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France climate resilience policy indicator

Part of Climate Resilience Policy Indicator

  • France’s temperature has increased 1.9°C since 1900, exceeding the global average for warming. This rising temperature trend is affecting energy demand patterns. While France’s peak loads still occur in the winter, a growing number of cooling degree days and higher market penetration of air conditioning could boost electricity demand for cooling in summer.
  • Average annual precipitation has also increased, with some regional disparities. Although average precipitation has risen in northern France, it has fallen in the south. Heavy rainfall events are becoming more intense in the Mediterranean region.
  • France has adopted a National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and a National Adaptation Plan for Climate Change (PNACC), which is evaluated and updated every five years. While the first PNACC proposed detailed actions and measures for climate resilience in the energy sector, the second one devotes less attention to this topic. The French Strategy for Energy and Climate briefly discusses climate resilience and proposes several actions.



Level of floods, drought and tropical cyclones in France, 2000-2020

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Level of warming in France, 2000-2020

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Temperature

France’s temperature has risen 1.9°C since 1900, surpassing the global average of 0.9°C for 1901-2012. The rate of increase was +0.3°C per decade between 1959 and 2009, with stronger warming since the 1980s. The maximum temperature has risen slightly more quickly than the annual average, with a growing number of warm days (temperature above 25°C) across the country. Heatwaves have become more frequent and intense since the 1950s.

Although the temperature is projected to rise across the country, the impacts of climate change on temperature can vary by region. For 1961-2018, the increase in the number of warm days is more marked in the meridional region (+8 days per decade) than in the north Atlantic littoral (+1 day per decade).

The average temperature at the end of this century is projected to be 2.1 and 3.9°C higher than during 1976-2005 according to IPCC climate scenarios RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5, with heat waves becoming increasingly frequent and severe and extending beyond the traditional summer period. Warming will be more pronounced in the summer (+2.2-4.5°C),1 especially in eastern France and the mountainous regions of the Alps and Pyrenees.

France’s rising temperatures also affect its energy demand. With peak loads occurring in winter, the country’s electricity consumption is highly sensitive to temperature changes. For every one-degree drop in temperature, power demand rises 2.4 GW, mainly for electric heating. Current energy consumption patterns may therefore be altered if climate change leads to an increase in cooling degree days (CDDs) and fewer heating degree days (HDDs). Higher market penetration of air conditioning could also rapidly increase electricity demand for summer cooling.

Temperature in France, 2000-2020

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Cooling degree days in France, 2000-2020

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Heating degree days in France, 2000-2020

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Precipitation

Although overall average annual precipitation increased between 1959 and 2009, there were some regional disparities, with northern France registering increases while precipitation in the south actually decreased. In terms of seasonality, spring and autumn rainfall amounts have risen across most of the country while winter and summer precipitation changes vary by region.

Annual precipitation variability is expected to become more marked with extreme precipitation events. While heavy rainfall episodes are becoming more intense in the Mediterranean region, droughts are likely to become more frequent and widespread overall. Observations since 1961 show that daily extreme rains around the Mediterranean have become more intense, but the share of France’s metropolitan areas affected by droughts has doubled from 5% in the 1960s to 10% today.

Average cumulative precipitation across France overall is forecast to increase slightly (+2-6%), subject to a high degree of uncertainty. This evolution is strongly modulated by season, with precipitation increasing systematically in the winter (often by more than 10%) and, conversely, declining quasi-systematically in the summer (to 10‑20% lower by the end of the century).2

The combination of higher temperatures and greater precipitation variability could also compromise energy supply reliability. For instance, the heatwaves and droughts of June-July 2019 forced the EDF to curb or entirely stop the output of some of its nuclear reactors because the availability of cooling water for the reactors was limited. Nevertheless, the direct impact of heatwaves on reactors’ annual electricity output is still marginal, averaging 0.25% over the past 20 years.

Tropical cyclones and storms

Although physical exposure to cyclones in European mainland France is estimated as low, France’s overseas territories are strongly affected by them.3 For instance, the passage of tropical cyclone Batsirai off the coast of Reunion Island in February 2022 significantly damaged the electricity network, affecting up to 145 000 customers and leaving 10 000 still without electricity even three days later. In 2021, 40 000 households experienced power outages in Martinique as a result of strong winds generated by the passage of hurricane Elsa, and tropical cyclone Niran in the same year downed power lines in New Caledonia, impacting 20 000 households. In 2017, hurricane Maria left 80 000 customers (i.e. 40% of households) without electricity in Guadeloupe.

