Emmanuel Macron’s war on climate activism

(Climate Change News, 23 Oct 2019) “I need one thing,” French president Emmanuel Macron told young climate activists at the Elysée Palace in June. “It’s for you to make life impossible for us leaders.”

Days later, images went viral of Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists being tear-gassed in the face and at close range by police. They had blocked a central Paris bridge. France was in the midst of a record-breaking heatwave with temperatures of more than 45C.

On the international stage, Macron has pitched himself (and been recognised by the UN) as a climate champion. He has said he will “make climate great again” by working alongside different political and business leaders as well as activists. At the UN climate action summit last month, Macron urged world leaders to “engage with the youth to go faster” in taking climate action.

But in France, hundreds who have answered Macron’s call for climate agitators have met with police violence or been dragged into court.

XR’s bridge blockade was in response to a report by the country’s independent High Council for the Climate. It warned France’s current policies were just one third of what was needed to reach Macron’s stated ambition of net zero carbon by 2050. The French Human Rights League, which was acting as an observer on the day of the protest, denounced the “normalisation” of tear gas as a policing measure, “even when the situation is peaceful and calm”.

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Climate Change News, 23 Oct 2019: Emmanuel Macron’s war on climate activism