This case study focuses on the development of the French national low-carbon strategy. It details the process of developing the French plan for achieving a low-carbon economy by 2050. The decision during the period 2013–15 to develop a longer-term (2050) low carbon strategy responds to a very specific context, both domestically and internationally:
- A new quinquennat, the five-year presidential term of François Hollande (2012–17) following a campaign in which French nuclear energy strategy was at stake for the first time, in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster and the German decision to phase out nuclear power.
- A growing domestic tension between the expectations created during the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy (2007– 12) by the “Grenelle” stakeholder consultation process on the environment, which concluded with ambitious announcements that many NGOs and scientists felt were betrayed by its implementation.
- The decision to host the COP21 in Paris.
The development of the French national low-carbon strategy is a good practice because of the large number of stakeholders involved in the process and because of the extensive modelling that was conducted to better inform the document. A new consultative process was launched in the fall of 2012, involving all relevant stakeholders at the national level in an ad hoc Council for the Energy Transition (Conseil national de la transition écologique, CNTE). The CNTE included representatives from business (large and small firms in all economic sectors); trade unions; environment, social, and consumer NGOs; members of National Assembly and Senate, as well as subnational (regional and municipal) authorities. This led not only to rich, relevant, and lively discussions, but also generated new interest and lasting engagement on issues such as energy poverty, protection of agricultural land, shared and circular economy experiences, and the design of adapted financing tools.
The extensive modelling gave those creating the CNTE a much clearer picture about where important decisions needed to be made, and how these decisions connected with each other to build coherent and robust pathways.
Some key lessons that can be pulled from this case, include:
- The value in exploring contrasting pathways, acknowledging that the transition is a matter of political choices, even if the options are obviously constrained by technological, economic, and social characteristics.
- The need to offer a transparent framework to collectively compare and evaluate the different options.
- The need to recognize that bottom-up, consensual measures alone will not build a consistent and sufficiently ambitious program, and that strong political leadership is needed to deliver more adequate strategies.
- The value of presenting explicit, sector-based visions of the transition to feed the discussion of policy options and specifically to identify the needs for new financial approaches, providing adequate investment capacity and risk mitigation to decision makers public and private, large and small.