Meanwhile, European mainland France can be affected by storms. The latest storm disruptions in 2017 and 2019 were caused mainly by damage to low-voltage distribution lines from fallen trees and branches. In 2017, 330 000 households were without electricity, and in 2019 140 000 homes were affected.



France has developed a number of policies and tools to support climate change adaptation in various sectors. It established the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy in 2006 to enhance public health and safety, address social inequalities caused by climate risks, limit climate costs and preserve the country’s natural heritage. To implement the Strategy, France released the PNACC 1 (2011-2015) in 2011.

It proposed concrete actions for 20 different themes, encouraging the use of more efficient cooling equipment and renewable energy sources in the “energy and industry” domain. It also recommended ways to manage summer peak electricity consumption, improve hydrological and climate data availability, integrate the climate change dimension into Water Framework Directive monitoring, and identify industries that could be sensitive to climate change impacts.

According to evaluation of the PNACC 1 in 2015, three of the five suggested actions were implemented. The integration of climate considerations into the water monitoring framework is still in progress, as it requires a long observation period. Meanwhile, the identification of sensitive industries was delayed by institutional changes. The PNACC 1 also clarified which government body was responsible for implementation and specified a time frame.

Based on the PNACC 1 and its evaluation, the PNACC 2 (2018-2022) was adopted in 2018. The PNACC 2 focuses on six fields – governance; knowledge and information; prevention and resilience; economic sectors; nature and environment; and international action – while providing 58 priority actions. However, compared with the PNACC 1, the PNACC 2 addresses energy sector climate resilience less explicitly, as it is embedded in various fields. Energy network climate resiliency is, nevertheless, mentioned clearly.

Based on the decarbonisation commitments of the Climate Plan and the National Low-Carbon Strategy, the French Strategy for Energy and Climate shapes national priorities for government action in the energy sector. The Strategy for Energy and Climate is updated every five years, covering two successive five-year periods. The latest one covers 2019-2023 and 2024-2028.

While the Strategy for Energy and Climate focuses largely on climate change mitigation targets (e.g. reducing GHG emissions, final energy consumption and primary fossil fuel use, and increasing renewable energy deployment), aspects of climate change adaptation are discussed only briefly. Although several climate resilience actions are proposed (e.g. improving the network’s resilience to climate hazards), it is not considered a key priority.

Since 2015, the Law on the New Territorial Organization of the Republic (NOTRe) has reinforced the territorial aspect of adaptation. The Regional Strategy for Development, Sustainable Development and Territorial Equality (SRADDET), which is a regional planning scheme, must include climate change adaptation and mitigation components. It is a strategic, forward-looking and integration-aimed document.

Mandatory for all inter-communities with more than 20 000 inhabitants, the Territorial Climate-Air-Energy Plan (PCAET) includes a diagnosis of inter-municipal territories’ vulnerability to climate change; a strategy and quantified objectives; an action programme; and a monitoring and evaluation system. It also defines measures to be implemented for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Goals include improving energy efficiency, increasing renewable energy production and reducing GHG emissions.

Notes and references
  1. During winter, the temperature will increase 2.0-3.7°C, according to IPCC RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 scenarios.

  2. According to IPCC climate scenarios RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5.

  3. “Storms” refer to any disturbed state of the atmosphere, strongly implying destructive and unpleasant weather, and can range in scale. “Tropical cyclone” is the general term for a strong, cyclonic-scale disturbance that originates over tropical oceans. Although this report uses these terms generally, they can be divided into detailed categories: a tropical storm is a tropical cyclone with one-minute average surface winds of 18‑32 m/s. Beyond 32 m/s, a tropical cyclone is called hurricane, typhoon or cyclone depending on its geographic location. Hurricanes refer to the high-intensity cyclones that form in the South Atlantic, central North Pacific and eastern North Pacific; typhoons occur in the northwest Pacific; and the more general term cyclone applies to the South Pacific and Indian oceans.