France to link climate and economic goals during EU presidency stint

While Macron succeeded in reconciling economic development and environmental aspirations in his speech, several observers would have preferred "that the climate and the fight against energy and social insecurity be given more prominence, as these are two issues that Europeans are facing", said Neil Makaroff, European manager for the Climate Action Network. EPA-EFE/LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL MAXPPP OUT [EPA-EFE]

Promoting a new European growth model is one of the major focuses of France’s EU Council presidency programme in the first half of 2022, President Emmanuel Macron has announced. The climate transition is not at the plan’s core but it will be closely tied to Macron’s economic ambitions. EURACTIV France reports.

The French president detailed his project to create a more sovereign, more humane and economically dynamic Europe, with ambitious ecological objectives, on Thursday (9 December).

Halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and becoming carbon neutral by 2050 are two goals where the president does not want to “lose a single minute”.

The climate transition, while not a cornerstone of Macron’s, plan, will be closely linked to his ambitions for economic growth. The French leader, for instance, called on industrialists to “invent solutions for decarbonising our economy that are compatible with [the] growth agenda”.

Macron also wants to rely on the development of innovative sectors of the industry, “which will structure the world of 2030”, and expects the creation of jobs linked to the energy transition. He also confirmed that companies and households will be supported “to achieve a balance between climate ambition and social justice”.

While Macron succeeded in reconciling economic development and environmental aspirations in his speech, Neil Makaroff, European manager for the Climate Action Network, said he would have preferred “if the climate and the fight against energy and social insecurity were given more prominence, as these are two issues that Europeans are facing”.

Three concrete actions

Macron also laid out three concrete actions he wishes to take during the presidency.

First, he said he wants to introduce so-called “mirror clauses” to avoid unfair competition between the products imported into the EU and those produced on the bloc’s soil. “European economic actors cannot be the victims of their efforts for the planet,” he stressed.

The French president also said he wants to accelerate the European carbon border adjustment mechanism “to preserve our competitiveness” – an objective the French political class agrees on.

Senator Jean-François Longeot, chairman of the Committee on Regional Planning and Sustainable Development, has said that “it is essential that large emitters participate in carbon quotas; there should not be a contradictory economic signal”.

Finally, Macron also said he wanted to set up a European instrument to combat imported deforestation.

According to Makaroff, “Macron has focused on legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions outside the European continent. “In particular, he chose to put the EU carbon border adjustment mechanism in his programme “because it is a bit of an electoral totem in France,” Makaroff added.

Macron presents France's EU Council presidency priorities

French President Emmanuel Macron gave an overview on Thursday (9 December) of the priorities France wants to pursue when it takes over the EU Council Presidency in the first half of 2022. Reforming the border-free Schengen area, setting up a European defence system and a new European model were among the priorities he outlined. EURACTIV France reports.

Playing the influencer’s role

However, no details were given on the European Green Deal or the Fit for 55 package, which EU countries will debate in the coming months.

“If we manage to put into practice the declared will, I think we will have taken a big step,” said Senator Longeot, who admitted the speech could have been fleshed out more.

But Makaroff warned against any temptation to put very French issues on the EU agenda, saying the French presidency should not become a “forum for national interests like nuclear energy”.

“The risk would be to end up with blockages on the climate issue,” he added.

According to Eric Maurice, head of the Brussels office of the Robert Schuman Foundation, “we need to distinguish between two levels in this presidency”.

France will take over the Council’s entire decision-making process for six months from January but the presidency will also be used as a political platform. “This is where Macron stands out, by saying that the EUFP [French EU Council presidency]… is an inspirational function,” added Maurice.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon/Zoran Radosavljevic]

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