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French parliament approves climate change bill to green the economy By Reuters

© Reuters. A general view shows the hemicycle during the questions to the government session before a final vote on controversial climate change bill at the National Assembly in Paris, France, May 4, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

PARIS (Reuters) -France’s National Assembly on Tuesday approved a wide-ranging climate change bill that will prevent future airport expansions, prohibit open-air terrace heaters and reduce packaging waste.

France aims to cut greenhouse emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels but environmental activists say it is dragging its feet. In a landmark ruling in February, a court ruled France must do more to combat climate change.

After more than 200 hours of debate in parliamentary commissions and the lower house, lawmakers approved the bill by 332 to 77.

“Rather than big words and huge and unachievable objectives that only generate social resistance, we are putting in place effective measures,” Environment Minister Barbara Pompili told the chamber.

The legislation follows a citizens consultation during which 150 members of the public suggested dozens of measures to curb emissions.

Numerous participants criticised President Emmanuel Macron for diluting their ideas, but a year ahead of France’s presidential election, and with green parties performing well elsewhere in Europe, Macron hopes the bill will boost his environmental credentials.

Greenpeace said the legislation did not go far enough.

“It’s a law that might have been adequate 15 years ago, when the climate emergency was less pressing. In 2021, it will not be enough to effectively tackle global warming,” said Jean-Francois Julliard, head of Greenpeace France.

The legislation would ban the use of gas heaters on the outdoor terraces of cafes and restaurants from April 2022.

State-run schools will have to offer to offer a menu without meat or fish on at least one day a week. Supermarkets will have to reduce wasteful packaging to cut plastics use, while goods such as clothing will have to carry an “ecoscore” measuring their impact on the environment.

The bill also prohibits the construction of new airports or expanding the capacity of existing airports in one of the world’s most-visited countries. Domestic flights on routes served by a train ride of under 2.5 hours will be culled unless they connect to an international flight.

Meanwhile, the sale of cars emitting more than 95 grammes of CO2 per kilometre will be banned from 2030, and a subsidy for electric bicycles is extended.

Landlords will be prohibited from renting out poorly insulated properties through a gradual increase in energy efficiency requirements from 2025.

The bill now passes to the Senate before a final vote in the lower house where Macron and his allies have a majority.

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