Presidential 2022. Why was the environment the big absentee from the campaign?

It has never been so urgent to act. However, two days before the second round of the presidential election, the observation is clear for environmental protection NGOs and French people concerned about the consequences of global warming: the climate crisis has been the major absentee from the countryside.

“The environment was completely absent from the debates, it is not at all up to the stakes and challenges that we must resolve”, deplores Justine Ripoll, campaign manager for Our Business to All.

“It’s disconcerting, it’s completely unrelated to the urgency and the work of scientists on the collapse of life and the acceleration of the consequences of climate change, such as droughts, heat waves, fires”, abounds as for him Pierre Cannet, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns of WWF Francewhich observes “a general and presidential debate in red which has failed to make room for ecological transition”.

A lack of debate between the candidates

It must be said that for most candidates, the climate issue is far from being a favorite theme. “Some don’t care, others shun these questions because they have a very poor grasp of them or because they know that their proposals are not up to scratch,” says Jean-François Julliard, president of Greenpeace France. “The climate emergency threatens all of humanity, it is not a crisis like any other. As such, we would have imagined that a presidential election would be an opportunity to have real discussions on it, ”he laments.

Although some programs nevertheless gave a large place to ecology, the absence of debate before the first round between all the contenders for the Élysée Palace did not help Jean-Luc Mélenchon or Yannick Jadot to highlight their proposals on the subject. “Some candidates who were more comfortable with these subjects could have discussed them more broadly to put their competitors in the wrong, but they did not have the possibility”, adds Jean-François Julliard.

Many NGOs and Think Tanks – below, The Shift Project – have ranked and rated candidate climate programs.

The Shifters

Since 1is February, only 6% environment in the media

In the opinion of the associations, the fault also lies largely with the media, which in their view did not sufficiently highlight climate issues during the campaign. According to a Tagaday study carried out for the magazine Challengesthe environment represented only 6% of all articles and subjects related to the election published by the French media – press, web, TV and radio – between 1is February and April 11. And this despite the publication of two parts of the IPCC report between these two dates.

The NGO members of The Deal of the Century, a climate justice campaign initiated in 2018, have tried to bring the subject back to the fore. On March 13, Greenpeace, the Foundation for Nature and Man, Oxfam and Notre Affaire à Tous organized “The Debate of the Century”, broadcast on social networks, during which they questioned several candidates on their proposal in terms of environment and climate.

It is not normal for civil society and NGOs to break through this media glass ceiling. A major TV channel should have organized it, but each time we asked the editorial staff, we were closed the door saying that the French were not interested enough to dedicate a debate to ecology.

Justine Ripoll

Yet, according to the 9th edition of the “French Fractures” survey published in September 2021, four out of five French people want the State to “take rapid and energetic measures to deal with the environmental emergency”.

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For the second round, 17 minutes devoted to the climate

And the debate in the second round did not turn the tide. In an open letter, several NGOs had however asked Léa Salamé and Gilles Bouleau, hosts of the debate between the two rounds between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, to devote at least 20% of the time of the discussions to the ecological crisis. But nothing worked: out of 2h30 on the air, 17 minutes – or 11.3% – were devoted to ecology.

And again, deplore the NGOs. “It fell flat, the debate could not meet the expectations of voters to know more about their projects in terms of credibility, figures, dates, and above all completeness”, judge Pierre Cannet. “Because when we talk about ecology, it’s a transformation that affects all sectors of the economy. »

However, during the debate between the two rounds, “we remained on subjects which do not fully embrace the challenges of the climate crisis, on the somewhat sterile opposition between nuclear and renewable”, underlines Jean-François Julliard. “Because it’s something easy to handle to ask questions and because there are very opposing positions so it’s easy to have debate and contradiction on these subjects. But, deplores the president of Greenpeace, “we cannot reduce the ecological crisis to ‘do we need more nuclear power or more renewables?’ »

Same story in the eyes of Justine Ripoll, who also considers that the environment has too often been approached from the energy angle in this campaign: “It is summed up in a pro or anti nuclear opposition, in a superficial way. For the citizens, it is not necessarily rewarding…”

“We are not going to applaud because Emmanuel Macron respects the law”

Arriving at the top of the first round on April 10, Emmanuel Macron temporarily put the climate crisis back in the spotlight last Sunday, during his meeting in Marseille. Aware that the voters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, concerned about environmental issues, represent a large reserve of votes for the second round, the outgoing president notably assured that he intended to double the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions or yet appoint a Prime Minister directly responsible for ecological planning.

But this “ecological shift” is struggling to convince. “These are commitments and promises he had already made in 2017 and, for five years, most have not been kept”, thunders Justine Ripoll. “He is making an announcement effect by saying that he wants to double greenhouse gas reductions, but it was a court decision that had been rendered in the context of the Case of the Century. We are not going to applaud because he respects the law…”

Jean-François Julliard goes further, tackling Emmanuel Macron’s “electoralism” and “rather indecent opportunism”. “He knows that he finds himself facing a candidate who has nothing to say on the subject so it is extremely easy to position himself on it”, he adds, saying that he no longer believes in the promises of the head of the State after a five-year term “largely negative on climate issues”.

“With Emmanuel Macron we are not moving forward. With Marine Le Pen, we are going backwards »

Pierre Cannet, from WWF, wants to be slightly more optimistic but still calls for “being careful with these positions” and “vigilant about what will then be put in place in detail”. “It will be necessary to ensure that Emmanuel Macron is surrounded by committed, convinced people, so that this planning is credible”, he notes.

Despite a debate almost devoid of ecology and largely insufficient proposals from the two candidates qualified for the second round, environmental defense NGOs agree on the fact that it would be even harder to carry the crisis climate at the top of the political agenda in the event of victory for Marine Le Pen.

“With Emmanuel Macron we are not moving forward. With Marine Le Pen we are going backwards. Because with it, we are bordering on climatoscepticism, ”said Jean-François Julliard. “The few measures that Madame Le Pen proposes would be even worse, it would aggravate this feeling of inaction”, confirms Justine Ripoll.


Source: Le Progrès : info et actu nationale et régionale – Rhône, Loire, Ain, Haute-Loire et Jura | Le Progrès by www.leprogres.fr.

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