Is France Leading the Way in Helping the Environment?

President Macron hopes to lead the way on environmental issues | © thierrydeclercq/Flickr
President Macron hopes to lead the way on environmental issues | © thierrydeclercq/Flickr
Photo of Alex Ledsom
20 September 2017

The Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 was a landmark moment for many countries around the world, but none more so than France, the host country, which had just pushed an act through parliament to reduce its own greenhouse emissions by 40%. Since Macron became President this year, France has pursued an even more aggressive environmental agenda, through which he hopes to become an environmental trailblazer.

The Paris Climate Agreement Was Just The Start For France

The stakes were high in Paris in 2015 but a climate treaty was eventually pushed through. The deal, known as COP 21, requires the 196 countries that attended, to up their environmental commitments and keep global warming well below 2° Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. It was signed by 174 countries, including the US, in New York in 2016.

John Kerry signing the COP 21 with his granddaughter and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in 2016 | © Public Domain/Wiki Commons

Macron Is Standing Up To Trump

A year on and one big American election later, the environmental situation had changed a lot. At the same time as Trump was being sworn in as President of the United States, American government agencies removed their online pages on climate change. Trump has repeatedly tweeted his insistence that he doesn’t believe in climate change.

In June, 2017, Trump officially declared his intention to pull out of the Paris Climate Treaty, which had been ratified by the US in 2016. President Macron responded to Trump by posting a message – in English – across social media appealing to American scientists that they would always find a ‘second home’ in France, if they wanted to come to work on climate change. He said they would be welcomed with open arms. In it he offered a direct rebuke to Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again” by saying that, “we all share the same responsibility. To Make Our Planet Great Again.” It was fighting talk, winning over environmentalists around the world.

Now The French Are Going Further

President Macron doesn’t seem unduly concerned about Trump’s reticence and is moving on regardless, seeing it as a way to lead the debate himself. The act moving through Parliament at the moment plans not only to reduce French greenhouse emissions by 40% but also to drastically reduce packaging waste and has a mandatory requirement for French companies to report on their climate change impacts (the first country in the world to do so). The top French companies in the world, like L’Oreal and Danone are planning ambitious environmental targets.

President Macron (who was Economy Minister at the time) at the COP 21 talking to Al Gore, John Kerry, the French Ambassador and Robert Redford | © Public Domain/WikiCommons

France also has a new celebrity environmental spokesperson in Nicolas Hulot, a man well known for his sound environmental credentials but who refused to join previous governments – he has recently joined Prime Minister Phillipe’s government, under Macron. So everything is in place for France to lead the way forward. As with all of these new promises (to revive the economy, to combat terrorism, to lead the way in Europe) Macron just needs to deliver.

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