COP24: ‘Yellow vest’ crisis weakens French position

The APA opening plenary of the COP24. [© cop24.gov.pl]

In the midst of the ‘yellow vest’ movement in France, criticisms made by heads of state such as Trump, Salvini and Erdoğan fuel mistrust towards climate action, notably that carried out by France. EURACTIV France reports.

Is the ‘yellow vest’ movement weakening France’s international influence? As COP24 hits full swing in Poland, French negotiators want to believe that this is not the case.

“The negotiation is being carried out by the European Union but French representatives are present in all of the technical groups, and they are closely listened to,” Brigitte Collet, the French ambassador on climate affairs, said in Katowice.

However, the question remains. The French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, snapped a response to Donald Trump’s tweets on 9 December, telling him not to interfere in French domestic policy as France does not interfere in American domestic policy.

Trump had said that the demonstrators in Paris were chanting “We love Trump”, to which Le Drian replied: “As far as I know, none of the demonstrators was speaking in English”.

French ‘yellow vests’ caught up in social networks

As it enters its fourth week of protest, France’s ‘yellow vest’ movement continues to be active on Facebook. While the social network has allowed the movement to grow, Facebook is struggling to create a structure for the movement. EURACTIV France reports.

Macron bashing at COP

Besides the American president’s furious tweets, French President Emmanuel Macron came under attack from Europe, notably from Matteo Salvini, the Italian interior minister. “Macron is not a problem for me, he’s a problem for the French people,” Salvini said.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte stated that “we are all ‘yellow vests,’” while discouraging Dutch people from going to Paris on 8 December.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also accused French police of using “disproportionate violence,” as the demonstrations were repressed on 8 December. France regularly criticises Turkey for its disregard for human rights.

‘Loss and Damage’ emerges as crunch item at COP24

There is still no clear picture in Katowice on how to provide a readily available funding mechanism for developing countries affected by extreme weather events.

“There are clear links between climate security and peace, we need states to find solutions. The ‘yellow vests’ are a lesson, highlighting how fundamental these links are,” said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International.

Domestic politics is usually a taboo between diplomats and heads of state, at least officially. But it is difficult to avoid having these subjects mocked at COP. “Are you coming here to take shelter?” security officers asked French people at the front desk.

For the French government, backtracking on its climate position is out of the question.

“This episode of protests is doing anything but lowering France’s ecological ambitions,” said the Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, Brune Poirson. She maintained that “the ecological transition is 1% of the demands” made by the ‘yellow vests’”.

The French government says it wants to continue sending a price signal and influence people’s behaviour in order to curb carbon emissions. However, in practice, the ‘yellow vest’ crisis is fuelling both global-warming deniers and critics of carbon taxes, such as in Canada, where the $7 dollar tax on carbon from 2019 introduced by Justin Trudeau faces heavy criticism.

Europe stuck on climate ambition at COP24

With the UK entangled in Brexit, France mired in the “Yellow Vest” movement, and Germany stuck in political quagmire, Europe is not ready to lead global climate talks as the decisive political phase of the UN climate conference opens on Tuesday (11 December).

Further Reading

COP24 dairy - day #9

Over this special series on COP24, EURACTIV gives you a glimpse into the goings on of the UN climate conference in Katowice and what is driving the conversation there. In this edition: An update on the negotiations, postponing climate ambition, 415 institutional investors, a climate damages tax, and more.

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The global economy has to prepare for a profound transformation in the coming decades as the impact of climate change becomes more tangible, Zurich insurance experts told EURACTIV.com.

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