France - environment

Citizen panels 'still useful' despite disappointment after climate convention

Online participants of the eighth, and final, session of the Citizen's convention on climate, held 27-28 February, 2021.
Online participants of the eighth, and final, session of the Citizen's convention on climate, held 27-28 February, 2021. © Citizen's convention on climate

In last weekend’s final session of France’s Citizens' Climate Convention, participants gave the government an abysmal score on implementing their proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Despite their disappointment in the response, they said citizens' convention format remains important for citizens to have a voice.

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In the last session participants found that “citizen conventions are able to improve democratic life,” tweeted Mathilde Imer, who was on the governing committee of the Citizens' Climate Convention (CCC).

President Emmanuel Macron launched the convention after the Yellow Vest movement, which started out as a protest against fuel taxes, and evolved into an anti-government movement, criticising the government - and Macron in particular - of not giving enough voice to citizens.

The 150 Convention participants met seven times between October 2018 and June 2019. Organisers considered last weekend's eighth and final session to be key, as it gave participants a chance to react to the government’s responses to their 149 proposals to reduce France’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by the year 2030.

Macron had said he would take the proposals from the convention "without filter", and Convention members were upset when he appeared to backtrack on the promise last year.

In the final session, participants said that Macron and the government have proposed policies and a climate bill that lack ambition. And yet, they still believe in the citizen assembly process.

Several participants said they were now looking to parliament to amend and increase the ambitions of the “climate imbalance and resilience” bill presented by the government last month, intended to put into law several of the assembly’s proposals.

Speaking Monday to the special parliamentary commission preparing the debates on the bill, Ecological transition minister Barbara Pompili defended the government’s proposed legislation, saying that there is no lack of ambition, even if not all the measures proposed by the citizen’s assembly were included.

"On what’s at stake, we took the spirit of everything the Citizen convention members wanted,” she said.

The government did not take up all the proposals “because we took into account that there were a certain number of points that needed either an adaptation, or work with the concerned parties for it to be better accepted,” she explained, giving as an example the aviation sector, which has taken a financial during the Covid-19 epidemic, and is hesitant to put in place carbon-cutting measures.

“This bill is still ambitious, and you will have the chance to hear from some that find it too ambitious, that it is going too fast, too far, that it’s too complicated,” she told the lawmakers, adding that it will be up to them to amend and pass the law. “Parliament is sovereign and will pass what it wants,” she said.

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