Demonstrators Condemn French Legislation as ‘Climatic and Social Failure’

The Energy Mix
Richard Ying et Tangui Morlier/Wikimedia Commons

MAY 11, 2021

Thousands of COVID-masked demonstrators hit the streets in cities across France Sunday after the lower house of parliament approved climate legislation that fell short of the recommendations of a citizens’ assembly appointed in 2018 by the government of President Emmanuel Macron.

Greenpeace France called out “the government’s refusal to take action for climate,” while campaign group Ensemble pour le climat (Together for Climate) declared the bill “a climatic and social failure”, The Associated Press reports.

Protesters laid the blame on Macron, who faces national elections next year, “for having ‘weakened’ a set of measures initially proposed by a panel of 150 citizens who had worked for months on the issue,” AP writes. “The bill, which will now be debated in the Senate, includes a ban on domestic flights under 2½ hours that can be done by train, and measures to support renovation of high energy-consuming buildings and encourage greener cars.”

But the legislation implemented fewer than half of the citizens’ assembly’s 149 recommendations, Climate Home News and Politico reported earlier this year. “Participants in the democratic exercise expressed their disappointment with the outcome, concluding the bill didn’t match the convention’s ambition,” Politico wrote at the time. “As part of a scoring exercise, they gave it a mark of only 3.7 out of 10.”

Nearly 60% said the measures were insufficient even to meet the European Union’s previous carbon reduction target of 40% from 1990 levels by 2030, much less the 55% threshold the bloc adopted last year, Climate Home said.

On Sunday, Le Journal de Dimanche said the bill also fell short of Macron’s earlier promise of a referendum to enshrine environmental rights in the French constitution. That change “requires a parliamentary vote,” AP explains. “The National Assembly, where Macron has a majority, largely approved it in March. But no deal has been found in the Senate, where the conservative party holds a majority.”

Macron said the referendum “won’t be abandoned,” but “will continue living its parliamentary life, which is the only way to get a referendum on condition senators and deputies agree.”

AP says emissions reductions and biodiversity protection account for about one-third of France’s €100-billion COVID recovery plan, and Macron has also helped drive the increase in the EU’s 2030 carbon reduction target.

[Top photo: Richard Ying et Tangui Morlier/Wikimedia Commons]