France Withdraws Plans to Embed Climate Struggle into the Constitution


PARIS — The French government on Tuesday said it would abandon plans to include the fight against climate change in the Constitution and de facto abandon what is seen as an important step in the country’s environmental commitments.

Announcing the decision, Prime Minister Jean Castex said it followed a disagreement between the lower and upper houses of Parliament over the text of an amendment that would add environmental protection to the Constitution.

“This is very sad, but the struggle continues,” Mr Castex told MPs in the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament.

This was a setback for President Emmanuel Macron, who framed the constitutional amendment as the symbolic backbone of his own life. environmental policies. Macron had even promised to hold a referendum on the issue, hoping to strengthen his green credentials before next year’s presidential election.

In recent months, Macron’s government has faced massive environmental protests and landmark climate lawsuits. Critics say it’s increasingly watering down climate goals.

Mr Castex accused the French Senate of blocking constitutional change, while climate activists and the Green opposition blamed the government, saying it never worked on a compromise that could allow a change to pass.

The idea of ​​changing the constitution was a 150 people “Citizen’s Climate AgreementMacron’s set up in 2019 to formulate proposals for ambitious climate legislation.

In December, wanting to defuse criticism that he wasn’t doing enough to protect the planet, Macron announced he had embraced the idea. If a proposed constitutional amendment gets Parliament’s approval, he planned to hold a referendum to include the fight against climate change in the Constitution.

Under French law, both houses of Parliament must agree on a common version of the proposed constitutional amendment. The amendment can then be passed by either a vote or a referendum, which requires an absolute three-fifths majority in Parliament.

The National Assembly, dominated by Mr Macron’s centrist party La République en Marche, proposed adding to the Constitution that France would “guarantee environmental protection and biodiversity and combat climate change”.

But members of the Senate, controlled by Les Républicains, a right-wing party, objected to the word “guarantee”, which they argued would take precedence over other constitutional principles such as free enterprise. Bruno Retailleau, leader of the Républicains in the Senate, condemned He argued that it risks introducing “the virus of growth decline in our constitution”.

The Senate proposed a new version of the amendment and pledged France to “take action to protect the environment”, but the National Assembly largely stuck to its wording. After being rejected a second time by the Senate on Monday, Mr. Castex announced the end of the legislative process.

Climate activists and green politicians dismissed the debate over the change wording as just a publicity stunt, saying the government has never sought to reach a consensus on the change.

“It was easy to see, it was an acting game that took months,” said Matthieu Orphelin, a lawmaker who left Macron’s party in 2019 and later joined the Green and left forces.

An environmental group said:Our Ecological ConstitutionIt issued a statement calling it “a constitutional reform that has been hijacked and undermined by political maneuvering from the very beginning”.

one Climate bill proposed by Mr. Macron has been subjected to similar criticism. Rejecting the measure, which favors corporate interests over assertive action as an overly cautious approach to climate change, protesters took to the streets for several weekends in the spring.

Environmental concerns have gained traction in France in recent years and cafe terraces heated by outdoor heaters to climate battlefields. Top universities have students mobilize to demand environmental action.

A number of important lawsuits have also increased the pressure for the government to act.

a court in February He ruled that France had caused “ecological damage”. by insufficiently reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And on Thursday, the country’s highest administrative court gave the government nine months to take “all necessary steps” to meet emissions reduction targets or face possible sanctions.


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