France’s Macron urges end to plastic pollution at global talks

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday warned that global plastics pollution was a "time bomb", as diplomats began five days of talks in Paris to make progress on a treaty to end plastic waste.

A plastic bottle on the beach in Plomeur, western France.
A plastic bottle on the beach in Plomeur, western France. Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP

Representatives of 175 nations with divergent ambitions met at UNESCO headquarters for the second of five sessions with the aim of inking an historic agreement covering the entire plastics life cycle.

Macron urged nations negotiating a world treaty against plastic pollution to put an end to today’s “globalised and unsustainable” production model.

“Plastic pollution is a time-bomb and at the same time already a scourge today,” he said in a video message, in which he called for an end to a system where richer countries export plastic waste to poorer ones.

He added that the first priorities of the negotiations should be to reduce production of fossil-fuel-based plastics and to ban “as soon as possible” the most polluting products like single-use plastics.   

NGOs – as well as representatives of plastics companies and lobbyists, much to the chagrin of environmentalists – will also take part in the negotiations.

READ ALSO: Top court orders French govt to take more climate steps

In February 2022, nations agreed in principle on the need for a legally binding UN treaty to end plastic pollution around the world, setting an ambitious 2024 deadline.

Host country France organised a ministerial summit on Saturday with 60 countries to kick-start the talks.

“If we don’t act now, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans”, said French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.


“Combatting plastic pollution will make our lives easier, both in terms of fighting climate change and in terms of preserving our oceans and biodiversity”, noted Christophe Bechu, France’s Minister for Ecological Transition.

The stakes are high, given that annual plastics production has more than doubled in 20 years to 460 million tonnes, and is on track to triple within four decades.

Two-thirds of this output is discarded after being used once or a few times, and winds up as waste. More than a fifth is dumped or burned illegally, and less than 10 percent is recycled.

But scaling up recycling is not a silver bullet, the head of the UN Environment Programme told AFP.

“It is one of many keys that we will need to make this work,” Inger Andersen said before the talks opened. “We can’t recycle our way out of this mess.”

Policy actions to be debated during the talks include a global ban on single-use plastic items, “polluter pays” schemes, and a tax on new plastic production.

Environmental groups are encouraged global plastics pollution is finally being tackled, but are concerned the treaty may not include targets to reduce overall plastic production.

“There is a consensus on the issues at stake and the will to act”, Diane Beaumenay-Joannet, an advocate at the Surfrider Foundation, told AFP. But “the precise content of the obligations is going to be complicated, particularly as regards reducing production.”

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What are the rules for electric bikes in France?

E-bicycles have some special rules compared to their non-electric counterparts. Here's what you need to know for riding an electric bicycle in France.

What are the rules for electric bikes in France?

There’s no doubt that cycling is a great and environmentally friendly way to get around towns and cities across France, especially with the proliferation of dedicated cycle lanes following the pandemic.

And, these days, electric bicycles are an increasingly common sight on the country’s highways, byways, and greenways, as people change their short-distance commuting habits in more eco-friendly ways.

But there are rules about owning and using an electric bicycle in France.

READ ALSO Paris rolls out new ‘street code’ to help cyclists, cars and pedestrians share the roads

The most common are EU-wide, and relate to the power of the battery – but there are also age limits.

No one under the age of 14 is allowed to be in control of an electric bicycle on public roads in France. There are no such age-limits in force for off-road cycling, or for riding around on private land.

Most countries across the EU adopt a similar minimum age – while Switzerland and Belgium have set a lower age-limit of 16.

In most European countries and areas, to be considered cycles or pedal-assisted bicycles, electric bikes must comply with the requirements of the European directive 2002/24/EC.

  • The engine at rotation speed must not exceed 0.25kW(250W);
  • The assistance of the electric motor must be functional only until reaching 25 km/h;
  • Pedal assistance must only be triggered if the cyclist is pedalling and must automatically cut off when pedalling stops.

Higher power-assisted cycles that can travel up to 45km/h are considered to be the same as electric mopeds, meaning the rider must have a licence, insurance, and wear suitable protective clothing, including a helmet and gloves, while using the vehicle on the road.

READ ALSO How close is Paris to its goal of being a 100% cycle-friendly city?

Anyone caught on French roads using a modified electric bicycle that can travel at higher speeds could face a fine of up to €30,000.

Other rules

As with traditional bicycles sold in France, electric bicycles must be assembled and adjusted before they can be purchased. Certain adjustments can be left to the buyer, such as fitting wheels, inflating tyres, etc;

They must be equipped with front and rear lights and reflectors at the front, rear and side, as well as an audible warning device;

Bicycles must have two independent braking systems, each acting on a different wheel (the back-pedalling braking system, blocking the movement of the rear wheel if necessary, used alone, does not comply with the decree);

READ ALSO What are France’s rules for bringing bikes on the train?

And, since January 2021, all bicycles sold must be marked with an identification number on the frame at first sale. Dealers must collect the purchaser’s contact details to register them in the unique national file of identified cycles. This identification number must also be printed on the invoice. 

The new owner then receives an e-mail with a login and password to connect to his personal space. They can then change their contact details and the status of their bike (in service, stolen, lost or sold on). 

Similar to traditional bicycles, electric bicycles are able to ride within dedicated cycle paths and lanes.

Cycle helmets

In France, cyclists aged under 12 are required by law to wear a cycle helmet. Because of the age restrictions, therefore, a helmet is not required for anyone riding an electric bicycle on the road in France.

It is, however, recommended that older cyclists wear one. Helmets sold in France must have a CE mark, showing they conform to EU regulations.

READ MORE: Reader Question: What should I do if my bicycle is stolen in France?