President Emmanuel Macron’s promise to include the fight against climate change in the French constitution via a referendum was questioned on Sunday as senators appeared ready to torpedo the plan.
The initiative to declare in the constitution that France “guarantees the protection of the environment and biological diversity, and the fight against climate change” was born in a citizen body set up by Macron last year.
Seeking to get the upper hand on what could be a key issue in next year’s elections, the president has promised a referendum on the bill if it gets approval from both houses of parliament.
The National Assembly, in which Macron has a majority, voted overwhelmingly in favor of the revision in March.
But on Monday, the bill goes to the Senate, where right-wing Republicans hold a majority.
They have already decided “to empty the bill of its substance,” accused Pieyre-Alexandre Anglade, a member of the National Assembly of Macron’s LREM party on Sunday.
He warned in the JDD weekly that changes “would prevent the deal” because under French law a referendum can only take place if it is approved in identical wording by both chambers of parliament.
Macron’s office responded by telling AFP that the proposed constitutional change was “by no means buried”.
But a majority of senators dispute the word “guarantee” in the bill, which they say implies that environmental concerns take precedence over other constitutional principles.
The JDD meanwhile, in a separate article citing anonymous sources, claimed that Macron had already given up on the idea of a referendum even before the Senate vote.
The condemnation by his political opponents was swift, with the boss of the Green Party, Julien Bayou, saying that Macron “had made as usual a promise he could not keep”.
Center-right senator Bruno Retailleau said Macron was guilty of “hypocrisy”, saying the president “accuses us of obstruction to justify the cancellation of a referendum he never wanted”.
Green MP Matthieu Orphelin said the government refused to negotiate with the Senate, “thus maneuvering so that the process does not succeed.”
The last referendum in France dates back to 2005, when voters were asked to support the creation of a European constitution.
He was dismissed in a humiliating defeat for then-president Jacques Chirac.
© 2021 AFP