| Misc. facts & figures
||French policies and structures
The French pride themselves on having housed in December 2015 the international conference on climate (COP21), which was a (small) step toward a limitation of global warming.
to the USA, France ranks
rather favorably on many environmental indexes (even if some
US states like California have very advanced policies). Like most European countries, France ranks high for environmental policies. According to a ranking by Yale and Columbia (Source : Le Monde May 30, 2010), France ranks #7 (the first of G20 countries) when the US ranks only #61. Other countries are Iceland #1, Switzerland #2, UK #14, Germany #17, Japan #20, etc... Major differences (measured as the % reached of internationnally agreed targets) concern "vitality of ecosystems" (France 65,7, US 38,7) and "policy toward climate change" (France 56,4, US 29,4). See more
: several political parties
campaign at a national level on environmental issues. They are
weak and divided and the three most significant did not represent
more than 3 or 4 % of the vote altogether at the national level
(but more at the local level) : the Green (les Verts) generally in association
with the Socialist Party, Cap 21 ( less politically oriented) and Jose
with extreme Left-wing). However in the 2009 European Elections, they did very well : Green (Europe Ecologie) : 16,3%
and Alliance Ecologique 3,63% (the other parties : Right (UMP) 27,8%, Left (PS) 16,48%, Center (Modem) 8,4%). In 2012, after Hollande was elected president, their party (renamed Europe Ecologie-Les Verts EELV) obtained three ministerial positions in the cabinet.
Taxes (in France, everything starts and ends
with taxes) : there
is a strong trend toward generalizing specific taxes to finance
the elimination of potentially polluting products. They already
exist for cars (bonus/malus : a premium or a tax depending on
the energy efficiency, up to several thousand euros), on packaging,
on electronic devices, on batteries, etc... There is even a tax
on paper plates and plastic glasses ("picnic tax")
which is currently considered and, as I think no food or drink
deserves that, I fully support it!
Good news ! The French forest is healthy. It is the largest in Europe and it surface has doubled since the 1850s ; today, it represents around 30% of the national territory. In Julius Caesar's days, it represented 75% of the country and the Romans called it Gaulle chevelue (i.e. "hairy Gaul") !
DID YOU KNOW THAT …. ? When you look at French houses, you notice that, practically, houses in wood are practically non existant. Why is that, when France has one of the biggest forest resources in Europe ? The reason is that, in France contrary to the US, houses are built to last, to be used by future generations.They are built with stone or, more frequently, with concrete and you rarely see a house being destroyed to build a new one bigger : people prefer to expand on an existing one.
: France has 10 national parks (Calanques near Marseille, Cévennes in Central mountains,
Ecrins-the most visited one-, Vanoise and Mercantour in the Alps,
Guadeloupe, Guyane and Reunion in overseas territories, Port-Cros
on the Mediterranean sea, Pyrénées at the Spanish
border) and 50 regional parks, covering altogether 15%
of the country, quite a sizeable proportion. By the same token,
the "Conservatoire du Littoral", a public body (the French equivalent of the British National Trust), purchases
every year between 10,000 and 25,000 acres along the coast to
prevent it from being developed and owns now more than 1,200 km
of coast line and 300,000 acres, very significant figures. On a smaller scale, a private association (ASPAS) buys land to maintain it absolutely unspoiled for the protection of wild animals (ASPAS is the French parner of the European program Rewilding Europe whose objective is to re-open to wilderness 2 millions acres as of 2020). More about French
The Grenelle de l'Environnement : in October 2007, the then-newly elected president
Sarkozy organized large meetings to include effective changes
in the policy of his administration regarding environmental concerns,
following his campaign commitment (very popular environmental
activist Nicolas Hulot
had threated to run for President if the candidates did not commit
to do anything significant in the field of environment). Key
decisions include building additional 2,000 km of high speed
rail network, four times more mass transit lines, suspending GM commercial crops, investing a billion
euros in new energy sources, new generation engines and biodiversity
(including a "green network" linking natural areas),
tax credits for thermal renovation, new standards of energy efficiency
in housing, a "green disk" for cars (a bonus for energy
efficient cars and tax for others), etc...
