A 28-hour work week and vegetarian menus – France’s citizen charter for the climate

French president Emmanuel Macron with members of the citizens’ climate panel. Photo: AFP
Measures such as cutting the working week, limiting the use of air conditioning, banning domestic flights and cutting meat consumption have been put forward in a citizens’ charter to cut carbon emissions in France.

After nine months of work France’s 150-strong Citizens Convention on the Climate have presented their charter for France.

After the final stage of voting, the Charter will then be presented to the government. There is no formal obligation to adopt any of the measures proposed, but president Emmanuel Macron has backed the Citizens Convention, saying: “I am committed to taking strong decisions.”

Their brief, as defined by the president, was to set out a series of measures to combat climate change that will make it possible to achieve a reduction of at least 40 percent in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (compared to 1990), within a spirit of social justice.

Here are some of their proposals for France.

Working hours

France is already famous for its generous 35-hour week (although in reality not many people actually work 35 hours) but the charter proposes cutting this to a 28-hour week, while bringing in a 20 percent hourly minimum wage increase to ensure that salaries remain the same.

The charter states that in order to cut emissions it is necessary to “consume less, produce less and therefore work less”.

Companies would also have to carry out an annual audit of their carbon emissions, while governments would be obliged to take emissions into account when awarding contracts.

Paris’ old buildings may be beautiful but they tend to be very energy inefficient. Photo: AFP

Housing

Mandatory energy renovations by 2040. All new buildings or buildings undergoing a renovation before 2030 would be obliged to replace oil-fired heating systems with eco-friendly options and a system of grants and loans would encourage other building owners to make the switch.

Heating/air conditioning

To limit energy consumption from homes and businesses, people would be encouraged to ditch heating or air conditioning when the temperature is between 19C and 30C. This would not apply to medical facilities, nursing homes and childcare facilities.

Cut down on meat and cheese

The aim would be to reduce consumption of meat and dairy products by 20 percent by 2030. The charter stops short of spot-checks at dinner time, but suggests that all forms of collective catering such as school meals and workplace canteens be obliged to adopt this target.

French schools are already obliged to serve at least one vegetarian menu a week. Photo: AFP

Advertising ban

In order to discourage over-consumption the charter proposes introducing a labelling system similar to food labelling which would show the carbon footprint of a product. Advertising of the products with the biggest carbon footprints could be banned altogether or forced to include a ‘health warning’ similar to the system in place for advertising of junk food.

Transport

To discourage private car use the charter proposes a package of support for train travel and cycling, coupled with the reduction of tax breaks on diesel and a ban on domestic flights where the destination is available by any other means.

Making ecocide a crime

The charter proposes creating a new crime of ecocide, defined as “any action having caused serious ecological damage by participating in the manifest and significant overstepping of planetary limits, committed with knowledge of the consequences that would result and which could not be ignored”.

Black Friday has been the target of environmental activists in France, who say it encourages over-consumption. Photo: AFP

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