Interview with Aurore Mathieu

Interview with Aurore Mathieu

France voted for a new president in a presidential election on the 24th of April 2022. We asked our CCPI experts which importance the election results have for climate policy, as the upcoming decade is essential to combat climate change and decisive climate action is needed.

What is your general perception of the election results?

Aurore Mathieu: France avoided the worst for climate action and democratic values by preventing the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen to win the elections, the re-election of Emmanuel Macron is not a win for climate either. His government was condemned several times for climate inaction and France is not on track to meet its climate objectives. His programme was extremely weak on climate issues and it was lacking concrete climate justice proposals, beyond some elements on energy. His claim to make France “a great ecological nation” is hard to believe when we look at his track record on climate for the past 5 years. The IPCC’s reports are clear about the need to speed up the ecological transition: in that regard, Macron’s re-election cannot be seen as positive for climate.

What is the significance of the election result in terms of climate policy? What are expectations on the new government?

AM: Climate ranks in the top priority of French citizens but climate discussions during the presidential elections have been limited to debates around nuclear power. The new government needs to deepen its understanding of what an ecological transition means to really tackle climate change through sectoral reforms. Transport is the first emitting sector in France and massive investments must be made in public transports and train, while making sure that the most vulnerable households are supported to ensure a fair transition. On agriculture, the government must support an agroecological transition rather than investing in unreliable technologies. The new government also needs to open a democratic consultations on energy supply: the reliance on nuclear power is unsafe and unsustainable and France is the last country in the European Union which missed its renewables target (renewables reached 19% of its energy mix rather than goal of 23%). The Climate and Resilience Law that was adopted in 2021 does not include strong enough policies to enable France to reach its current 2030 emissions reduction target so the real question is how the new government will effectively tackle this and propose climate action which is aligned with the science and the Paris Agreement objective?

France ranks 17th in the latest edition of the CCPI 2022. What short-term measures should the next government implement to improve the country’s ranking? What are three key demands?

AM: France needs to decrease its emissions domestically and to increase its international support for climate mitigation and adaptation.

  • First, the new government needs to address the purchasing power concerns and the ecological transition at the same time, by increasing its support to access a less polluting mobility (especially for the poorest households) and speed up the energetic renovation of buildings. Transport and buildings are high emitting sectors in France and deep reductions must be initiated as soon as possible.
  • Second, the new government needs to launch a deep transformation of the production system to cut the emissions of the industrial sector, which is the third largest emitting sector in France. In order to do so, the government needs to deepen current solutions, such as decarbonization of energy when possible, invest in breakthrough technologies and focus on energy savings through demand reduction, material efficiency and circular economy.
  • Finally, on the international stage, France can and must do more to make sure the Paris Agreement’s objective is still in reach. It already is an important contributor of climate finance but it needs to commit additional funding for loss and damages, the irreversible consequences of climate change, to respond to the needs of impacted communities. It is its responsibility as a historically high emitting country.

What are the biggest climate policy challenges for your country until 2030?

AM: An important challenge is how the ecological transition will be socially just and will not disproportionally affect the poorest and marginalized communities. The high score of Jean-Luc Melenchon, the radical left candidate, who arrived third in the first round of the elections with 22% of votes, can also be explained by his success at mixing social and ecological concerns and by his socially-just policies to tackle climate change. In a context of high energy prices, a strong support towards the most vulnerable households is needed to ensure a fair transition, since they are also the least responsible for the climate crisis. Another important challenge for France is to go beyond speeches and statements to actually implement sectoral reforms in the coming years. So far, the laws and strategies in place to tackle climate change have either been watered down or have not been fully implemented, which means that few concrete actions are taking place, or at least not at the pace that it should be. The important role of the lobbies in energy, agricultural and transport sectors have been obstructed progresses on a fair and just transition.

Where is France a role model for other countries?

AM: Even though it is far from being perfect, France has come up with good ideas on climate governance. It has a low carbon national strategy, carbon budgets, a Climate and Resilience Law, as well as a High Council for Climate which advises the state. The only problem is that these different governance structures did not ensure the achievement of French climate targets…

Which developments in your country make you hopeful?

AM: More and more French citizens are mobilizing around climate issues, to demand more action from the government. This trend is also seen in local areas, where people are organizing to fight industrial projects that destroy the planet and biodiversity. The growing strength of mobilization movement that demand climate justice and the mobilization of youth on climate issues is particularly hopeful for France.

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