A radical change – particularly in public policy – is needed to address climate change and the social inequalities that come with it, former green minister and current director-general of Oxfam France, Cécile Duflot, told EURACTIV France in an exclusive interview.
Read the full interview in French here.
Climate change creates inequality at a global level, with the richest countries producing “the vast majority of greenhouse gases” while the poorest “are the first victims of the impacts” of climate change, explained Duflot, attributing this to the “constant neglect of imported emissions.”
Within rich countries, the wealthiest such as “banks and financial institutions”, as well as “billionaire families who own a large number of large French companies” contribute the most to climate change.
Changing the model
One policy approach raised by Duflot is a carbon tax – a promising option, although she warned of the possibility of such a method increasing social inequalities. “We will have to reduce everyone’s carbon emissions, including individuals. But using taxation alone is not the solution,” she said.
Fighting climate change can also be achieved through regulation like banning the manufacture of “vehicles that are too heavy and consume too much energy” and producing “products that are not designed to last”, Duflot added.
Investments and public procurement are also key, she emphasised.
According to Duflot, it is necessary to work on “the development of alternative modes of transport, on bringing the places of residence and work closer together”, but also on “the thermal renovation of housing”. Otherwise, “we won’t make it”.
Oxfam’s director-general is also calling for the greening of freight transport, for example by using renewable energy to power ships, rather than fossil fuels. As with the aviation sector, these are areas in which “we need to be even more incisive, and Europe could be”. “We need moments of rupture”, she said.
“Green growth is bullshit. It doesn’t exist,” the former green minister also said.
…to change the way of living
This model change should also accompany society towards a more sober way of living, where repairing objects, making better use of public transport, walking and cycling, and having alternative solutions to plastic, among other things, would become the norm.
“There is no other horizon than sobriety, otherwise it will be imposed on us by the ecological disasters we are experiencing,” she added.
When asked about a “carbon capital per capita” by EURACTIV, Duflot said it was fairer than taxation with which “the rich can continue to pollute while the poor cannot”.
Without stopping people from travelling, “replacing short-haul flights with trains” is a solution, she added.
According to Duflot, renewable energies are the solution as “the only way [to fight global warming] is to leave fossils in the ground.”
Nuclear power is no longer a viable option either, she added, pointing to the “safety limitations” and “the disruption of the hydro cycle”, which Duflot said will soon “no longer allow nuclear power plants to cool properly.”
Rather than investing and pursuing efforts to develop nuclear energy – as French President Emmanuel Macron and his government advocate, for example – “our scientific work should be to capture these energies [wind, solar…] which will last as long as our planet will last,” Duflot added.
For example, “Denmark and Portugal have shown that, on certain days, they are able to have 100% of their electricity consumption produced by renewable energy.”
Barely addressed during election period
Such issues were “totally neglected” during the French presidential election campaign and only existed “a little” during the legislative elections in June, Duflot also said.
Asked about the need for a radical political line on the left or in her former Green party, Duflot said that “it’s not a question of line, but a question of efficiency: we can use the term ‘ambitious’ if we don’t want ‘radical’, but in any case, we need a wide-ranging response.”
But climate issues were nevertheless very much in the minds of the French: “the majority appreciation of the population has evolved positively in the need to act for the climate,” the former minister also said.
“I am much more hopeful because I see a desire among young people to find very innovative and low-tech technical solutions to reduce waste.”
Reality will end up catching up in a “very brutal” way and force action to be taken, said Duflot.
While this could lead to fire, droughts and fires, Duflot remains optimistic that “we know exactly what the causes are and we know what to do about them.”
“The pandemic has allowed everyone to understand that an event could affect us all, individually and across the planet, that things that seemed completely impossible have finally become possible, and that we have done things on an exceptional scale with exceptional speed. And that’s what we have to do with climate change,” Duflot also said.
[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]