The most essential French environment vocabulary

The most essential French environment vocabulary

by Anne-Lise Vassoille

Updated February 7, 2023

As in many other countries, protecting the environment and curbing the effects of climate change are currently two of the hottest topics in France. If you don’t brush up on your French environment vocabulary, you may have a difficult time exploring how the French approach these key issues in modern politics.

Par exemple: The environment is the primary issue and driving purpose behind the parti écologique (ecological party), often referred to as le parti écolo or les verts (the green). It’s also the raison d’être of Greenpeace, one of the most famous organisations non gouvernementales or ONG (non-governmental organizations or NGOs) in the world. 

French environmental vocabulary regularly shows up in the media and in some of the most celebrated French documentaries. Even if you only have a quick look at the weather report, you may hear about higher-than-average temperatures or extreme weather events. To help you get acclimatized, we’ve compiled this guide to the most important vocabulary about the environment in French.

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9 French terms about the ecology and climate change

Before we wade further into the details, you’ll need to learn some basic terms to talk about the environment in French at a beginner’s level. Far from being limited to the fringes of the ecological movement, these key terms show up in the agendas of all the main political parties in France

l’environnementthe environment
la protection de la planètethe protection of the planet
le changement climatiqueclimate change
un écologistean environmental activist
la naturethe wilderness
le climatthe climate
la météothe weather (for more on this, see our full article on how to talk about the weather in French)

13 French words around pollution and its effects

Why is the environment such an important area of concern in France? As in the rest of the world, it’s because of the many dangers it faces. Here is some French vocabulary that describes the biggest culprits that put our planet at risk, from fossil fuels to greenhouse gasses.

la pollutionpollution
un pic de pollutiona pollution peak
un gaz à effet de serrea greenhouse gas
un effet de serrea greenhouse gas effect
un polluanta pollutant
une empreinte carbonea carbon footprint
une énergie fossilea fossil fuel
la couche d’ozonethe ozone layer
un produit toxiquea toxic product
le réchauffement climatiqueglobal warming
le changement climatiqueclimate change
la surconsommationoverconsumption
le gaspillagewaste
un produit jetablea disposable product
le plastiqueplastic
une catastrophe écologiquean ecological catastrophe
une marée noirean oil slick
la déforestationdeforestation
la désertificationdesertification
une espèce en voie d’extinctionan endangered species

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15 French words around solutions to protect the environment

Thankfully, not everything is hopeless. Solutions are being developed to reverse environmental degradation and protect the world’s ecosystems more effectively. At a micro level, every one of us is able to take daily actions to help. On a larger scale, countries around the world are learning that they must be more committed to taking action. 

Every year, la Conférence des Parties (Conference of the Parties, or COP) gathers all the member states to review and advance the implementation of la convention-cadre des Nations unies sur les changements climatiques (The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). Le protocole de Kyoto (the Kyoto Protocol) and l’Accord de Paris sur le climat (the Paris Climate Accords) are among the other significant steps taken in recent decades to improve the situation.

If you’re interested in reading up on the above initiatives in French, you’ll benefit from the vocabulary in the table below.

un produit biodégradablea biodegradable product
la biodiversitébiodiversity
le développement durablesustainable development
une énergie propreclean energy
une énergie renouvelablerenewable energy
une énergie vertegreen energy
une énergie durablesustainable energy
une énergie solairesolar energy
un panneau solairesolar panel
une énergie éoliennewind energy
une éoliennewind turbine
le recyclagerecycling
faire le tri des déchetsto sort waste
un produit bioan organic product

Speak up about the environment in French

Now that you know the most important French vocabulary about the environment, you can start learning about and discussing more of these important issues. The French language — or any other language, for that matter — may not be understood everywhere in the world, but environmental issues are felt everywhere. The more we learn about and address the roots of the problems, the closer we get to implementing possible solutions. 

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Anne-Lise is a translator and copywriter working for various industries, such as hospitality and travel, as well as health and well-being. Settled down in London since the end of her university years, she cannot get enough of the exceptional cultural life in the English capital city, starting with theater, be it to see a new West End show or to roll up her sleeves with her amateur drama group. She is also interested in photography, as her Instagram profile shows. She indulges her passion for languages in a translation blog she writes with other linguist friends. Go to her Linkedin page to know more about her background and her professional experience.

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