Transitioning one of the world's largest economies into low-carbon production and generating green-growth - is one thing. Leading the most comprehensive climate negotiations in history - is another. France is doing both.
That is why, despite my numerous visits to France in the past, my last one felt different. Similarly to other countries along the Energy Union Tour, it was important for me to present the benefits of the Energy Union for France and engage in dialogue with stakeholders across sectors. But this time, I also heard about the country's deep energy transition and took stock of the international climate negotiations.
Video of Energy Union Tour visit to France October 7-8, 2015
Known as the law for 'energy transition for green growth' ( transition énergétique pour la croissance verte), I was happy to learn that French legislators took an integral approach which cuts across sectors; from energy to climate, from environment to transport, and more. It was therefore a privilege to discuss the Energy Union and green growth with Prime Minister Manuel Valls, as well as with the French Parliament - adding the wider European context.
Of course, at this time no official visit to France would be complete without discussing the main event of the year: the UN Climate Conference (COP21) which France will be hosting in its capital and is presiding its negotiations. As part as the joint diplomatic outreach of the EU and France, attempting to bring as many countries as possible on board, I travelled to Africa in July with French Minister Ségolène Royal. And indeed, an unprecedented number of 151 of countries (at the time of writing) have so far presented their national contributions representing some 90% of global CO2 emissions.
I also had a chance to meet with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius who updated me on the Summit's preparation. He told me there was definitely no room for complacency. This is the opportunity to fight climate change. I fully trust France to use all its diplomatic clout and skills to reach an international binding agreement. Of course, the Commission will continue to coordinate, support and proactive seek this agreement.
The visit was also chance to meet with stakeholders who are leading the energy transition. This included the French Electricity Union, and the capital's public transport company (RATP) which is currently replacing its entire fleet of buses by efficient vehicles (electric or biogas).
Yet, one of the very highlights was visiting the city of Dunkirk (or Dunkerque in French) in the northern region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais. It's hard to think of a territory which better represents the transition from the old economy, based on resources, to the new economy of clean technologies.
The main reason for my visit to Dunkirk time was a Citizen Dialogue event on the Energy Union. Minister Royal participation through video-conference was much appreciated. Those who did show up in person were no less than 350 citizens from all walks of life, from all across the region (and beyond), from all ages and affiliations. They interacted in person in through social media before, during, and after the event. It was therefore highly instructive for me, and hopefully enriching for them, to present, discuss, and listen to each other's concerns when it comes to making France a key engine of the Energy Union.