Macron’s plans to hold climate change referendum quashed by French Senate, says PM

French Prime Minister Jean Castex described the Senate vote as ‘deeply regrettable’

Ahmed Aboudouh
Tuesday 06 July 2021 17:23 BST
(AFP via Getty Images)

President Emmanuel Macron’s push for a referendum on making climate change measures more legally binding was brought to an end after the French parliament’s upper house voted against it.

The initiative to enshrine clauses on climate change in the French constitution has been jettisoned, French prime minister Jean Castex said on Tuesday.

Referring to the decision of the upper house, Castex said: “This vote, alas, puts an end to the process of amending the constitution, which we continue to believe is essential for our country. It’s deeply regrettable.”

Both parliament’s upper and lower houses need to agree on the wording of a referendum bill before approving a popular vote.

The Senate’s decision, which was announced on Monday, effectively quashes Mr Macron’s efforts to hold the referendum. This comes amid heightened criticism by activists that France is lagging behind on its environmental commitments under the Paris Agreement.

The right-wing opposition party Les Republicains’s, which dominates the Senate, cast doubts on the likelihood of passing the referendum, a move that would promote President Macron’s political agenda.

There were fierce political campaigns in parliament in recent weeks over whether to back the referendum. In May, Pieyre-Alexandre Anglade, a lawmaker for Macron’s centrist La Republique en Marche, accused Les Republicains Senate members of changing the wording of the proposed referendum after the National Assembly approved it - a move aimed at blocking an agreement between the two chambers.

Senate members changed the wording to make the draft bill less binding, removing a pledge to require the constitution to “guarantee” France’s battle against climate change.

Right-wing politicians defended the change saying a constitutional guarantee would impede French innovation and business interests.

Senators with links to Macron’s LREM condemned the decision to block the referendum on Monday, tweeting that it: “illustrates the irresponsibility of the senatorial right on environmental issues”.

In January, the US administration under President Biden rejoined the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, which aims to limit global warming to less than 2C above pre-industrial levels. France has pledged to reduce emissions by 40 per cent by 2030 compared with 1990, but efforts were postponed until after 2020.

In February, a French court ruled that Mr Macron’s government was “responsible for ecological damage” because it had not reduced greenhouse gas emissions in line with its promises in the Paris Agreement.

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