French lawmakers approve wide-ranging climate change legislation

Paris, May 5, (dpa/GNA) - France's National Assembly on Tuesday approved climate protection legislation that included input from a specially convened citizens' panel but which activists argue does not go nearly far enough.

The bill, which was passed in the lower house by 332 to 77 votes, bans certain domestic short-haul flights if an alternative train exists whose travel time does not exceed two-and-a-half hours.

It also creates the new criminal offence of ecocide if serious and lasting damage is knowingly caused to flora and fauna or to the quality of the air, water and soil.

A bevy of other regulations are included, from rules to phase-out gas heaters on outdoor terraces in restaurants, better insulation of buildings and tighter restrictions on car pollution in cities.

While the legislation could help President Emmanuel Macron burnish his climate credentials before he stands for re-election next year, many have criticized the plan as too modest.

The Citizens Convention for Climate, a randomly selected group of 150 French citizens, was convened last year and provided proposals to be included in the legislation.

The measures in the final bill did not score well with most of the members, who criticized them as not ambitious enough to seriously tackle the climate crisis.

For instance, Macron's government did not agree to reduce the motorway speed limit to 110 kilometres per hour, and rejected the idea of a 2 to 4-per-cent levy on dividends to fund green investments.

Greenpeace slammed the bill and protests against it took place as lawmakers held the debate on Tuesday. Activists from the Extinction Rebellion environmental movement chained themselves to the gate of the National Assembly.