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Geography

Main article: Geography of France
A relief map of Metropolitan France, showing cities with over 100,000 inhabitants.

Metropolitan France is situated mostly between latitudes 41° and 51° N (Dunkirk is just north of 51°), and longitudes 6° W and 10° E, on the western edge of Europe, and thus lies within the northern temperate zone

While Metropolitan France is located in Western Europe, the French Republic also has a number of territories in North America, the Caribbean, South America, the southern Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and Antarctica.[58] These territories have varying forms of government ranging from overseas department to overseas collectivity. France's overseas departments and collectivities share land borders with Brazil, and Suriname (bordering French Guiana), andSint Maarten (bordering Saint-Martin).

The European territory of France covers 547,030 square kilometres (211,209 sq mi),[59] having the largest area among European Union members.[17] France possesses a wide variety of landscapes, from coastal plains in the north and west to mountain ranges of the Alps in the south-east, the Massif Central in the south-central and Pyrenees in the south-west.

At 4,810.45 metres (15,782 ft)[60] above sea level, the highest point in Western Europe, Mont Blanc, is situated in the Alps on the border between France and Italy. France also has extensive river systems such as the Seine, the Loire, the Garonne, and the Rhone, which divides the Massif Central from the Alps and flows into the Mediterranean Sea at the Camargue. Corsica lies off the Mediterranean coast.

The Exclusive Economic Zone of France extends over 11,000,000 km2 (4,200,000 sq mi) of ocean across the world.[61]

France's total land area, with its overseas departments and territories (excluding Adélie Land), is 674,843 km2(260,558 sq mi), 0.45% of the total land area on Earth. However, France possesses the second-largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world,[62] covering 11,035,000 km2 (4,260,637 sq mi), approximately 8% of the total surface of all the EEZs of the world, just behind the United States (11,351,000 km2/4,382,646 sq mi) and ahead of Australia (8,232,000 km2/3,178,393 sq mi).{{According to a different calculation cited by the Pew Research Center, the EEZ of France would be 10,084,201 km2 (3,893,532 sq mi), still behind the United States (12,174,629 km2/4,700,651 sq mi), and still ahead of Australia (8,980,568 km2/3,467,417 sq mi) and Russia (7,566,673 km2/2,921,509 sq mi). The north and northwest have a temperate climate, while a combination of maritime influences, latitude and altitude produce a varied climate in the rest of Metropolitan France.[63]

In the south-east a Mediterranean climate prevails. In the west, the climate is predominantly oceanic with a high level of rainfall, mild winters and cool to warm summers. Inland the climate becomes more continental with hot, stormy summers, colder winters and less rain. The climate of the Alps and other mountainous regions is mainly alpine, with the number of days with temperatures below freezing over 150 per year and snow cover lasting for up to six months.

Landscapes and climates of France
Limestone cliffs of Normandy nearÉtretat.  
Mediterranean vegetation (lavender) in Provence.  
Alpine climate in Savoie (note theAlpine Ibex on the left).  
Verdon Gorge in Provence.  
Pointe du Van in western Brittany.  

Environment

Regional (green) and National (pink) natural parks in France. Indicated in green and purple colour respectively.

France was one of the first countries to create a Ministry of the Environment, in 1971.[64] Although France is one of the most industrialised and developed countries, it is ranked only seventeenth by carbon dioxide emissions, behind such less populous nations as Canada, Saudi Arabia or Australia. This situation results from the French government's decision to invest in nuclear power in 1974 (after the 1973 oil crisis[65]), which now accounts for 78% of France's electricity production[66] and explains why France pollutes less than comparable countries.[67][68]

Like all European Union members, France agreed to cut carbon emissions by at least 20% of 1990 levels by the year 2020,[69] in comparison the USA agreed to a cut of 4% of its emissions[70] whereas China stated it wanted to "reduce its carbon intensity by 40–45% by the year 2020" (compared with 2005 levels),[71] which means with a GDP growth of 8% yearly an augmentation of 80%[70] to 250%[72] of the Chinese carbon emissions by 2020.

In 2009, the French carbon dioxide emissions per capita level is lower than the Chinese one.[73]

France was even set to impose a carbon tax in 2009 at 17 Euros per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted.[74] The carbon tax would have brought in 4.3 billion Euros of revenue per year.[75] However, 6 months later, the plan for a carbon tax was abandoned for various reasons, one being that French companies would have a more difficult time competing with companies in neighboring countries who would not have to pay such steep taxes on carbon dioxide emissions. Instituting a carbon tax was also an unpopular political move for President Sarkozy.[76]

In 2010, a study at Yale and Columbia universities ranked France the 7th most environmentally conscious country in the world.[77][78]

Forests account for 28% of the land area of France.[79][80] France is the second most wooded country of the EU.[81] French forests are also some of the most diversified of Europe, with more than 140 differents varieties of trees.[82] There are 9 national parks[83] and 46 natural parks in France.[84] France wants to convert 20% of its Exclusive Economic Zone in a Marine Protected Area by 2020.[85]

Administrative divisions

France is divided into 27 administrative regions.[59] 22 are in metropolitan France (21 are on the continental part of metropolitan France; one is the territorial collectivity of Corsica), and five are overseas regions. The regions are further subdivided into 101 departments[86] which are numbered (mainly alphabetically). This number is used in postal codes and vehicle number plates amongst others.

The 101 departments are subdivided into 341 arrondissements which are, in turn, subdivided into 4,051 cantons. These cantons are then divided into 36,697communes, which are municipalities with an elected municipal council. There also exist 2,588 intercommunal entities grouping 33,414 of the 36,697 communes (i.e. 91.1% of all the communes). Three communes, Paris, Lyon and Marseille are also subdivided into 45 municipal arrondissements.

The regions, departments and communes are all known as territorial collectivities, meaning they possess local assemblies as well as an executive. Arrondissements and cantons are merely administrative divisions. However, this was not always the case. Until 1940, the arrondissements were also territorial collectivities with an elected assembly, but these were suspended by the Vichy regime and definitely abolished by the Fourth Republic in 1946.

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