Wed, 09/24/2014 - 00:41
French to save world as Americans stammer over global warming
François Hollande’s $1 billion pledge to the global climate struggle on Tuesday is part of an ambitious drive by the French government to save the world from self destruction, with former presidential hopeful Ségolène Royal suggesting that nobody else is up to it.
Royal admitted in an interview with FRANCE 24 on Monday that the French, whose electrical grid feeds almost entirely from its 58 gleaming nuclear plants, had been complacent until now on the environment front.
But in an about turn that could be partly explained by France’s soft spot for leading, rather than following, the French have transformed into one of Europe’s most strident environment advocates, with Royal, President Hollande, and even foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, all making noise at Climate Week here at the UN.
In what might come as news to neighbouring Germany, which has long been campaigning for a greener Europe, Royal said that France will become the “exemplary locomotive” of the continent (and then the planet), in steering our earthly ark away from the world’s end.
The “kick-start” move, as Royal described it, comes 15 months before Paris is set to hold the next crucial round of global climate negotiations, which Royal is “convinced” will be a success.
France’s surge in enthusiasm for green politick was not entirely premeditated. After shambolic climate talks in Copenhagen 2009, nobody wanted to host another climate summit, Royal told FRANCE 24. “There were not many candidates,” she said. “France decided to take that responsibility.”
Royal flew back to Paris on Tuesday to present a bill to the Assemblée générale on France’s “energy transition,” which aims to cut greenhouse gases and develop renewable energy infrastructure.
On the same day, President Hollande made his $1 billion pledge at the UN to the world’s near-empty Green Climate Fund, which helps developing nations finance climate change reform. In a hint that France is indeed looking to rival Germany in the environmental stakes, Hollande’s pledge matched exactly that of Berlin’s, which Chancellor Angela Merkel made in July.
‘Building a future’
The third wheel of France’s green power-tricycle currently spinning through town is Foreign Minister Fabius, who spoke at length to reporters on Monday concerning France’s ecological ambitions. Fabius said that a lack of consensus on the environmental crisis was now a global “diplomatic failure” and a matter that required the clout of foreign ministers.
“It's precisely because it is a difficult [subject] that it is not left to only ministers of environment, but to ministers of foreign affairs,” he said. “We are supposed to be good at finding agreements.”
He did add, half-jokingly: “I don't know if it is true.” (He clearly thinks it is.)
Fabius not only risked slighting environment minister Royal but also offending his American counterparts, or at least their subjects, when he suggested that France was in a better position to fight climate change partly because all of its citizens actually believe it is a real danger. Admittedly, a poll published this week revealed that 25 percent of Republicans still think that global warming is not a threat.
Nonetheless, while bemoaning a “terrible” mass of meetings he has to attend over the next week, Fabius applauded Democrats’ efforts in taking the US “in the right direction”.
He also promised that in their mission to save the world, he and his peers would remain “humble and modest”.
But it seems that Royal didn’t get the memo.
Asked about (sworn enemy) Nicolas Sarkozy’s political comeback, Royal spoke of what might have been a foreign soap opera. “When you have my responsibilities, the role I have to play… I am very far away from that,” she said. “I’m building a future. The stakes are incomparably high.”
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