climate variability

Candidates for the Elysée Palace: When will the ecological transition that young people are calling for take place?

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The next term of office will undoubtedly be the last in which we will be able to halt the acceleration of climate change. In this sense, the incoming Presidency will have a historic responsibility.
This is why, on the occasion of the publication of
The Age of Transition: On the Road to Ecological Conversion (Early morning/Veblen Institute), Dominique BOURG and Dominique MÉDA organized on December 15 an evening for questioning the candidates for the presidential election in order to showcase their proposals in the field of ecological reconversion. Everyone acknowledges an alarming observation both on the subject of the climate and of pollution. On the verge of collapse, what can be done?
 
Ahe pollution peaks that affect urban French people confront everyone with reality! The threat has political effects since ecology is back on the radar screens of the candidates for the Elysée Palace. On 15 December, the Fondation Maison des sciences de l'Hommeand the Veblen Institutehave rightly sounded out the intentions of the various political representatives, by organising at the Arsenal pavilion a big meeting (1). With two indisputable authorities as masters of ceremonies: the philosopher and political ecology specialist Dominique Bourg, and the economist Dominique Méda, involved in particular in setting up new wealth indicators with the FAIR network.
 
Aurore Lalucq, co-director of the Veblen Institute - and author Ecological transition, instructions for use - introduced the evening, leaving the floor to the historian Michel Wieviorka, who was anxious to point out the emergences in our declineist era - see his book published last year ". Back to Meaning: Ending Declineism  » -. Then Dominique Bourg and Dominique Méda questioned the candidates (see their findings and specific requests below) on the visions and reforms they intend to promote.

Relocation and short circuits

It is striking to note that all the candidates speak of an ecological emergency. So there is no longer any question of dithering on the seriousness of ecosystem degradation! We have changed times," the candidates agree, reports Dominique Bourg. They recognize that the fruits of growth have turned into poison, as Eloi Laurent pointed out in his book How do we get the economy out of the belief system? "
 
On the left, Martine Billard spoke for Jean Luc Mélenchon who wants to put "ecological planning" at the centre of his programme. The Left Front candidate does not want the principle of substitution, he wants to "give value to nature" and considers that our consumption patterns must be reviewed through the prism of the usefulness of products. In his book The Common Future (Threshold), Mélenchon promises the creation of 3.5 million jobs, in particular thanks to the ecological transition. It advocates "solidarity protectionism", the end of nuclear power and the relocation of industrial activities. This last point is moreover almost unanimously supported by the various candidates: the change of course requires a reappropriation by the citizens of their territories.
 
This is also the meaning of the proposal made by Dominique Bourg to support the creation of energy initiative cooperatives such as there are dozens of them in Denmark and the Netherlands, in Spainin Switzerland. These Rescoop consider energy as a common good, financed and controlled by citizens: in France, the few existing initiatives - such as the cooperative wind farm in Redon (south of Nantes) or the Cooperative Shared energies in Alsace (40 subscriptions today) - have encountered many obstacles.

The Ecological Imperative: Seeking Coherence

According to Arnaud Montebourg, "ecology must become part of daily life and the economy. It's a 'alter-growth...that we need a social mutation! "he insisted, proposing a 6e Republic with a new Senate or 'House of the Future'. made up of one third of local elected representatives, one third of EESC members and one third of citizens drawn by lot.
The former Minister of Productive Recovery pro-shale gas must be careful not to be overwhelmed by the left of the left. The speeches on the benefits of productivism, which have long thrilled his troops, are no longer too much of a use...
 
As for Vincent Peillon, he sees major geopolitical risks within ecological limits. He applauds the prospect of energy decentralization and a carbon tax "which will only have weight if it is recognized by all".
 
Jean-Luc Benhamias acknowledges the progress made with the Energy Transition Law and the Biodiversity Law. These frameworks support an evolution towards a sober growth, a circular economy. But he believes that constitutional reforms are needed to restore power to Parliament and that the challenge of regaining trust in politicians will have to be met.
 
Gérard Filoche was content with anti-capitalist rhetoric and lapidary formulas: "to save the ice pack, we must save ourselves from the bankers". His pet peeves are over-armament (1,651 billion spent on defence), the debt of 2,000 billion and tax evasion which has reached 400 billion... which are undoubtedly the symptoms of a corrupt system.
 
The MEP and former member of Europe Ecologie les Verts, François de Rugy, pleads for transparency: "No, we don't have the means to develop both renewable energies and nuclear power. In the same way the carbon tax will increase the prices and we have to talk about it! »
 
For Benoit Hamon, there is a real coherence between social and ecological issues. "The current model is unsustainable: the symptom of bisphenol A shows that we now need to substitute substances that disrupt our hormones. Without this transition, the health consequences will be unbearable," he stresses.
The former Minister is in favour of the Société coopérative d'intérêt collectif (SCIC) and intends to constitutionalise the common property, creating the necessary legal basis. "It is necessary to leave GDP as the only indicator (open to quality of life indicators) to make radical choices but without brutality, concluded Benoit Hamon who put his foot in the plate, last Thursday on France 2, by posing as an intractable defender of the precautionary principle, whose application is heavy with stakes in the fields of health and environment (GMO, shale gas, pesticides, etc.).
The minds could quickly warm up on this subject (François Fillon indeed proposes to extract this principle from the Constitution).

Nuclear power and the precautionary principle as dividing marks

The environmentalist candidate Yannick Jadot highlighted the enemies of transition: the coal that the social movement rejects, the oil supported by globalization and big business, the nuclear power that works with opacity and rent. "He called for a European investment plan of 600 billion euros with the EIB and the ECB for new transport, green production and solidarity plans. He wants to promote an exit law from nuclear power because "the Bure project is irresponsible. In Great Britain, Hinckey Point is 35 billion in revenue for EDF but not for France! »
 
If all the candidates from the left or the centre are in favour of the precautionary principle, this is not the case for François Fillon, who calls it a "bureaucratic machine" and claims to balance it with a principle of responsibility. One may wonder about the meaning of this position when one knows that the precautionary principle is anchored in European law (Maastricht Treaty) and that the European Court of Justice regularly refers to it.
As for the principle of responsibility, it is already included in the Environmental Charter and we know how much Europe encourages responsible innovation! (see the Horizon 2020 programmes).
 
Serge Grouard, who came to represent the Republican candidate, recalled the "seriousness of the situation, all the more so as we are facing an increase in energy consumption that has tripled in the last sixty years. We must move to a decarbonized economy, leaving the logic of predation to move towards a logic of protection". The 35 measures that François Fillon proposes in terms of ecology are gathered in the document Environment and energy transition, available on the Republican website. 

A pivotal time: citizens ready for insurrection

Manuel Vals, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen did not see fit to demonstrate their positions for this evening. Manuel Valls, in his speech in Evry, promised to respond to the challenges of global warming. Before him, Emmanuel Macron, in his book Revolution...has become a champion of the energy transition. The National Front and its president are not to be outdone. Marine Le Pen defends a "patriotic ecology" and supports nuclear power with all force....
We are at a turning point," says Dominique Bourg. We are at a turning point," says Dominique Bourg. "The wildest dreams of being uprooted from nature (colonisation of Mars, immortality, manipulation of the climate by geoengineering) are currently coexisting, while there is a desire to re-establish roots with attention to animals, a taste for permaculture and healthy food. A gulf is widening between citizens involved in concrete transitions of their lifestyles in territories, and business leaders or rulers".
 
The General Commissioner of France Stratégie,  Jean Pisani-Ferry, don't say anything else... in his forum on the uncertainties already weighing on 2017 The climate issue will dominate the next five and even ten years. The commitments made in this agreement are 30% below what is needed to meet the priority objective of a temperature increase limited to 2 degrees. The yard is therefore considerable. For example, it will be necessary to adopt a carbon price of between 100 and 150 euros per tonne by 2030, compared with only 20 euros today. This will imply changes in prices and lifestyles".
 
Profound changes are therefore in sight, which is anticipated by the younger generation. In the "Generation what" survey that Anne Muxel, director of research at Sciences-Po, has taken up to see the evolution of the mentalities of 18-34 year olds, the first concern is that of ... ecology (52%) exceeding access to employment (45%). 62% of them declare that they can "participate tomorrow or in the coming months in a major revolt movement".
The urgency to act and act consistently is very tangible. According to the World Bank, air pollution has risen to fourth place as a risk factor for premature death in the world, and it is the most deadly type of pollution today: 5.5 million deaths at a cost of $5 trillion.
 
(1) meeting carried out in partnership with Les petits matins publishing house, the University of Paris-Dauphine and the Foundation for Political Ecology.
 

Findings and questions addressed by Dominique Bourg 

1st observation, environmental :
For me as an observer of environmental issues, the recent developments are frightening.
The rate of rise in average temperature has increased tenfold over the last three years and the average temperature has risen sharply in 2016, reaching 1.2° higher than the averages of the end of the 19th century, instead of 0.85° again in 2013. We will most likely reach 2° by the middle of the century. The signature and ratification of the Paris agreement is certainly a good thing, but neither the timing, nor the current level of national commitments, nor the design of the agreement emphasising carbon neutrality are satisfactory responses to the situation. Added to this is the surprising return of Lysenko to the US after Trump's election.
On the living front, the situation is no less dramatic. It is now 58 % of wild vertebrates (in terms of populations and not species) that have disappeared since 1970.
On the resources front, the situation is just as worrying. It is now up to 1,800 metres below the ground that we are going to look for certain metals at exorbitant energy costs, when we should be cutting our energy consumption. Recent studies on the global wheat production/climate change interface give cause for concern. Etc.
Finally, to make the link with Dominique Méda's observations on growth that I share, I would like to recall the conclusions of the UN report published in early July (Global Material Flows and Resource Productivity), the consumption of resources has been growing faster than the GDP since the early 2000s! There is no way out without questioning growth.
 
 
In the face of these unprecedented and enormous challenges, many of the world's leaders are looking to the past. Trump wants to restore the industry of the fifties and is looking towards Lysenko, Putin towards Ivan the Terrible's expansionism and in France the right-wing primary does not breathe a word about all these issues! And the five years of the five-year period that is coming to an end have seen little national progress in these matters.
 
In our book, we recall the magnitude of the challenges we face and propose a number of solutions. We want to understand the extent to which you share them:
 
1st question: is the finding recognized or not?
Preliminary question, do you know and recognize this observation, the novelty and the height of the challenges it raises? If so, in view of the climate issues and the ageing state of the national nuclear power plant, why not launch an ambitious renewable energy programme involving citizens and local authorities in a cooperative form, while also creating a number of jobs? This question overlaps with the question Dominique will ask you in terms of investment. The other side of this question is the question about the introduction of a carbon tax, in order to speed up the fossil fuel exit at the same time.
2nd question: Precautionary principle?
Why the rejection of the precautionary principle by part of the political class when it is a very fragile protection against dangerous substances or situations? In particular, it should have been applied against neonicotinoids or endocrine disrupters a long time ago and has not been applied. Faced with the current disasters in terms of destabilisation of ecosystems (collapse of pollinator populations in particular) or increasing damage to public health, many people are proposing the abolition of this principle, while others are content to ignore it in practice. What do you intend to do about this? 
3th question: democratic reform?
The response to environmental challenges cannot be implemented with constant democratic institutions. It requires both greater citizen participation and better information for citizens faced with challenges that they cannot grasp with their senses. How do you see the evolution of our democratic institutions in order to better respond to these new and gigantic challenges? What are your concrete proposals in this area?

Findings and questions addressed by Dominique Méda

Most politicians continue to plead for growth to return to "business as usual" and to see growth as the solution to all our ills. But in 40 years, the growth rate of the former industrial countries has fallen irreparably. Some economists, such as Robert Gordon, have even announced that growth will not return because we will no longer have radical technological innovation and because the dynamic will run into "headwinds". But that's not the real issue.
The real question is whether he is desirable that we are returning to growth rates similar to those of the Glorious Thirty, even though we are now aware that growth has certainly been the source of immense benefits, but that it has also brought with it ills and damage to the natural heritage as well as to social cohesion and human labour, to the extent that some authors now propose to write Another Glorious Thirty Story to make the other side of the coin visible.
 
The 1970s had already seen a similar challenge. In June 1972, in a debate organized by the New ObserverThe meeting, which brought together Edmond Maire (Secretary General of the CFDT), Sicco Mansholt (President of the European Commission), Herbert Marcuse and André Gorz, said : "Growth as the goal of the market economy, the ideology of obsessive consumption, not only does not meet basic human needs but can no longer be pursued without leading the world to catastrophe (...) And so we challenge the CFDT's current conception of growth and its calculation, this calculation which eliminates non-market services, the quality of interpersonal relations, the type of working conditions, the value of town planning, but which on the other hand adds up, without being embarrassed, the cost of atomic bombs, that of road accidents, and that of pollution control. All in all, the 5 % of annual growth we are told about have no deep meaning".
 
The President of the European Commission was not to be outdone, adding: "The current oil crisis is just a happy warning! It was clear that industrial companies could not continue to grow at the current rate. Thanks to this crisis... we can see the real situation while there is still time to take the necessary measures (...) The time has come to start a ruthless fight against waste: reducing the car fleet to the bare essentials, and to this end developing public transport. Fight against heating waste by insulating houses. This is truly an individual discipline, a new civic code! In a word: consume less of everything! »
 
This form of lucidity has been overshadowed, on the one hand because of the economic crisis at the end of the 1970s, but also because by construction, our fetish indicator, the one with which we measure the wealth of societies - GDP - makes the damage invisible. By construction, GDP neglects many of the activities that are essential to the reproduction of society (voluntary, domestic, family, friendly, leisure activities, etc.); it does not take into account inequalities in the distribution of consumption or production; it leaves in the shadows the evolution of the natural and human heritage that is mobilised to produce the sum of added values. Everyone, we are told, knows this, the Sen-Stiglitz Commission confirmed it, but nothing changes.
 
The traditional fruits of growth - improved welfare, net job creation and reduced inequality - have disappeared one after the other and have turned into poisons: a reversal of the sense of increased welfare, net job destruction and increased inequality. Better still, there is a clear correlation between growth and CO2 emissions and several studies now show that the IPCC's objectives are incompatible with high growth rates, or even that achieving them requires zero or even negative growth. In our book, we show why this is not bad news, but can on the contrary be a great opportunity to return to full employment, and to combine resolution of the ecological and social issues. We argue for a strong change, a commitment to the ecological reconversion of society, and we show that this is a credible alternative.
 
Questioning in three parts :
 
1/ Do you agree that "all growth" no longer works, and to stop considering that the only solution to get our societies out of the crisis is to count on the return of post-war growth? Are you ready to propose a real break with this discourse, including with the notion of green growth, which is a way of considering that it is possible to reconcile high growth rates and environmental improvement? Are you ready to do everything possible to ensure that we pursue, as the economist Jean Gadrey proposes, gains in quality and sustainability rather than gains in sustainability and to adopt other indicators of wealth?
 
2/ One of the fears linked to the questioning of growth as the only possible path concerns employment. Without growth, we are told, it would be impossible to create jobs. Are you ready to recognize, on the contrary, that ecological reconversion can be highly job-creating, as several studies show, and that a massive programme of investment in ecological transition (reconstruction of our energy system; of our productive system; greening of industrial processes; thermal renovation of buildings, agro-ecology...) is likely to revive activity and employment. It would therefore be a very different form of revival from a classic revival insofar as spending would be targeted on ecological investment, but also a more intelligent use of the sums that some economists at one time thought of spreading on the good people by helicopter. Are you ready to support and promote in Europe a program such as "1000 billion for the climate" as proposed by Jean Jouzel or Alain Grandjean in our book.
 
3/ Contrary to what has happened with industrial restructuring in Europe over the last forty years, where whole sections of the population have been sacrificed, we will have to defend the idea, proposed by the ITUC, of a "just transition" allowing workers in declining sectors not to be excluded. What do you propose as a solution for them: a massive retraining programme? Basic income? Reduction of working time? 
 
 
 

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