French President Emmanuel Macron won praise for putting the Amazon forest fires at the top of the global agenda, but back at home, green advocates would like to see less talk and more action.
Two years since pledging to “Make Our Planet Great Again” after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris climate agreement, Macron’s domestic green achievements have not lived up to his promise.
An attempt to increase taxes on fossil fuels crumbled in the face of protests, the expansion of renewable energy is still hindered by red tape and legacy power plants have not yet been shut down.
“On the one hand, Emmanuel Macron deserves credit for almost all his speeches” on the environment, said Arnaud Gossement, a Paris-based lawyer who works for clean power developers. “On the other hand, most of his actions fall short.”
Like fellow European leaders, Macron is walking a fine line between growing public concern that the climate is changing and the immediate cost to households of the transition to low-carbon energy.
The president is pulled in one direction by those who seek to preserve jobs in the nuclear industry, the oil and gas business, and farming, and in the other by proponents of wind and solar power, cleaner vehicles and soil protection.
The ferocity of the protests against tax increases on gasoline, in which so-called “Yellow Vests” protesters blocked roads and fuel depots, burned vehicles on the streets of Paris and ransacked banks, underscores the risk of getting the balance wrong.
As world leaders gathered last month in the French resort of Biarritz for a meeting of the G7, Macron decided to tear up the formal agenda and focus the summit instead on the record number of forest fires ravaging the Amazon.
He accused Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro of lying about efforts to protect forests and threatening to torpedo an EU trade deal with South America, a proposal several of the bloc’s other leaders rejected.
Even this forceful approach on a crucial environmental issue drew mixed reviews in France. Former French ecology minister Nicolas Hulot, who resigned a year ago for what he described as a lack of action on a number of environmental issues, said in a tweet that the president must follow up his tough words with a ban on imports of Brazilian agricultural products.
The French president’s office did not respond to requests for comments.
When it comes to domestic policy, Macron’s pledge to boost wind and solar power has been marred by an insufficient reduction in red tape that hampers clean power developments, said Gossement, who is also a board member of French solar business federation Enerplan.
Promises to close a nuclear plant from next year and to shut coal-fired power plants by 2022 have yet to be enacted, he said.
For Gwenaelle Avice-Huet, the head of renewables at French utility Engie SA, Macron has positive achievements, but could go further.
“There’s been a real effort in recent years to simplify proceedings” for renewable projects, Avice-Huet said.
The Energy and Climate draft bill and the country’s energy road map “are very positive items to quicken renewables in France,” she said.
The bill, due to be adopted in Parliament in coming weeks, aims to trim the use of fossil fuels by 40 percent by 2030 compared with 1990 by cutting red tape for renewable energy projects, and adding incentives for landlords to improve the energy efficiency of homes.
The legislation would also prod most coal-fired power plants, which provided 1.1 percent of the nation’s electricity last year, to close by 2022.
The law sets a road map to replace part of the nation’s fleet of nuclear power plants with forms of renewable energy by 2035, and France will aim to become carbon-neutral by 2050.
The government is stepping up tenders for solar and offshore wind projects. Macron has introduced or extended subsidies to boost home renovation, the replacement of heating fuel by more efficient gas boilers and the purchase of cleaner vehicles.
France still needs to provide more incentives for the development of biogas, and simplify proceedings for the replacement of old wind turbines with bigger, more efficient ones, a process that currently takes about seven years, Avice-Huet said.
The government should also free up some of its unused land to develop solar farms, a policy it is currently considering, she said.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable