PHILIPPE WOJAZER / POOL / AFP)What would the defense of the environment in the Constitution change? (illustrative photo taken on May 7, 2017)
POLICY – The French have not voted by referendum since 2005. Will they be called to the polls to say whether or not they wish to include the defense of the environment in the first article of the Constitution? In any case, this is what Emmanuel Macron offers.
The Head of State indeed announced to the citizens of the Climate Convention, meeting Monday, December 14 at the Palais d’Iéna, that he would take up their proposal consisting in resorting to the referendum to “introduce the concepts of biodiversity, of environment, the fight against global warming ”in Article 1 of the 1958 text.
A victory for the 150 who accompanied Emmanuel Macron’s announcement with a small ovation, after expressing their fears of seeing their plan be unraveled by the government.
But what would be the concrete consequences of such an addition? Climate advocates are rare to overflow with enthusiasm. Asked by The HuffPost, Arnaud Gossement does not hide his many doubts about the proposal made the day before by the Head of State. According to the lawyer, specialist in environmental issues, such a modification of the Constitution – already proposed by the majority on several occasions, not only “does not bring anything”, but constitutes “a clear step back” compared to other texts.
The HuffPost: Do you share the satisfaction expressed by the citizens of the Climate Convention at the announcement of Emmanuel Macron on the possible referendum?
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Arnaud Gossement: Not at all. Moreover, it is a proposal by Emmanuel Macron taken up by the Climate Convention and not the other way around. They got the president to respect his own proposal, defended without success in 2018 (with the constitutional bill “for a more representative, responsible and efficient democracy”) and in 2019 (with the bill “for a renewal of democratic life ”). The idea of introducing the climate into the Constitution is not new, it is very old. We find her in 2016 with Cécile Duflot.
Does this new attempt have a chance to really succeed?
No, the President of the Republic cannot decide alone, he can only propose to Parliament. And it has already had to back down in 2019. Knowing the hostility of the Senate to revisions of the Constitution, the government had given up. Same causes, same effects, but he could present this failure by saying that it is because of the position of the Senate.
If the process were ever to be successful, what would be the consequences and the practical usefulness of revising Article 1?
This would not help, for several reasons. The first is that the fact of writing in article 1 of the Constitution has no more value than writing in the environmental charter, which has the value of constitutionality. The second reason is in the writing. Article 2 of the environmental charter tells us that everyone has the duty to take part in the preservation and improvement of the environment.
During that time, we procrastinate, we engage in debate, consultation, while we have already done the Grenelle, the Citizens’ Convention … and we do not decide anything. “Arnaud Gossement, lawyer specializing in environmental law
The citizens propose to write “the Republic guarantees the preservation of biodiversity etc …” But the Republic is not a subject of law: you do not put handcuffs on it, you do not engage its responsibility contrary to this that the charter writes, which speaks of ‘any person’, that is to say you, me, or even a company. Another difference: ‘improving the environment’ is written in the charter but not in the proposal for the revision of the Constitution. It is a clear step back … the goal is to clean up, to ensure that people breathe better air, it is the basis of the progress of environmental law.
Despite these grievances, wouldn’t organizing a referendum lead to an interesting debate within society and families on environmental issues?
I do not believe that. What could have the effect of introducing the environment into homes, it is not the fact of modifying the Constitution, it is to change the taxation, to allow them to feed themselves with quality products, c ‘is their daily life etc. The real questions are not Article 1.
During that time, we procrastinate, we have debate, consultation, as on thermal renovation, when we have already done the Grenelle, the Citizens’ Convention … and we do not decide anything. Apply the current charter, apply the law, recruit, give the means to apply the laws and we will already make great progress.
Emmanuel Macron said he would take their proposals without a filter, but the ‘without filter’ is a myth. “Arnaud Gossement, lawyer specializing in environmental issues
More generally, how do you analyze the follow-up given by the government to the work of the Climate Convention?
There was a misunderstanding from the start. Emmanuel Macron said he would take their proposals without a filter, but the ‘without filter’ is a myth. The president is not a monarch and he cannot decide alone, as he has explained on Brut, citing the European Union countless times.
We must salute the exceptional work of citizens, and it is also quite sad to see what is done with their proposals. But the question asked was also that of the carbon tax, since this Convention was installed following the yellow vests. However, there is nothing on this subject, nothing on the means of applying the objectives already voted. Where are you going to find the money to train workers for the renovation of buildings, for example? If you don’t come up with funding for your measures, you have a president who takes three more months of consultation.
See also on The HuffPost: At the Climate Convention, the referendum on article 1 moved Barbara Pompili