A Calais demo on climate change

Macron’s government has made climate promises since 2017. The Calais Region Citizens for the Climate are determined to make him honour those promises.

On 28 March, they were out on the streets with a People’s March. Despite the dangerous third wave of Covid, they were demonstrating in the Place des Armes – distanced, masked, demanding that President Macron live up to his promises.

The march was timed for the day before the Climate and Resilience Bill debates started in the Assemblée Nationale. The organisers decided to reach out to all, beyond usual party-political boundaries, to demand much more ambitious action.

“Our Calais region is one of the most threatened in France.”

There was criticism too of the lack of ambition of the district government’s plan, Terre et Mers (Land and Sea), particularly for its failure to engage with civil society, as well as to communicate and develop previous climate plans for action.

Grassroots Citizens, Europe Ecologie Les Verts (EELV – the French Green Party) and Greenpeace France (popular in France since the 1980s) all point to the fact that Macron’s government promised to enact all the COP21 Paris 2015 climate summit recommendations. In fact, the carbon footprint commitments have been weakened, with a law increasing the annual legal C02 allowed.

Another let-down for environmentalists was when Macron delayed his commitment to ban glyphosate, the harmful soil input sold by Monsanto.

The Prime Minister, Jean Castex, who was appointed in 2020, announced investment in new freight-to-rail lines to run from the Sete, on the Mediterranean coast to Calais and from the Pyrenees to Cherbourg, after La Republique En Marche , the party of President Macron, lost many town halls to EELV in local elections of June 2020. Hopefully, these rail freight lines will still be built.

Macron’s policy choices may also be affected by the anarchist Gilets Jaunes movement, which started in 2018, in opposition to green fuel taxes and imposition of speed limits. The far-right has reaped more benefit from the Gilets Jaunes disturbances than have other parties.

On the other side of the Channel, on the Kent coast, we can agree on similar political actions:

  • Citizens wanting more genuine climate action,
  • Demanding real dialogue with local government,
  • Climate campaigners deciding to act together on the streets
  • Support a political grouping capable of taking seats from Conservative-led local Councils that repeatedly dilutes its green agenda promises.

It is about these things that we wholeheartedly agree with our Calais colleagues.

The rise of the eurosceptic far-right in the Nord-Pas-de- Calais region is evident to all progressives on the French side of the Channel, and the slow roll-out of the Covid vaccine under Ursula Von der Leyen has not helped. It worries all who oppose the right and the far right that Marine Le Pen in the post-industrial north of France that has used EU Social Fund Objective 1 status for regeneration, very effectively.

In the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, the response to the rise of the right/far-right is to run a coalition candidate in the upcoming regional elections. And the Parti Socialiste, PC/LFI/Pole Ecolo and EELV have jointly selected Green EELV MEP Karima Delli as the “Coalition of Left” candidate for this area.

This is supported strongly by the co-secretaries of EELV Nord-Pas de Calais, Vincent Dhelin and Katy Vuylsteker. There are also hopeful green shoots with Green New Deal for Europe. With President Biden also talking Green New Deal, pressure is growing on the UK.