French President, Emmanuel Macron, has pledged an additional €15bn ($17bn) for measures to combat the climate crisis over the next two years. He also plans to hold a referendum concerning the introduction of the crime of “ecocide” for harming the environment.
Macron’s promise of environmental aid resulted from a meeting with members of the country’s Citizens’ Commission for the Climate — a committee of 150 randomly selected French people who studied and deliberated the climate issue for nine months. Macron said he accepted all but three of the group’s 149 recommendations, which were based on transport, housing, work and production, food, as well as consumption of natural resources.
According to news sources, Macron hopes to implement the measures immediately and a new law would be drawn up before the end of summer. The ‘ecocide’ law would ensure that extensive damage caused to ecosystems would be classified as an offence punishable by law.
He congratulated the commission for having “made the choice of putting ecology at the heart of our economic model”, but rejected its suggestion for a “dividend tax” on investments and postponed a debate on whether to introduce a 110km/h speed limit on French roads.
The French assembly’s case on climate change was helped by the Green Party’s unexpected success in recent local elections. The Europe Écologie Les Verts made significant gains in major cities including Lyon, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Marseille, Besançon and many other large towns putting pressure on Macron for more definitive climate action.
The Citizens’ Commission for the Climate is part of a democratic experiment in France where a group of citizens, ranging from teenage school pupils to bus drivers and retired railway staff, were asked to define government environmental policy for the remaining two years of Macron’s mandate – and specifically how to cut the country’s carbon emissions by 40% by 2030.
Environmentalist and MEP, Yannick Jadot, told Ouest-France: “People are trying to make sense of things, our way of life, our housing, the density of cities, food, travel, solidarity, new democratic methods … Part of the population has a wish, a desire, for real change in our societies that is socially and economically realistic.”
“There will obviously be a before and after the 2020 local elections. It’s a real political turn in our country,” he said.
Said Jean-François Julliard, the director general of Greenpeace France: “The message sent by the municipal elections is clear: ecology and the climate crisis are no longer only a distant preoccupation for French people, but a political priority that must result in acts, concrete measures and a general goal in keeping with the Paris climate accord. The Citizen’s Commission has said the same thing and it will need more than a lovely speech from the Elysée to satisfy the deep expectations.”