French press review 16 November 2017

French President Emmanuel Macron wants Europe to make up for Washington's refusal to finance climate change research. One third of French mammal species are at risk of disappearing. And today is the fourth day of action called by some trade unions in protest against changes to French labour law.


There are contrasting stories on the front page of Le Monde.

At the Cop23 climate conference in Bonn, the centrist daily has the French and German leaders, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, reaffirming their determination to save the planet. Yesterday the French president promised that Europe will make up the missing third of the money needed to finance the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Climate Change, which US President Doland Trump says Washington will no longer support.

That's the good news.

Unfortunately, Mutti Merkel's countrypersons are not doing well. Germany continues to burn heaps of coal and has no chance of meeting its target of reducing greenhouse gas emmissions by 40 percent of 1990 levels by the year 2020.

Germany gets 40 percent of its electricity from coal-burning power stations.

And even the German Green party admits that things won't get better even by 2030, the deadline they argued for during the recent election campaign.

Which leaves Macron in the position of climatic white knight. He's invited 100 heads of state to Paris next month, to mark the second anniversary of the Cop21 deal. They'll discuss how to finance climate-improving legislation. And probably do a bit of Christmas shopping.

Bats, bears, wolves endangered

Which brings me to the other, contrasting, story in Le Monde.

This is the bad news.

It turns out that one third of French mammal species are at risk of disappearing. Things were poor when the first scientific census was carried out in 2009. But they've gotten considerably worse since.

Of the 125 species of mammals living in France, one third are either in grave danger or vulnerable.

Bats, bears, wolves and lynx are among the threatened beasts.

Pollution, intensive agriculture and pesticides are the main killers, with climate change putting additional pressure on species already finding it difficult to share the countryside with homo sapiens.

New protests against labour law reform

Right-wing Le Figaro reminds anyone who might have forgotten that today is the fourth day of action called by some trade unions in protest against changes to French labour law.

The conservative daily is being a tad iroinic. The law is already done and dusted. The call for action by impoverished workers in the face of a brutal management-government coalition has already fallen on deaf ears, according to the paper, nobody really believing the unions' scare stories about increased working hours, diminished holidays and salaries. And who, wonders Le Figaro, can regret that the ponderous mechanism of negotiation between bosses and employees has, finally, been streamlined and simplified?

Le Figaro gives all the praise to the government, saying the Macron administration met the three conditions essential for success on this tricky question:

  • In the first place, Emmanuel Macron and his Republic on the Move told people what they were going to get during the election campaign. So there was no surprise and no reasonable ground for whingeing.
  • Then, the changes were discussed at length with all concerned.
  • Finally, the whole ball of wax was rolled along with coherent determination, the government managing to avoid being dragged into the fatal game of a small concession here, another, tiny, concession there.

The unions, Le Figaro triumphantly notes, promised that the attempt to reform labour law would give rise to "the mother of all battles". They were wrong.

Now the authorities need to learn from their success and attack administrative reform and public spending with the same determination.

Communist L'Humanité has an entirely different view of the situation, lamenting that ordinary workers have been sacrificed in a social coup d'état. And the daily points to the succession of national and local strikes which, it says, have, since October, shown union determination not to lie down in the face of government by decree, ongoing budgetary austerity, wage freezes.

Today's turnout will be an important test of that determination.

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