The contrasting results of Emmanuel Macron’s five-year mandate on the environment

Before the first round, there was this themed trip to Charente-Maritime. Emmanuel Macron this April 14 in Le Havre, speaks again about ecology. The stakes are high for the presidential candidate: convincing left-wing voters to go to the polls in the second round. Five years after his election, what balance can be drawn from Emmanuel Macron’s performance in the field of ecological transition? In retrospect, the five-year period at the environmental level is made up of advances, but also of partially fulfilled promises, even resignations.

The first year of the five-year term is marked by a law that provides for the immediate prohibition of the issuance of new hydrocarbon exploration permits. It is a world first. Shale gas research and exploitation is prohibited. And the concessions currently in force cannot be extended beyond 2040.

Progression of the organic in dining rooms, fight against waste

Several abandonments of controversial projects, which had stalled for years, are to the credit of the government. Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport near Nantes in 2018, the Montagne d’Or industrial gold mining project in French Guiana (June 2019), and the giant EuropaCity shopping and entertainment center north of Paris in November 2019: These three projects were all stopped during the five-year period. In addition, the Climate and Resilience Law of 2021 has included the fight against the artificialization of land among the major objectives of urban planning, with a goal of 50% reduction in ten years. A small revolution in environmental legislation.

On the plate, the 2018 Egalim law has triggered a dynamic in favor of short circuits and environmentally friendly productions. It obliges collective catering (school and company canteens) to serve 50% quality and sustainable products, including at least 20% organic products by 2022.

Big movement of conversion bonuses for cleaner vehicles

The law of February 10, 2020 regarding the fight against waste and the circular economy establishes new rules in favor of waste reduction. The text sets a goal of 100% recycled plastic by 2025 as well as an end to the sale of single-use plastic containers by 2040. In 2021, the ban on disposable cutlery in fast food restaurants comes into force, the of all disposable tableware in the same sector, for meals consumed on the spot, is planned for 2023. The text also includes provisions that fight against planned obsolescence, the destruction of unsold items not new foods.

Regarding the incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the government can highlight the different aids put in place (premiums, discounts) in favor of the acquisition of clean vehicles. The executive says that during the five-year period “million-dollar premiums and conversion bonds” were issued. For the thermal and energy rehabilitation of homes, the recovery plan was a great boost. The National Housing Agency renovated 750,000 homes in 2021 and has €3.2 billion available for 2022 for the continuation of the “Ma PrimeRénov” scheme. However, last October, France Strategy was concerned about the number of “efficient” renovations. They are “probably” below targets. “For the residential sector, it would be about going from around 70,000 global reforms carried out annually (on average in the 2012-2018 period), to 370,000 complete reforms per year from 2022 and 700,000 per year from 2030”, he points out. the experts attached to Matignon.

The French delay in renewables

In terms of energy policy, Emmanuel Macron seems to be having trouble finding a stable line. The ambitions to diversify and reduce the use of fossil fuels have not translated as they should. A candidate in 2017, he promised to reduce nuclear power’s share of the energy mix from 75% to 50% by 2025. To be realistic, the 2019 Energy and Climate Act postponed the target to 2035. The announcement in February 2022 of the reactivation of the nuclear sector, with massive investments, and the construction of 6 new EPR2 type reactors, constituted a spectacular turnaround. A commitment to close all coal-fired power plants in mainland France by 2022 is also in the dark. Due to the work of part of the nuclear park, the Saint-Avold (Moselle) and Cordemais (Loire-Atlantique) plants will have to continue with their production, to avoid tensions in the electrical supply.

France is also lagging behind in the development of renewable energies. Emmanuel Macron wanted a target of 32% in terms of renewable energies by 2030. There is still a long way to go as they represented only 19% of final energy consumption in 2020. On this date, France should have been at 23%, of in accordance with its European commitments. France is the only country of the 27 Member States that has not complied with this obligation, according to Eurostat. The lag is particularly visible in offshore wind power.

