‘Time has come to act’: Macron outlines environment agenda after electoral blow

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French President Emmanuel Macron stressed on Monday that “time has come to act” as he outlined his agenda for the environment just a day after suffering a heavy electoral blow at the hands of the Green party.

Speaking from the Elysée Palace, Macron said that the government would look at all but three of the 149 recommendations proposed by the Citizen’s Council for the Climate and declared himself in favour of amending the country’s constitution.

He also said that he’s open to holding up to two referenda in 2021 on some of the recommendations should parliamentary work not be fast enough.

The council, made up of 150 randomly selected citizens, was created by the president in early 2019 in a bid to quell the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) movement. Its task was to come up with concrete actions that would lead to a reduction of “at least 40 per cent of emissions by 2030” with the “spirit of social justice”.

The council’s recommendations, released on June 22, called for instance for the criminalisation of “ecocide”, for the creation of a “carbon score” to feature on all products, the return of a deposit scheme for glass bottles and speed reductions on most roads.

The French leader described the citizens’ council as “a world’s first as much by its ambition as by its scale”.

He said that the government and parliamentarians would start working on the recommendations this week and noted that some of them required European or international cooperation.

“This is the case with trade policy. You say: no trade agreement with states that do not respect the Paris agreement. I share your position and this is why on Mercosur, I stopped negotiations altogether,” he said.

He backed, for instance, the creation of a European carbon tax.

He also praised the council for not championing degrowth or downsizing the economy as a way to reduce emissions.

“You are not proposing that we stop producing and I believe, like you, that this is not an answer to the challenge facing us,” he said.

“For if we collectively said that to meet this ecological challenge we ought to work less, produce less, I’d have a simple answer to give you: I’d tell you that if you produce less, work less, we won’t be able to finance the social model that’s ours,” he added.

He announced that the government’s plan to boost the economy—severely weakened by the COVID-19 pandemic—will see €15 billion invested over the next two years to speed up the ecological transition.

Among the recommendations he rejected was the proposal to tax dividends of companies making more than €10 million in annual profits.

“I am not saying that part of investments should not be redirected towards greener investments, but to put a tax on all investments is to reduce our chance of attracting additional investment,” he argued.

“Our companies need to innovate. They, therefore, need to attract French and foreign capital to our soil to innovate, change models. We are already a country that is highly taxed and I think that increasing taxation to meet this challenge is not the right way,” he went on.

He also positioned himself against reducing the speed limit on motorways to 110 kms/h.

The third recommendation he rejected was to amend the constitution’s foreword, which he said, “threatens to place environmental protection above public liberties, even above our democratic rules and that is why I do not wish to take up this proposal because I consider that it would be contrary to our constitutional text, to the spirit of our values.”

But, he backed changing the wording of Article 1 to “introduce notions of biodiversity; of the environment, and the fight against global warming”.

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