French prime minister vows to address ‘environmental emergency’
Marion Solletty | 14 Days
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe addresses his general policy speech at the National Assembly on June 12, 2019 in Paris | Alan Jocard/AFP via Getty Images French prime minister vows to address ‘environmental emergency’ Philippe sought to appeal to green- and left-leaning voters after seeing its base of support move to the right.
Edouard Philippe sent a loud message to green-minded citizens: We heard you.
The French prime minister on Wednesday announced several environmental measures during a formal address to the French parliament in which he laid out his government's priorities until 2020, the second speech of its kind since he was appointed head of government by President Emmanuel Macron.
"Environmental ambition" will be at the heart of the government's action over the next few months, Philippe said. "Today nobody has a green monopoly," he added, citing waste reduction and the greening of transport as policy priorities.
The speech was an obvious nod to the three million French citizens who voted for the Greens in last month's European Parliament election, a sizable number of whom had backed Macron in 2017.
Philippe vowed to have two flagship laws on mobility and climate adopted in parliament "by the summer," the latter of which sets a climate neutrality target for 2050. He also said he wanted "a 100 percent recycling target for plastics" — although he didn't mention a specific timeframe.
Opposition parties promptly denounced the moves as greenwashing, as most of the measures had already been previewed. Olivier Faure, head of the Socialist Party, told reporters he only heard "placebo measures."
Philippe didn't address some elephants in the room, such as a ban on controversial weedkiller glyphosate, a commitment Macron walked back on earlier this year.
"I believe in science, I would like our decisions to be based on that," Philippe said in what could be read as a thinly veiled allusion to the controversy surrounding health impact assessments of glyphosate. "I know what our country owes to its farming sector."
Philippe also vowed to support "social justice" and announced €5 billion worth of tax cuts targeting the middle-class, along with a largely anticipated reform of unemployment benefits that will make more people eligible but will gradually decrease benefits for higher income brackets.
"Last November, we met with anger," Philippe said, referencing the Yellow Jackets movement. Now "the government wants to build on [the period that followed] and move forward," he said.
The prime minister defended his government's track record on employment, after recent figures showed an increase in job creation this year. He also vowed to keep on reforming the country, laying the ground for a pension reform expected later this year or early next. Philippe said the government would keep the legal retirement age at 62, but warned the reform would include "incentives for people to work longer."
Overall, Philippe sought to assuage concerns on the left after the government saw its support base move to the right ahead of key municipal elections in 2020.
That included announcing a flagship social measure on providing access to assisted reproductive technology for single and gay women from September — a campaign promise from Macron.
Whether the message will be heard by green- and left-leaning voters is an open question.