Record backing for climate petition against French govt

The project, launched by four climate NGOs, had gained just under two million signatures a mere 10 days after going live by Dec 28, 2018.
The project, launched by four climate NGOs, had gained just under two million signatures a mere 10 days after going live by Dec 28, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - A petition launched by French environmental groups calling for legal action against the state for failing to act to curb climate change has received unprecedented public support after weeks of fuel-price protests.

By Friday (Dec 28), the project, launched by four climate NGOs, had gained just under two million signatures a mere 10 days after going live.

That already makes it the most popular online petition in France's history, easily eclipsing the 1.37 million signatories who resisted changes to the nation's labour laws in 2016.

It also dwarfs the 1.17 million supporters of a demand by one of France's "yellow vest" protesters calling for lower petrol and diesel prices at the pump, launched in May.

"It's not just a petition, but also a call for legal action," said Jean-Francois Julliard, CEO of Greenpeace France, one of the groups behind the initiative.

The "yellow vest" movement began this year as a protest against planned anti-pollution fuel tax hikes.

At its peak on Nov 17, nearly 290,000 demonstrators mobilised throughout France, causing widespread disruption.

 
 
 

The protests prompted a climbdown from President Emmanuel Macron's government, which announced all planned fuel tax hikes for 2019 will be scrapped.

But this failed to quell the discontent of the "yellow vest" movement which has morphed into a revolt against Macron's policies, his aloof, top-down governing style, and the political class as a whole.

Macron, who earned global plaudits for pledging to "make our planet great again" after taking office, has also come under pressure in recent months from environmental groups which insist more needs to be done to tackle the rising threats of climate change.

His popular environment minister Nicolas Hulot resigned earlier this year over the government's green record, including its walking back on a commitment to reduce reliance on nuclear energy.

As greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise in spite of dire warnings from scientists, there is a growing body of legal challenges worldwide against governments and big polluters for endangering the planet.

French Environment Minister Francois de Rugy told Agence France-Presse last week he was "very happy that citizens are mobilising in the name of the climate".