France’s double game with environmental issues

French president Emmanuel Macron gained international recognition for facing up to US President
Donald Trump on environmental issues. He notably launched the ‘Make our planet great again’ call
(Nature 547, 269; 2017), which has funded the work of >150 foreign climate researchers joining
French labs. More recently, President Macron teamed with Chancelor Angela Merkel in an outcry
against Amazon fires (Nature 2019: doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-02537-0), and has called for ‘a fight of
the century’ against biodiversity loss and climate change (Nature 578, 337-338; 2020).
These laudable actions contrast with disastrous environmental policies of the Macron government at
the national and European level, here are some key examples.
France is currently backing new EU subsidies for the construction of industrial fishing vessels, to the
detriment of sustainable small-scale fishing. A national tradition of overfishing is maintained by
overstepping EU fishing quotas.
France’s agricultural system struggles to even start transforming towards more sustainable practices.
The Macron government has cut subsidies to organic farming and remains complaisant with respect
to the use of pesticides, whose French sales increased by 21% in 2017-2018.
In late 2019 French authorities announced that even if aging nuclear-power plants would be
dismantled, new ones would be built and France would remain the most nuclearized country in the
world. Concomitant renewables developments are cosmetic at best.
Over eighty percent of the French population is against hunting but the Macron government is
strongly supportive of this practice, notably through a 50% drop in the cost of the national hunting
permit. French hunters target the longest list of species in the EU, including threatened birds shot
within nature reserves. New regulation is about to create more or less year-round hunting
France has some of the finest environmental scientists, but the current government seems deaf to
their findings. Some of them are becoming activists.

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