“Time is for action,” Emmanuel Macron said on Monday, endorsed almost all the proposals of the 150 members of the Citizens’ Climate Convention (CCC) that he received at the Élysée Palace in the wake of the wide success in the municipal elections of environmentalists who remain cautious.
“We must put ecological ambition back at the heart of the productive model,” said the head of state in front of the 150 French people gathered in the green park of the presidential palace. But “I believe in the growth of our economy,” he added, welcoming the CCC’s failure to advocate a model of decline, like some environmentalists.
Emmanuel Macron has pledged to pass on to the government or parliament, or to submit to a referendum, “all” of the 149 proposals of the CCC, “with the exception of three of them”.
Some will be decided by the end of July, others will be included in the recovery plan presented “at the end of the summer”, but most will be the subject of a multi-measures “specific bill” in September, he said.
Before his speech, Emmanuel Macron had been called by Lambert, one of the 150 members, some of whom identify only by their first names, to “be faithful to the commitments” made before the CCC, launched nine months ago following the “great debate” and the “yellow card” crisis. “It’s the end of season 1 (of the Convention), season 2 begins,” summed up another, Grégoire Fraty, before the game.
The pressure to act has increased further on the executive with the shock caused by the victories of the environmentalists in several major cities such as Lyon, Bordeaux and Strasbourg on Sunday, in the second round of the municipal elections.
Speaking to several members of the government, including Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who was easily re-elected the day before in Le Havre, Emmanuel Macron made no reference to this green wave, which, according to the Elysée, constitutes a “barometer of the french state of mind”.
The 110 km/h rejected
Prudently, he dismissed the Convention’s most commented and controversial proposal: the limit to 110 km/h, instead of the current 130 km/h, on motorways.
“The ecological transition must not be at the expense of the municipalities, the most landlocked regions,” he argued, also explaining that he wanted to prevent the work of the 150 from “damaging itself in a controversy”. “I presented a lot of great plans that were summed up to a single measure or reduced to a small sentence,” he said with a big smile.
Emmanuel Macron also said he was “ready” to submit certain proposals to referendums as early as 2021, on the one hand to amend the Constitution in order to “introduce the concepts of biodiversity, the environment, the fight against global warming”, on the other hand for specific measures.
A possible referendum would be the first to be held in France since the one that saw the victory of the “no” vote over the European Constitution in 2005.
On the other hand, the Head of State did not take up the Convention’s proposal to rewrite the preamble to the Constitution by placing the environment above the other fundamental values of the Republic.
Emmanuel Macron also announced that an additional 15 billion euros would be injected over two years for ecological conversion. This fund will be set up in the recovery plan, expected at the beginning of the year, to “invest in clean transport, renovate our buildings” and “invent the industries of tomorrow”.
Among other announcements, the principle of a moratorium on new commercial areas on the outskirts of cities to stop “concreteization”.
Emmanuel Macron ruled out the 4% dividend tax and stressed the need to continue to “assess” the EU-Canada (Ceta) trade agreement, the 150 of which had called for it not to be ratified.
Finally, he indicated that new citizens’ conventions would be organised on “other subjects”. “You have shown that it is possible on a difficult, flammable subject even, to create consensus,” he said.
While welcoming the fact that Mr Macron has “responded quickly”, Laurence Tubiana, architect of the Paris climate agreement and co-chair of the CCC’s governance, stressed that “until the laws are passed, the decrees applied, the exercise will not be completed”, deeming that the recovery plan would be a “test”.
Environmental NGOs, for their part, have been critical, such as Greenpeace, for whom Mr Macron “immediately brushes off several structuring measures” (dividend taxation, Ceta) and remains “blurred on the concrete consequences that will be given to the other measures”. Or Friends of the Earth, for whom “the green wave stops at the feet of neoliberalism”.