#SustainablePaper: What does Macron’s re-election mean for environmental policies in France and Europe

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— 06 May 2022

On 24 April 2022, Emmanuel Macron was re-elected president of France. During the campaign, his record and program were heavily criticised for lack of ambition on environmental policies. He intensified communication about his green agenda a few days before the second round, to attract far-left, left, and green voters. And now the burning question is: what could be expected from his second mandate?

by Oscar Magnen, Nicolas Remilien and Camille Vachet

1.  Institutions

  • The Minister of Ecology would remain in place, with most of its competences: sustainable development, environment, green technologies, prevention of technological and natural risks, and transport.
  • New mandate for the Prime Minister, which would also oversee “ecological planification.” The Prime Minister would be in charge of the Energy Transition, Climate roadmap, and environmental financing.
  1. Circular Economy
  • Reduction of French waste exportation and development of waste management industries in France
  • In favour of environmental labelling and ESRP at both the national and the European level.
  • Possible implementation of a “return bonus” for laptops and phones. 
  1. Energy, Climate, and mobility
  • Construction of 6 new EPR.
  • Multiply solar power by 10.
  • Build 50 offshore wind parks by 2050.
  • Reinforce green hydrogen industry.
  • Renovate 700,000 homes within 5 years.
  • Production of millions of electrical and hybrids and electrical vehicles.
  1. Cohabitation
  • It means the president and the Prime Ministers are from two different political groups.
  • It could ‘freeze’ the French political life, as everything would need to be negotiated.
  • The risks of cohabitation exist – with a Prime Minister from La France Insoumise or Le Rassemblement National – but they must be balanced by the reluctance of French citizens to see a cohabitation implemented. 
  1. Institutions

France is not aligned with the targets of the Paris agreement, and there is a big need for more. In February 2021, the Paris Administrative Court convicted the French State for “climate inaction”, after the country failed to reach several environmental targets set on the basis of the Paris Agreement, on the period 2015-2018.  As an answer to the past 5 years criticism, E. Macron promised to make ecology a priority between the two rounds. He announced that the Prime Minister will oversee the ecological planification, supported by two ministers: 1. Minister of energetic planification and 2. Minister of territorial ecological planification.

Currently, climate policies are under the remits of the Minister of the Ecology, Barbara Pompilii. However, the political weight of this minister is regularly challenged by others (economy, agriculture, employment…). If this new organisation is implemented, this would be a substantial step forward, as it would make ecology a trans-minister issue, under the responsibility of the Prime Minister.  

  1. Circular Economy

Emmanuel Macron has not planned any major measure to boost circularity in France or in Europe. His program only mentions the “reduction of waste exportation”, and the “development of waste management industries on the French territory”. 

At the European level, Emmanuel Macron also wants to implement environmental labelling. France has always been favourable to this measure and conducted several national experimentations in the textile industry. 

Finally, Macron’s political program states that he is in favour of the ESPR (formally named SPI), the main element of the European Circular Economy Package released in March. The ESPR includes environmental targets for families of products, the implementation of a Digital Product Passport, and the introduction of new environmental labelling. 

If Circular Economy is mentioned in his program, Macron does not propose a disruptive approach to it. The lack of ambition of his program could be explained by the “Law against waste and for Circular Economy” his government implemented in 2020. This law implemented several targets to phase out single-use plastics, and several measures to reduce waste and to boost reuse. It is likely that Emmanuel Macron already considered he did his part, and does not want to jeopardise the clarity and implementation of this law by introducing new targets or obligations for companies and local authorities. 

However, a few days before the second round of the elections, the President’s team told Les Echos (a French media) that the President could set up a “return bonus”. This bonus could reward citizens for bringing back their old phones or computers to recycling centres. The objective would be to boost the recycling of critical materials contained in electronic devices, an under-exploited potential. Yet, Emmanuel Macron never publicly announced the “return bonus” measure.  

  1. Energy and climate

During his (short) campaign, E. Macron was maligned by his political opponents because of the lack of ambition in his climate program. His program includes: 

  • Construction of 6 new EPR, 
  • Multiplicate solar power by 10
  • Build 50 offshore wind parks by 2050
  • Reinforce green hydrogen industry
  • Renovate 700,000 homes within 5 years

An increase in energy production will be much needed to power the “millions of electrical and hybrids and electrical vehicles” Macron announced he wanted to produce, and to shift toward a more digital and connected economy. 

  1. “Cohabitation”: what does it mean and is it possible? 

The French State consists of three powers: the executive power (the Government), the legislative power (the Parliament), and the judicial power. 

If Macron’s government is responsible for law enforcement, the Parliament remains in charge of elaborating and voting laws. After the legislative elections, where Members of the National Assembly are elected, the President needs to choose a Prime Minister coming from the main political group of the Assembly. It ensures a continuity between the laws elaborated by the deputies and the implementing measures decided by the ministers. 

Currently, Macron’s party (La Republique En Marche) has a majority in the Assembly. But the legislative elections coming in June could change it and issue a new majority. If it happens, Macron will have no choice but to take someone coming from the new majority as a Prime Minister.  

This setup is called cohabitation. According to a recent poll, most French citizens do not want to give a parliamentary majority to Emmanuel Macron, annunciating a probable cohabitation. 

Understanding that this possibility exists, the left political parties are currently negotiating to form a “Popular Union”. The Greens, the Communists, La France Insoumise and Le Partie Socialiste already agreed to have a common platform during the legislative elections, called “NUPES” (Nouvelle Union Populaire, Economique et Sociale). This Union would present common candidates. Meanwhile, the Republicans are torn between getting closer to Macron or remaining independent. Finally, Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour, the two candidates of the extreme right, are unlikely to present common candidates, as there are ideological and political rifts between the two extreme parties. 

If cohabitation would happen, the consequences could be important for Europe. Cohabitation is known to ‘freeze’ the French political life, as neither the President nor the Parliament’s majority can fully implement their political agenda. France could be slowed down on the European scene, especially when the two parties which are the most likely to benefit from cohabitation – La France Insoumise and Le Rassemblement National – are opposed to the European Union in the way it is currently designed. 

However, the risk of cohabitation needs to be balanced. According to several political specialists, the French population is reluctant to cohabitation, as it slackens the legislative power. Likely, French citizens will once again give a majority to E. Macron’s party.

Moreover, if the Republicans are weakened on the national level, they remain well anchored in localities. In addition, if La Republique En Marche fails to obtain a majority, it is likely that the party decides to form a coalition with the Republicans. 

  1. Conclusion

If E. Macron only focused on the energy files, the most surprising part of its program was the change of the Prime Minister’s cabinet. New competences attributed to the Prime Minister could change the dynamic on climate files in France. 

This new share of competences could have different outcomes, depending on who will be in the seat of the Prime Minister after the June Legislative Elections. Indeed, the climate ambition would be very different with a Prime Minister coming from La Republique En Marche, La France Insoumise, or Le Rassemblement National. 

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