The most important climate event in France in the first half of 2022 was, in fact, the absence of an event. The French presidential election dominated the first half of 2022, however, climate change was largely absent from the candidates’ debates and speeches. Neither candidate addressed climate action marches taking place in the country, nor for example, the latest two reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). While the war in Ukraine was widely discussed, the presidential conversation failed to adequately cover its environmental dimensions including energy and food insecurity. An initiative spearheaded by four NGOs called the “Affaire du Siècle” calculated that climate only received between 1.5% and 5.5% of media coverage during the campaign. For example, Élysée 2022, a French television show dedicated to French politics, aired six hours of coverage of the presidential election between March 31 and April 5 while it only devoted 11 minutes of that coverage to climate issues.
This trend sadly is not new. The environment has not played a significant role in French presidential politics since 2007 when ten presidential candidates signed an ecological pact presented by the French environmental activist Nicolas Hulot. The right, in particular, has neglected the topic, with Nicolas Sarkozy declaring in 2010, “Enough with the environment.” According to Greenpeace, only the platforms of left-leaning candidates Jean-Luc Mélenchon (La France Insoumise) and Yannick Jadot (Europe Ecologie-Les Verts) in this past election cycle sufficiently addressed climate concerns.
France and fellow European Member States adopted the European Climate Law in July 2021 which sets a legally binding target of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In order to reach the EU target of reducing emissions by 55% by 2030, France will need sustained commitment from all levels of government. Without high-profile commitments from the French presidency, current and future levels of emissions are unlikely to be sufficiently reduced. This negative impact however can be changed if presidential politics give climate issues the same weight it is given by voters. Climate is important to voters. It ranks ahead of immigration and third amongst the French public’s concerns after purchasing power and the war in Ukraine. French citizens and organizations have called for environmental issues to be at the heart of the presidential election debates. Sustained media pressure will be required to center the debate on the climate as well as sustained voter pressure to transform climate advocacy from political risk to a political win for the next round of presidential candidates.
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard France Country Manager Liana Mehring