Macron and the Citizens’ Convention divided on climate issues –

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with members of the Citizens’ Climate Convention on Monday, December 14. Although his announcement of a potential climate and environment referendum caused a stir, the heated debate revealed lingering tensions between citizens and the executive. EURACTIV UK reports.

For nearly four hours, 150 members of the public drawn by lot and the president discussed the future climate law, based on the proposals of the Citizens’ Climate Convention (CCC). During the debate, issues that the CCC had worked on, such as travel, housing, consumption, food, production and work, were also discussed.

At the very end of the tense discussions with the 150 citizens, tasked by the government with proposing ways in which France could reduce its carbon emissions, Macron announced that he would take up one of the CCC’s proposals – confirming that he would hold a referendum on the inclusion of climate protection and environmental preservation in Article 1 of the Constitution.

It will “first go through the National Assembly, then the Senate and be voted on in identical terms. On that day it will be put to a referendum,” said the president, who announced in June that he would accept all but one of the CCC’s 150 bills and amendments to make the country more eco-friendly. environment.

Move the debate

“President [has] succeeded in disconcerting the debate “by making an announcement with great fanfare and in all circumstances”, declared Tuesday to France Inter the ecologist deputy and member of the monitoring committee of the CCC, Matthieu Orphelin.

“We should discuss concrete measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the lives of citizens […]. The referendum is certainly a useful measure, but it is not the main thing”, declared the deputy, who noted that “nine of the ten key measures of the Convention […] were rejected by the president.

Citizens spent the whole of Monday evening defending their proposed solutions, debating issues such as the renovation of buildings, the regulation of advertising of polluting products, the regulation of local soil treatment, the ban on the sale of most polluting vehicles with an ambitious threshold, among others.

“We note that the measures we are proposing are all weakened. How do you intend, by minimizing our measures, to reach a target that is now 15% higher? was the first question posed to the president, in reference to the EU raising its emissions reduction target to 55% last week.

The CCC’s reform proposals were in fact based on the previous target of 40%.

A series of disputes

The subject of car use aroused particular emotion during the heated debate.

“We believe that the individual car needs to be modified. But the goal is not to eliminate it. I live in a small village in Sarthe and I can’t do without it, like many French people, “said Mélanie Cosnier, member of the CCC, for whom “there is nothing left” of measures to reduce the carbon footprint of private cars.

In response, the executive pointed to aid of €50 for bicycle repairs, as well as climate and weight-related penalties on vehicles. However, the penalty on the weight of vehicles, approved by the National Assembly on November 13, now concerns vehicles over 1,800 kg instead of the previous 1,400 kg, which means that it only applies to 3% of the French car fleet.

Another thorny issue was the 5G network. If the CCC’s proposal to introduce a moratorium on this new mobile network has been rejected three times by the government, it is back in the debate. “If the assessment is ongoing, why not wait for the results and make a sensible decision? said Agnès Catoire about the study on the environmental impact of 5G.

However, Macron argued that the moratorium had somehow “already been done”. “We are one of the last countries in Europe to deploy [5G],” he said.

Amandine Rogg, another CCC member, said: “I think if there’s one thing the topic of 5G has shown us, it’s how far society has come. You want to get people on board, not tell them to change their lives. But today, 65% of French people are in favor of a moratorium.

The day after the meeting, CCC members like William Aucant were skeptical of the announcement. “I appreciate that this triggers a debate and I encourage my colleague Grégoire Fraty, who put it on the table. But I do not hide my fear that this takes us away from the heart of the matter. One to watch,” he said.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

Teresa H. Sadler