French Senate “ignored” UN scientific warning ahead of protests

A major climate report released in October found the shift to a green economy could disrupt society, but French senators told scientist they were ‘powerless’ to respond

Just months before protests erupted across France, the country’s Senate was warned that the shift to a clean economy could disrupt society, according to the scientist who presented the evidence.

Valérie Masson-Delmotte, French climatologist and co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told Climate Home News’ CopCast podcast that members of the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development were “surprised” by the conclusions of a major report in October, according to which green policies must be combined with a public consultation or face social resistance.

“They expressed how difficult it is for them, as members of the Senate, to think about how to implement the transitions. They also said they were helpless. They didn’t know how to change things, basically, ”said Masson-Delmotte.

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France has been in riots for three weeks after the government of Emmanuel Macron announced a tax on diesel fuels intended to reduce pollution.

Despite a retraction of the policy this week, large protests are expected in the French capital this weekend. On Saturday morning, the police stopped hundreds of protesters from the yellow vests movement in Paris.

Masson-Delmotte, who spoke on the CHN podcast during the UN climate talks in Poland, said she had met protesters near her home in Paris.

“It was interesting to understand how much they don’t trust the policy makers, how much they don’t trust the experts,” she said. “What is striking is the inability of the usual democratic representatives, elected officials, unions – the usual instruments of a democracy – to cope with the situation. There is a lack of dialogue and a lack of perception of the representation of a fraction of the population who thinks they are trapped when the price of oil rises and who think they have no alternative.

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The IPCC special report in October found that social barriers to change could be overcome through strong and consultative leadership, “including citizens and enabling the participation of minorities, and making them contribute and endorse it”.

Masson-Delmotte called for the creation of citizens’ assemblies, borrowing a model created in Ireland, so that the political class better understand the anxieties and social needs.

The protests in France coincide with the UN climate talks in Katowice. The host Polish government used the talks to highlight the impact on workers and other groups affected by mine closures or other measures needed to avoid dangerous climate change.

“It is… tragic to observe when I live and work in France and I see that our country has not had a sustainable development approach that pays attention to those who are most vulnerable to policies,” said Masson-Delmotte . “I think our Senators reflect society and perhaps the older generation of society, so they haven’t yet fully understood the implications of climate change and how deep it is to think differently about the way we build. a new future. “

The French permanent commission for sustainable development did not respond to a request for comment.

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