The disappointment of the Citizen Convention for Climate

An unprecedented democratic exercise, the Citizen Convention for Climate is also a missed opportunity. These 150 citizens drawn in 2019, after the yellow vests crisis, worked for several months and formulated 149 proposals, relating to various fields, such as food, housing, work or consumption. As for the proposals that required legislative translation, 46 ended in an ad hoc bill. But contrary to the presidential commitment to resume the “unfiltered” contributions, some have been set aside, others reduced or truncated. An example with the prohibition of domestic flights when there is an alternative by train of less than 2h30. It is only about one line (Orly-Bordeaux), while the citizens of the Convention had placed the cursor much wider, at 4 hours, for train journeys. In February 2021, the Citizen Convention was particularly disappointed with the government’s policies in favor of decarbonisation: they gave the executive a score of 2.5/10.

Other resignations are marked. According to Terra Nova, there has been “no great change in the way of approaching” the issue of preserving biodiversity. Furthermore, it is particularly in the field of agricultural transition where “we see the most important status quo”. Emmanuel Macron, for example, acknowledged in late 2020 that he had “failed” to deliver on his promise to completely abandon glyphosate within three years. “It is not feasible and it would kill our agriculture”, the head of state had justified then, who prefers to bet on a European ban in 2023. Disagreements with the Ministry of Agriculture were in particular one of the reasons for the resignation of Nicolas Hulot. , Minister for the Ecological Transition in 2018. “We strive to maintain an economic model that is the cause of all these climatic disorders […] We are taking small steps, and France is doing much more than other countries, but they are small steps… the answer is no”, he denounced.

We owe Emmanuel Macron the creation of the Superior Climate Council in 2018. This committee of independent experts has the mission of evaluating and guiding public policies on environmental matters. The HCC did not hesitate to point out the French delay on several occasions. In an opinion issued in December after COP26 in Glasgow, he urged France to raise its climate targets for 2030, strengthen their implementation and “take the initiative at the international level”. The climatologist Corinne Le Quéré, president of the organization, highlighted that road transport and agriculture did not see their emissions fall sufficiently.

Previously, in June 2021, the HCC had noted a “mixed improvement in the rate of decline in greenhouse gas emissions.” “The latter are not yet sufficiently aligned with the emission reduction trajectory envisaged by the National Low Carbon Strategy. […] The rate of emissions decline accelerated in 2019, but still needs to nearly double by 2021 to align with climate goals.

Convictions for climate inaction

The year 2021 is marked by a first: the condemnation of the State for the breach of its climate commitments. The state was sued by environmental associations, in a lawsuit called “the case of the century”. The victory is symbolic for the NGOs, who denounced the exceeding of the emissions ceiling that the State set for itself between 2015 and 2018. Grande-Synthe, a municipality in the north that is considered threatened by rising sea levels, has also launched a call for climate inaction. The Council of State forced the State in July to take additional measures to achieve the objectives set by the Paris agreement. He had until March 31 to comply with the ruling.

In December 2020, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Paris agreement, Emmanuel Macron himself acknowledged that the objectives were not met. “We have to look things in the face when it comes to CO2 emissions, we are not there today and I will come back to this. France and Europe must continue to mobilize. »

If Emmanuel Macron claims to have done more for the environment than his predecessors, Marine Braud, author of a report published by the Terra Nova think tank, believes that the observation should not be made in these terms. “Therefore, the question is no longer whether we have done more than our predecessors on the subject, but whether the action is sufficient to effectively combat the systemic threats posed by current environmental disturbances”, considers this former adviser to Elisabeth Borne and Barbara Pompili. , in the Ministry of Ecological Transition.

This Thursday in Le Havre, Emmanuel Macron renewed his green ambition, notably promising 50 offshore wind farms by 2050 and 10 billion euros per year of investment in transport and housing. A way of taking the opposite view of Marine Le Pen’s meager ecological program, which promises in particular the abolition of subsidies allocated to wind and solar energy, and the cessation of works in progress.

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