France Sustainability Issues

The critical environmental and sustainability issues of France:

1. Emission targets

France is falling behind on tackling the climate emergency despite ambitious promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s first official objective, the 2015-18 carbon budget, was not met. During this period, annual emissions decreased by only 1.1%, just over half the 1.9 percent that was prescribed. It is missing the emissions targets in three of four big sectors: Transport, Buildings, Industry.


2. Waste Management

Trash is piling up, hidden in plain sight across the suburbs and the countryside. In one commune, less than 40 km outside of Paris, rubbish that fills the equivalent of seven football fields continues to pile up.

Additionally, France is a major contributor of plastic waste in the Mediterranean. Although it is the largest Mediterranean economy, its rate of recycling of plastic waste is lower than that of Spain, Slovenia, Italy and Israel – something the WWF puts down to poor waste management.

France also has a clean water score of 49/100, while the global average is 71.


3. Unemployment

The unemployment rate in France inched higher to 8.6 percent in the third quarter of 2019 (Sep 2019) from 8.5 percent in the previous period (June 2019) and above market expectations of 8.4 percent. 16.5% of the population under 25 is classified as Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET). Additionally, new reforms, defended as necessary to get the unemployed back to work, severely curtails access to benefits for some of the country’s 3.62 million jobless.


4. Inequality

The average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita in France is USD 31,304 a year, lower than the OECD average of USD 33,604 a year. There is also a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn around four times as much as the bottom 20%.   

The Oxfam NGO reveals that 82% of the wealth produced last year went to the richest 1%.

France’s richest 1 percent represent over 20 percent of the economy’s wealth. Yet the median monthly income is about 1,700 euros, or $1,930, meaning that half of French workers are paid less than that.


5. Societal challenges

France’s prison system is badly overcrowded, with nearly 69,000 inmates in jails built to house 58,683. That has led to systematic overcrowding, with 1,648 prisoners sleeping on mattresses on the floor, a rise of 61.7 percent in a year.

The prison administrations with the highest suicide rate per 10,000 inmates in 2017 -was France at 12.6, just ahead of Austria at 12.3, and Germany at 11.8, with the European median figure at 5.5.

France has been wracked with civil unrest and anti-government protests since November 2018 with protesters taking to the streets of towns and cities throughout France. The original catalyst for the protests was a planned increase to a hydrocarbon tax, introduced as part of the French government’s environmental strategy, that would push up the price of fuel, especially diesel, from January 1. The protests have since morphed into wider anti-establishment action.

Anti-immigrant sentiment is popular in some groups in France. The terrorist attacks in France and more generally in Europe have made it impossible to dissociate immigration from national security, especially since the large waves of refugees, such as those in Calais, have created an apprehension of an invasion of the country by foreigners.