National priority status is symbolic and does not carry the force of law, but the cross-party unanimity expressed in the vote does reflect an increasing political importance of climate issues in France. During a debate on the proposal last week, assembly members emphasised the urgency of the matter. The French media has also commented recently on president Jacques Chirac's increasingly frequent references to climate change in public statements, including his new year address.
French environment minister and Green party member Dominique Voynet has welcomed the vote, according to press reports, while stressing that whatever greenhouse gas emission reductions France achieves, national efforts alone will not protect it from the impacts of climate change.
Tuesday's vote also saw separate approval for creation of a new national institute on climate change, to be charged with collecting, interpreting and disseminating scientific data on climate change.
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