Élisabeth Borne: France’s new PM faces immediate pressure to act on climate

The new French prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, has immediately come under pressure from environmentalists on the left who warned “hopes were low” that she would drastically cut France’s carbon emissions or move fast enough to address global heating, ten spyte van Emmanuel Macron’s election promise to make France a world-leader on the climate emergency.

Borne’s first comments after taking office were to promise to “act faster and stronger” to deal with climate challenges, after the newly re-elected centrist president, Macron, promised his prime minister special oversight powers to plan France’s transition to become “the first major nation to abandon gas, oil and coal.”

The Élysée is expected to announce a new French government in the coming days, which could include several ministers dedicated to “green planning”, na Frankryk has fallen behind in recent years on targets on tackling emissions and increasing renewables.

But Julien Bayou, head of the Green party, EELV, which has joined a leftwing alliance under the radical left’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon for the parliamentary elections next month, gesê: “Hopes are low.” He said the climate emergency would now be a key battleground for next month’s elections, in which the left was seeking to gain ground.

Bayou said Borne shared with others in government “the responsibility of five lost years for the environment” during Macron’s first term in office, arguing that not enough had been done on emissions or transport, nor to put in place the suggestions of the citizens’ assembly, which was randomly selected from civil society to advise on cutting carbon emissions.

Jean-François Julliard, head of Greenpeace in France, said Borne needed to urgently and clearly set out how she would “transform French society” so it wasted less energy and natural resources.

Cécile Duflot, the former Green leader, gesê: “Will she have any latitude of action from the president, who has never demonstrably put in place his engagements on ecology?”

The appointment of the first French female prime minister in over 30 years was praised by many parties as an important step for equality on the French political scene, which is often criticised for being “macho”.

Immediately after taking office, Borne met lawmakers as she prepared to lead Macron’s broad centrist grouping into June’s parliamentary elections against Mélenchon’s leftwing alliance and Marine Le Pen’s far right, both of whom want to increase their seats.

Borne, 61, an engineer who held three ministerial roles in Macron’s first term – labour, transport and environment – has never run for elected office herself. Op Dinsdag, she told lawmakers for Macron’s newly renamed party, Renaissance, that she would go ahead with her own campaign to win election to parliament for a Normandy seat in Calvados, where her mother’s family was from. The seat would give her a crucial local base and a political standing beyond her reputation as a technocrat.

“We need as big a majority as possible,” Borne told lawmakers.

For Macron to have a free hand for his domestic overhaul of the pensions and benefits system, as well as changes to schools and the health service, he needs a solid parliament majority. If Borne does not win the Calvados seat, which is held by Macron’s party and is seen as safe, her future in the role as prime minister could be called into question.

Macron has already set out Borne’s priorities, which include environmental policy, an overhaul of the education and health system, returning France to full employment and restoring voters’ confidence in the democratic system.

But amid rising concern over the cost of living krisis, Macron acknowledged during the campaign that he needed to counter his image as haughty and aloof and listen to concerns on the ground. Net so, Borne must show that she understands and can engage with voters on the ground if she is to push through Macron’s contested plan for a pensions overhaul to push back the retirement age from 62 aan 64 of 65.

Borne said she believed political policy was shaped through “dialogue”. But already trade unions on the left were preparing a challenge over pensions. “She listens, but she doesn’t hear, she’s like Macron,” said Philippe Martinez, from the leftwing CGT union.

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