Up to now, French President Emmanuel Macron has been trying hard to claim the mantle of ‘climate leadership’. Now his environment minister has resigned, he has to put words into action, writes Jennifer Morgan.
Jennifer Morgan is the Executive Director of Greenpeace International.
The summer of 2018, particularly in Europe, will be remembered as a climate change tipping-point. Extended droughts, fires and heat waves – impacts that were projected to happen far into the future – happened in 2018. Few countries in Europe have been spared. Ten European countries, northern and southern, suffered.
The costs to people and society are immense. While Europe is a wealthy continent that is better able to manage such costs, we are only just beginning to understand what those costs mean for our future.
It’s at times like this when we ache for real climate leadership and courage – someone who will step up and lead the political charge to transform our economies into the clean, safe and prosperous ones it is so clear people and our planet need.
Up to now, French President Emmanuel Macron has been trying hard to claim the mantle of ‘climate leadership’. He has made bold statements about implementing the Paris climate agreement, hosted a One Planet Summit and made promises to move France to the electric car by 2040. He also brought in a very credible and serious Environment Minister, Nicolas Hulot.
However, France’s greenhouse gas emissions are increasing. It is failing to meet its renewable energy targets and is dragged down by a crippled nuclear industry. There is no mobility plan reliant on clean public transport and the agriculture sector remains dominated by a toxic agroindustry. Macron’s Environment Minister has now resigned, frustrated by his political isolation and the influence of outdated and dirty industries on government decisions which are often short-sighted and contradictory.
Now truly an emperor with no clothes, what would it take to make President Macron the climate leader the world now so desperately needs?
Real climate leadership for Macron means committing now to the transformation of the electricity sector to 100% renewable energy, modernising and decentralising infrastructure, which requires a phase-out of nuclear and coal. It means launching a mobility system that is centred around public transportation and renewable electricity-powered vehicles. It means phasing out pesticides and creating an agricultural sector based on sustainable practices.
With such a domestic action plan, President Macron can and must then use his influence to ensure Germany and the rest of Europe deliver on commitments made under the Paris Agreement, including a more ambitious carbon target. This means delivering a deal that boosts EU climate action. European governments can and must do much more to tackle climate change, which brings multiple benefits economically and socially and sends a strong signal to other major economies. European progress cannot happen without France, given its importance and influence, particularly with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
After WWII Europe decided on a Schuman Plan to revitalise its economy and bring peace. That plan was based on coal and steel. Today, in the midst of another crisis, Macron must lead a new Schuman Plan for Europe – one based on solar and wind energy. Such leadership would not only put pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to recommit to climate leadership, but also send a signal globally that he is not only about words, and is ready to do the hard work to get it done.