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The Greens would love Macron if he wasn’t so easy to hate – POLITICO

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Emmanuel Macron had five years to win over green voters – it didn’t work.

Now he’s making a last-ditch attempt to appeal to her ahead of Sunday’s runoff against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

For green-minded voters, Sunday’s election may seem obvious.

Macron’s record may not excite climate activists, but he is up against a nationalist who has promised to slow decarbonization efforts, dismantle wind farms and impose a moratorium on new wind and solar power. She has also blamed “the bulk” of greenhouse gas emissions on “the economic model based on international free trade”.

But on Wednesday TV debate She taunted Macron by calling him a “climate hypocrite” – hitting a nerve.

Experts and environmentalists point out that Macron’s five-year tenure was marked by sweeping declarations of intent but patchy implementation, raising doubts about his sincerity on climate issues.

Macron’s last-minute green switch “is being driven by election gains,” said Thomas Pellerin-Carlin, director of the Jacques Delors Energy Center, a think tank. “It’s something he could have done in 2017, 2018, 2019.”

Start low

Macron’s thinking on environmental issues has evolved “considerably,” according to Pascal Canfin, former director of the World Wildlife Fund in France and now MEP for Macron-allied group Renew Europe.

When he first met Macron in 2012, the future president was “a classic industrialist,” Canfin said La Croixand tried to convince Canfin of the benefits of developing shale gas in France.

As president, Macron has developed clear rhetoric in support of climate action, said Anne Bringault, a member of France’s Climate Action Network. But “there’s a gap between his lyrical reflections and his results,” both nationally and internationally, she said.

Five years ago, Macron Applied on a platform that included banning problematic pesticides, reducing the size of France’s nuclear fleet, reducing air pollution by introducing clean air zones, and giving France leadership in global climate diplomacy.

He missed almost all of these areas.

Just a year into his tenure as president, a fuel tax hike, part of efforts to tackle climate change, enraged commuters and businesses outside the largest cities and sparked the massive Yellow Jacket protest movement.

“We warned [Macron] For a long time there will be resistance if the proceeds from this tax are not returned to the most disadvantaged households,” Bringault said. “And that led to the Yellow Jackets.”

The chaotic months of street violence forced Macron to reconsider the framing and implementation of his climate policy and led to the formation of the Citizens’ Climate Convention – a group of 150 randomly selected people tasked with advising the government on the green transition.

The President hailed the convention as a success, and France’s far-reaching climate law, passed last March, drew on recommendations from the convention. Aimed to contribute to the EU target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, the law will ban advertising for fossil fuels, certain domestic flights and new cars that emit more than 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer by 2030, ecocide.

But members of the Citizens’ Convention accused the government of watering down its recommendations on cutting emissions, promoting the circular economy and greening agriculture – undermining any political gain for Macron.

FRANCE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION POLL

For more survey data from across Europe, see POLITICS poll of polls.

Macron’s decision to set up a High Council on Climate Change, an independent body to advise the government, was widely viewed as a success. But it also highlighted his government’s failures: Successive assessments showed that France is not reducing greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to meet its targets under the Paris climate agreement, a view supported by a French court ruling against the government.

These ideas typify Macron’s strategy on environmental issues, which is not “integrated” but amounts to “layering” new initiatives on top of each other – which Pellerin-Carlin says does not result in significant transformation.

Macron’s new pledge to task his future prime minister with “environmental planning” and task him with coordinating long-term action to decarbonize the economy in various sectors — an idea being pushed by far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon — is more promising, said Pellerin Carlin.

However, success will depend on whether Macron makes changes to administrative structures, he warned.

When his former environment secretary, Nicolas Hulot, resigned in 2018 over frustration at a lack of progress on key issues, Macron “didn’t change those structures… he changed a person.”

Questionable climate champion

Macron’s commitment to climate issues has also met with fierce criticism in Brussels.

France insisted on labeling nuclear energy and gas-fired power plants as green investments under the EU taxonomy, fought back against the greening of the Common Agricultural Policy and called for sales of new internal combustion engine cars to end in 2040 rather than 2035 as proposed by the European Commission.

Macron also recently urged a reconsideration of the EU’s Farm to Fork strategy, which aims to green agriculture, due to the impact of the war in Ukraine.

Diplomats have also expressed disappointment at what they see as a lack of progress on EU climate legislation – the so-called Fit for 55 package – during France’s six-month EU presidency, which began in January.

France’s Efforts”[do] do not seem to match Macron’s renewed interest in climate,” said a diplomat from an EU country after Mélenchon’s strong results in the polls. “You have successfully allowed other files to rot,” the diplomat said.

A spokesman for the French Presidency expressed surprise at the characterization, saying in a text message: “The Council’s position on CBAM was adopted in an extremely short period of time. All Member States tell us that the French Presidency has been characterized by a steady pace on all other EU texts [Fit for 55] Package.”

Macron was initially better able to position himself internationally as a climate champion – especially in the months after his election in 2017, when US President Donald Trump was preparing to announce his exit from the Paris Agreement. In a video that went viral, Macron subverted Trump’s campaign slogan by calling “Make the Planet Great Again.”

He also courted Chinese leader Xi Jinping and launched the One Planet Summit to bring together countries that remain committed to the Paris goals — efforts that have helped boost the global climate pact’s ambitions despite the US withdrawal on April 10 to get life.

“It was a pretty useful role at the time, and I think he should be given credit for it,” said Lola Vallejo, director of the climate program at the Paris Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations.

But the role of climate champion also served to strengthen his personal brand and carve out a place on the international stage.

“He was a very smart politician and knows how to talk about the climate emergency in a way that resonates with people internationally, especially at a time when everyone was so desperate about how Trump was talking about this issue,” he said Vallejo.

That has since changed. Ahead of last year’s COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow, British diplomats privately voiced their frustration at France’s contribution.

With the US presidency back in Democratic hands, Vallejo said, “there has been less room for Macron to make political gains from such personal involvement.”

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