La Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat – The French Citizens’ Climate Convention

Much ado about… Not a lot?

Such a disappointing finale after such a promising start!

It seemed too good to be true that France’s President Macron undertook to submit all recommendations made by the citizens at the Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat (the Citizens’ Climate Convention), unfiltered, to either a referendum, a vote in Parliament or direct regulation.

Between October 2019 until June 2020 and over seven long weekends, six face-to-face and the final one online, the citizen representatives heard wide ranging evidence on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, in a spirit of social justice. At the Citizens’ Assembly Working Group (CAWG) here in the UK, we were so excited. In our regular ‘What is a citizens’ assembly?’ talks, we started using the Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat as an example of a citizens’ assembly that we thought had really nailed it. 

Yet it turns out it really was too good to be true! On receiving the 149 recommendations, Macron started out by turning down three outright, saying he was allowing himself ‘three jokers’.

The following three recommendations turned down immediately: 

  1. A national 110km speed limit on motorways!
  2. 4% tax on dividends over ten million euros, as he doesn’t want to disencourage investment
  3. Modifying the Preamble to the Constitution which he said he couldn’t do because it would put the rights of nature above human rights.

To give him credit, however, he was in favour of an amendment to the Constitution: “The Republic guarantees the preservation of biodiversity, the environment and the fight against climate change.”

The curtain is coming down, the Climate and Resilience Bill having been passed by the French National Assembly, now goes before the Senate in June 2021. It’s organised into six titles: five corresponding to the Climate Convention’s working groups (Consuming, Producing and Working, Moving Around, Housing and Eating) and the sixth aimed at strengthening judicial protection of the environment.

Of the 146 recommendations,  some have been adapted, some adopted and some abandoned.

First weekend of the citizens’ climate convention at the CESE in Paris. Photo: Nicolas Lascourrèges for La Croix

46 proposals are included in the Bill

  • 17 of them partially
  • 8 with extended deadlines which according to the Haut Conseil Climat (the High Council for the Climate) “are clearly incompatible with the expected pace of action against climate change and the catching up of the delay taken by France in reaching its carbon budgets.”
  • 10 have had their scope reduced.

So what are some of the recommendations included?

  • No further airport expansion has been diluted in the small print according to the  Climate Action Network as “10 largest airport extension projects (…) will not be affected”
  • Prohibition of open-air terrace gas heaters
  • Reduction of packaging waste
  • State schools to have at least one meat/fish free day a week 
  • Clothing to have environmental impact labels 

As you can see, nothing very ambitious!

Ultimately, having access to the top political decision makers and using biased studies, the industrial lobbies have managed to sabotage the reforms the Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat called for. A context and tactic we are only too familiar with.

What is clear, is that the collective intelligence of a diverse group of people coming together to find solutions for the common good are up to the task. The only thing lacking is politicians having the courage and will to translate these proposals into law. There is yet to be some sort of meaningful contact between citizens and politicians to create understanding, trust and ultimately action. Like everything to do with climate and ecological justice, we need the politicians to step up to the mark before time runs out. 


Find out more about Extinction Rebellion UK’s Third Demand: Go Beyond (Party) Politics

Take a deeper dive into citizens’ assemblies with the Citizens’ Assemblies Working Group (CAWG)

Get in touch, get involved, ask questions: XR-CitizensAssembly@protonmail.com

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