Cyrille Cormier is an engineer, climate and energy policy specialist and author of Climate, permanent resignation (ed. Utopia, 2020). He was also responsible for Greenpeace’s climate and energy campaigns.
Sustainable Reporter – What do you think of the draft law on climate and resilience, discussed in recent days in the National Assembly ?
Cyrille Cormier— It deals with interesting topics, but for the moment most of the articles do not bring new ambitions, do not reinforce action in the short term. It’s all very light.
For example, the text says that we will ban the rental of thermal filters, but only from 2028. For the sale of petrol and diesel cars, the ban target remains until 2040, without any acceleration being considered. The abandonment of tax breaks on diesel and the introduction of a tax on airline tickets are postponed and above all conditioned to the return to a better economic situation. Overall, there are no specific concrete commitments, for six months, one year, two years. This is the main criticism.
The other problem is that this text doesn’t even allow 40 ambition % reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in 2030 compared to 1990, even if the European Union would like to bring it to 55 %. Yet it is the fourth law of the mandate dedicated to the climate. And what is foreseen for the next ten years does not yet allow to reach the climate objectives !
How does this law integrate with the climate policies implemented so far? ?
I have listed the structuring laws since the beginning of the century on the climate issue. Before Emmanuel Macron, there were four. One under Chirac (Pope’s law), two under Sarkozy (the Grenelle I and II), to sous Hollande (the energy transition law for green growth).
Macron doubles the score: he made the Energy and Climate law, the law LOM on mobility, the circular economy law and now the climate and resilience law. These four laws cover a perimeter roughly equivalent to Grenelle’s laws and energy transition laws.
Today we will reach eight structuring laws on climate, out of some 2,000 laws adopted since the beginning of Chirac’s mandate. These are all belated laws, coming after half of the presidential term. And these are laws that have never been fully implemented. Or why the decrees are not signed – part of the decrees of the Grenelle law II for example, they had not yet been caught when Hollande came to power ; both because the financing does not follow ; or simply because they arrived late for their five-year term and the majority that voted for them was not renewed in the following elections. The climate and resilience law therefore has little chance of being fully implemented.
Why do you think these laws don’t work ?
Why the emissions GHG do not decrease, or very little ! I have observed that emissions decrease in France, for example when there are mild winters (2011, 2014, 2018) or during economic crises (from 2009 to 2011, 2020). Furthermore, most of the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in France actually concern the industrial sector, which has suffered the full brunt of deindustrialisation. The laws, on the other hand, haven’t had that much impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
French climate laws do not cover two essential areas, which are transport and agriculture. Together, they account for half of the emissions of GHG in France, and they have a common feature: their emissions level today is roughly the same as thirty years ago. These two sectors have been exempted from any action since the start of climate policies. Worse still, governments continued to pursue policies that promote behaviors that increase emissions: incentives to buy new gasoline and diesel cars, to consume beef and dairy products.
- The Gustave-Flaubert lifting bridge over the Seine in Rouen during its construction in 2005. The French presidents insisted on favoring road transport.
So the law LOM on mobility it talks about the bicycle, alternatives to the car, etc., but it never indicates how we will restructure our industrial model of vehicle production. We never explain how car manufacturers will survive with fewer cars running in France. It is even worse in aviation. The Airbus project, without increasing aircraft sales, does not exist. Not even the French agricultural project, without massive beef production, exists. Therefore, the fault of climate policies is above all in the absence of transformation projects for these sectors.
Yet, through taxation, regulations, public investment, the state could afford to tell these companies: “ We will move in that direction and start today. “ Towards an income linked to mobility services rather than the construction and sale of cars, for example. It is precisely this exercise that none of the presidents, from Jacques Chirac to Emmanuel Macron, has managed to carry out.
Emmanuel Macron differs from his predecessors on the climate issue ?
The mandate structure of these four presidents was the same. In the first half of their tenure, they staged a lot internationally. They often take an incisive attitude, giving lessons to other countries. For example, Jacques Chirac wrote very beautiful speeches on environmental emergencies in the early 2000s. Nicolas Sarkozy did the same by presenting himself at the Copenhagen Climate Conference, François Hollande with the COP21 in Paris, and finally Emmanuel Macron with his “ Make our planet great again In response to Donald Trump’s climate skepticism. At that time nothing was done in France. It was only in the second part of the mandate that climate laws arrived, but too late for the majorities who voted for them to follow their implementation.
Another thing that struck me is that each of these four presidents had a moment that I called “ climatic epiphany “. They stage a recent awareness of the problem. Jacques Chirac in his speeches. Nicolas Sarkozy when he signed Nicolas Hulot’s ecological pact in 2007 and asked a update from right on climate issues. A few months before the COP21 in Paris, François Hollande confided that he did not believe, did not know … and said he was recently convinced by scientists. Emmanuel Macron did exactly the same thing, simultaneously with his tenure, particularly in his interview with Konbini.
- Jacques Chirac, like his successors at the Elysée, spoke much more than he acted on climate issues.
Each time the presidents have made it clear that if they have not acted it is because they were not sufficiently aware of the problems, but that they now know and will act. It creates an expectation, a hope, it makes it possible to excuse past failures. Above all, this reflects the desire to build a political narrative rather than effective action.
Emmanuel Macron has thus ticked all the boxes of the narrative on the climate, without being able to distinguish himself from his predecessors. I was hoping with the Citizens’ Convention, an interesting novelty, but once the debate was over we went back to the same limits: the more ambitious measures are abandoned and the participation of citizens is devalued.
My thesis is therefore that Emmanuel Macron did exactly the same thing on climate issues as his predecessors. But for him it is much more serious. Jacques Chirac is a man of XXis century, overtaken by the climate issue. François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy were less excusable because they began their political careers in the late 1980s, when the first international climate negotiations were held. But Emmanuel Macron grew up and studied at a time when these climate problems were widely emerging. It is very worrying that he has not been able to do better.
What would you recommend to prevent this cycle from starting again in the next quarter? ?
I don’t find it normal for a President of the Republic to take at least two and a half years to bring a climate law to the table. It should be part of the contract established during the elections with the French. We must introduce a structuring law from the first six months of our mandate, which we will take the time to implement during the five-year period, and above all which proposes a transformation of the economic model of the most issuing sectors. Not being ready to act on the climate from day one is irresponsible.
- Interview by Marie Astier
Source: Marie Astier for Reporter
. chapo: The Elysee Palace, in November 2020. State Department photo by Ron Przysucha / Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
. Portrait © Cyrille Cormier
. Chirac – CC OF–HER 2.5 Eric Pouhier / Wikimedia Commons
. Bridge – CC OF 3.0 MOSSOT/ Wikimedia Commons