Benoît Hamon’s late entry into the French presidential race has added another intriguing player to the equation. EURACTIV’s partner Journal de l’Environnement takes a look at Hamon and fellow Socialist candidate Manuel Valls in terms of their environmental credentials.
Bad habits die hard. The environment is certainly mentioned in the programmes of the Socialist Party candidates but it has remained largely absent from the debate, as shown by a press conference held by Manuel Valls on 3 January.
In just under a minute, the former prime minister limited himself to just two issues: “tackling pesticides and fine particles”, by making environmental health “one of the main national causes”, and “changing industrial policy as a result of the climate emergency”. Other issues have been added to his campaign website.
Benoît Hamon wants to “scale back nuclear power as quickly as possible”, without specifying a schedule, whereas Manuel Valls just wants to make the plants more secure. Both candidates support renewable energy targets: Hamon has set an ambitious 50% target for 2025 and Valls has gone with 32% for 2030.
Thermal renovation is one of the few areas where Valls is more specific on what he wants to achieve, aiming to renovate a million homes every year. Hamon, on the other hand, just wants to focus on social housing.
Another difference of opinion is on the issue of diesel. Hamon wants to have phased it out by 2025, while Valls is more cautious. He is content to merely offer a convergence of taxes on diesel and petrol, and to pledge more development of public transport.
The two candidates are even split on health risks. While Hamon wants to ban the most dangerous pesticides, like glyphosate, Valls has been more cryptic and said he wants “an agricultural model that will meet the requirements of environmental health”.
Circular economy and recycling
Hamon, again, has gone into more detail and set more ambitious targets, insisting on a 50% recycling by 2022 target and a reduced VAT rate for products that are the most environmentally friendly.
Valls says he will support the circular economy without explaining how. It should be noted that the EU could impose a 65% by 2030 recycling target for municipal waste under its new Circular Economy Package, regardless of what either candidate supports.
Under a Valls presidency, the planned Aéroport du Grand Ouest in western France would be built, while Hamon has announced his intention to scrap the project “to cut our losses”. The proposed airport has angered locals and polarised political opinion.