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The country where the historic Paris Agreement was reached is one of the most pro-Europe and pro-climate in a complex and tense global geopolitical context. The ECF’s France programme aims to advance domestic policies that drive emissions cuts in the real economy and to strengthen France’s diplomatic influence at the European and global levels.

Ilnur Kalimullin Cb0qrf8ib4i Unsplash

Key challenges

  • France is not on track to meeting its carbon reduction targets. France did not succeed in meeting its first carbon budget (2015-2018) and has adjusted its targets to increase its chances of meeting them by 2023. Appropriate policies are needed to deliver the structural changes needed for France to keep within its carbon trajectory, as requested in the first report of the newly created High Council for the Climate.
  • The fear of an ecological transition that fails to adequately take social justice into account is very strong in France, calling for robust measures and plans to ensure a just transition. In November 2018, protests by the “yellow vests” following the government’s decision in late 2017 to raise the carbon tax on fuel in an effort to fight climate change. The movement has rapidly expanded to include other fiscal, social and political demands. Growing inequalities have caused a significant part of the population to feel excluded and disconnected from urbanised and globalised elites. The yellow vest movement is a strong reminder of the need to align climate policies with inclusive social and economic progress. This demands citizen participation in policy design, a just distribution of transition measures, and also strong reconversion plans for both employees and territories impacted.
  • This is happening in the context of complete reconfiguration of the political landscape. The French political scene has changed drastically with the emergence of La République En Marche, the current governing party, and a fragile balance of power between opposition parties. While several parties are trying to redefine their place on the political scene, an unprecedented appetite for ecology is emerging. This has taken the form of climate marches, youth strikes, the mobilisation of celebrities, and a transpartisan collective of “transition supporters” in the National Assembly. It is difficult to predict at this stage to what extent this social energy will lead to structural changes in the real economy.


The main mission of the ECF’s France programme is to accelerate a just transition toward a zero-emission society by:

  • Supporting the implementation of the climate neutrality strategy: Now that France has committed to achieving climate neutrality by 2050, we are working to ensure that government bodies and civil society actors are in place to inform the development and monitor the implementation of the appropriate and additional policies and measures needed to reach this goal at the local, regional and national levels.
  • Accelerating the transition toward zero-emission mobility and buildings: Transport is responsible for almost 30% of emissions, while the construction sector accounts for 20%. To accelerate the ecological transition, we support structural reforms in these two sectors, which can also deliver huge co-benefits, especially for health.
  • Gaining societal support for climate action: To win the battle against climate change, we need everyone on board. That is why we are working to understand people’s priorities and concerns in relation to climate change, to support their involvement in policy design and to help strengthen the consensus needed for climate action.
  • Raising progressive voices: In order to win the battle, we are helping the voices of climate defenders to emerge and influence the public debate on climate change policies. The mobilisation of young activists, scientists, local leaders, journalists, parliamentarians, and celebrities, among others, is essential to create the political space for climate action.
  • Helping to bring together social and climate actors: The yellow vest movement is a strong example of how climate policies, if not well-designed and anticipated, can impact the most precarious populations. In order to avoid such mistakes in the future, we are supporting a wide spectrum of civil society actors – unions, organisations acting against poverty, insurances, environmental NGOs and others, in sharing their experience and expertise and developing common approaches to the crisis.
  • Sustaining strong climate diplomacy: France is the third-largest economy in the EU after Germany and the UK and has been at the heart of the European project and the driver of its ambitions for global leadership. Following the UK’s decision to leave the EU, strong French leadership is vital to ensure that Europe will progress in the realisation of the broad societal goals embodied in the Paris Agreement.

How we work

The ECF identifies gaps in the French response to climate change by funding organisations and coalitions of stakeholders with the right expertise and public profile to address key issues at the local or national level. We take a broad approach to the types of interventions we fund – from litigation and political caucusing to activism and media engagement – because all of this activity builds towards an ambitious and thoughtful movement that reflects the full diversity of our society. Together our grantees seek social and political transformation that will ensure a secure and sustainable future for all.


Marie Chauvet

France Office Manager & Programme Assistant

Léo Cogos

Senior Associate, France Programme

Agathe Destresse

Senior Associate, France Programme

Karine Gavand

Director, France Programme

Claire Guichet

Manager, France Programme

Julie Henches

Strategic Communications Digital Associate, France

Achraf Manar

Associate, France Programme