Key messages

The development of the 4 scenarios for achieving carbon neutrality in France in 2050 highlights 9 major cross-cutting lessons.

  1. The four pathways presented, each internally consistent, enable France to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050. But they are all difficult and require orchestrated planning of the transformation, involving Central Government, the regions, economic stakeholders and citizens.
  2. Achieving neutrality depends on major human or technological gambles in all cases, but they differ according to the scenario: control of demand, changes in behaviour, roll out of technologies in all sectors, etc. These assumptions of major change are the conditions for creating the scenarios.
  3. For all scenarios, it is imperative to act quickly: the socio-technical transformations to be carried out are of such magnitude that they will take time to produce their effects. During this decade, a profound transformation must be planned and undertaken in our consumption patterns, land use planning and development, technologies and productive investments.
  4. Reducing energy demand is the key factor in achieving carbon neutrality. This requires a radical change in housing use and techniques, mobility, and major changes in the agricultural and industrial production system. It requires transforming imaginations and consumer practices to engage a virtuous circle of sufficiency.
  5. Industry will have to transform itself, not only to adapt to a profound change in demand (reduction in volumes produced, requirement for durability, etc.) but also to decarbonise its production. This will require major investment plans. The understanding and participation of the whole society (citizens, employees) in these transformations will be essential to unite around this “new low-carbon industrial revolution”.
  6. The biosphere is one of the main assets of this transition. In addition to the value of ecosystems for the preservation of biodiversity and other ecological and land-use functions, their contribution to the decarbonisation of France is based on three specific and interdependent levers: the potential to reduce GHGs, the potential for natural carbon storage and the potential for using renewable biomass to replace fossil fuels.
  7. Adaptation of forests and agriculture is therefore becoming an absolute priority in combating climate change. All scenarios show the crucial role of preserving carbon sinks and the ability to produce biomass in 2050. In addition to protecting ecosystems for their own value, building resilience is therefore a key priority in combating climate change, particularly to preserve carbon stocks and biomass production capacity.
  8. The pressure on natural resources is very different from one scenario to another. This is particularly the case for irrigation water and construction materials, where the volumes consumed vary by a factor of 2 between the scenarios with the lowest and highest consumption. Moreover, since recycling cannot make up for the materials deficit, it is necessary to save as much material as possible.
  9. In all scenarios studied, more than 70% of the energy supply in 2050 is based on renewable energies. Electricity is, in all cases, the main energy carrier, but its decarbonised production cannot be a pretext for waste, in order to limit the pressure on resources.