In Dec.2015, France will house the COP21, a meeting where countries will try to agree on decisions to slow the climate change.
Environment and hunting : Hunting is a big issue in France. The
number of hunters is close to 2 million and they are very attached
to the right to hunt. This goes back to the French Revolution
which abolished the exclusive right of nobility to hunt and now
hunters can hunt on any private property. They even have their
own political party. Ecologist movements of course support the
European restriction to hunting endangered species and hunting
migrating birds on their way back to Europe. But the European
regulation is constantly challenged by French hunters who
consider the ecologists their worst enemies.
Dangerous wild species have practically disappeared from Europe and particularly from France. The only left are a handful of big bears in the Pyrenees mountains, a few bobcats in the Vosges mountains and more and more wolves recolonizing the whole country after having been protected in the Alps. The only dangerous local snake is the viper, present everywhere, whose bite can be lethal but which normally avoids humans. On the other hand a few foreign species, introduced by mistake or by stupidity, have had a spectacular development like the American crayfish which has almost wiped out the poor national crayfish.
When the "precautionary principle" hits France's energy future : the shale gas resource : In Europe, it seems established that France has the second most important resources of shale gas after Poland (more than Qatar!). Whatever the estimation, enough for many years or decades. In July 2012, the Minister of Environment (an Ecologist activist) decided that all the exploration permits (64 in all) which had been attributed would be void for environmental reasons. When some protested, the President answered that it would be reconsidered when a new technique of extraction, other than hydraulic fracturing, is discovered (but no announcement of a research program !). On a general basis, the "precautionary principle" was introduced in the French Constitution in 2005 : if it had been before, there would probably be in France no electric lamps, no cars, no planes, no aspirin, etc… but maybe only some ecologists. Other examples of the insanity of the "precautionary principle" include the general prohibition of GMO, the decision to reduce drastically the production of electricity from nuclear power plants and many others.
||Organizations, political parties and main issues
|DID YOU KNOW
THAT ....? Environment is one of the causes of anti-Americanism
in Europe in general and in France in particular. The French
were very shocked when the USA refused to sign the Kyoto agreement
and when President Trump was elected. The Americans are considered energy wasters who damage the
Earth with their energy-inefficient cars, the absence of efficient public
transport in cities and the absence of a real passenger train
network, the waste of energy in houses , etc... The French do
that as well, but on a much smaller scale. By the same token, the French expected that the Copenhagen Conference on Climate (Dec.2009) would bring significant commitments of the major "carbon polluters" (China, USA, India). They were disappointed when it failed and blame it on the USA.
Many organizations address environmental issues : associations and political parties.
- Main issue : should environmental concerns be defended by specific political parties ? After years of debate, the answer was : yes. Many parties were founded and failed, one after another. The only successful attempt so far is the Green ecologist party called EELV (Europe Ecologie-Les Verts) for whom ecology can only be on the Left Wing side. Through a close alliance with the Socialist Party, EELV obtained enough deputies and senators to form sizeable parliamentary groups and several important positions for their members in the Cabinet. But at the end of the mandate, most of them had left the party and the government.
- Main "battles"
- ecologist movements are against the nuclear policy and demand the closing of nuclear plants but it is practically impossible (among developed counties, France has the highest rate of electricity provided by nuclear plants : around 75%)
- each major project raises a strong and organized opposition by environmental activists ; one the most significant examples is a new international airport in the West of France (Notre Dame des Landes) : this forty-year old project, which received all required legal green light, was taken to court several times by its opponents and won all its cases, but it has been occupied for the past three or four years by hundreds of opponents, although was approved by a popular referendum organized by the government in the whole region and won it by 55% ! As of today (Dec.2016) the government, fearing a blood bath, hesitates to expel the activists from the site so the construction work can start.
- More to comr
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Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French.
Order her books :
- "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
- "French Toast, An American in Paris
Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press,
New York, 1999
- "French Fried, The Culinary Capers
of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001
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