. Streets are being ripped up to make way for tramways, electric car charging posts, and ever more bike lanes and docking stations. The first major city to have put in a free bike-sharing system, back in 2007, Paris has now moved to phase two with more and lighter bikes, a docking system that allows overflow and the introduction of shared electric bikes. 

After signing the Paris Climate Agreement, the country too is shifting into action. It put the Energy Transition for Green Growth Act into effect in 2016, which aims to lower non-renewable energy consumption by 50% by 2050 (from 2012 levels) and increase the share of renewable energy sources to 32%. The new law sets up frameworks for developing renewables and lowering carbon emissions and air pollution. It has also earmarked €750 million for clean energy, green technology, and efforts to reduce airborne agricultural pollution.

The OECD’s Environmental Performance Review of France from 2016 singles out specific fields where concrete progress has been made, including the reduction of air pollution and the inclusion of a carbon factor in the taxation of fossil fuels. France has made some modest progress in taking measures to lower greenhouse gas emissions, with a 25% increase in harvested wind and solar power: renewable energy currently accounts for the equivalent output of six nuclear reactors, in a country where nuclear energy is the main generator of electricity. To fight against air pollution in the city of Paris, subsidies have been put in place to help people buy electric bikes and vehicles. There is an ongoing plan to expand cycle lanes and encourage the use of public transport. More than 100,000 electric vehicles (EV) are now in circulation, serviced by an EV recharging network of 15,000 stations.

But France faces many challenges. It needs to restrict land-take, and take action against the pollution of groundwater with nitrates and pesticides, since France is one of the world’s biggest consumers of plant protection products. Improving air quality is another priority, particularly at a time when people living in the greater Paris area are exposed to levels of fine particulates that exceed regulatory limits and have damaging effects on both the environment and human health. The country also needs to improve its protection of land and marine ecosystems to safeguard the country’s extraordinary biodiversity.

The multi-layered institutional mosaic of France’s regional administration– known by the French as a millefeuille after a layered pastry–hampers many initiatives, and some of the plans that have been introduced are not restrictive enough or are based on loosely defined forms of governance. The OECD review stresses that the recent reforms to the country’s regional organisation is a step in the right direction.

France takes climate change and green policies seriously, but as a major industrial economy, the transition is a long work in progress. Which means those city constructions sites will be around for a while, even if all in a good cause.

References and links

OECD (2016), OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: France 2016, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Read the EU Environmental Implementation Review Country Report – FRANCE at

“Bilan de l’application de la loi de transition énergétique pour la croissance verte et stratégies d’application” at

©OECD Observer No 312 Q4 December 2017

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q3 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.4% Nov 2017 annual
Trade: +4.3% exp, +4.3% imp, Q3 2017
Unemployment: 5.6% Nov 2017
Last update: 16 Jan 2018


Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly

Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Rousseau
  • Do you trust your government? The OECD’s How's life 2017 report finds that only 38% of people in OECD countries trust their government. How can we improve our old "Social contract?" Read more.
  • Papers show “past coming back to haunt us”: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria tells Sky News that the so-called "Paradise Papers" show a past coming back to haunt us, but one which is now being dismantled. Please watch the video.
  • When someone asks me to describe an ideal girl, in my head, she is a person who is physically and mentally independent, brave to speak her mind, treated with respect just like she treats others, and inspiring to herself and others. But I know that the reality is still so much different. By Alda, 18, on International Day of the Girl. Read more.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Read some of the insightful remarks made at OECD Forum 2017, held on 6-7 June. OECD Forum kick-started events with a focus on inclusive growth, digitalisation, and trust, under the overall theme of Bridging Divides.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2018