France Looks to Meet Climate Goals With Green Budget

(CN) – French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire spent a busy weekend defending the government’s 2020 budget aimed at combating climate change, while some environmental advocates say it doesn’t go far enough.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks on Aug. 26, 2019, during a press conference at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, southwestern France. (AP photo/Francois Mori)

The budget proposal was unveiled publicly last week and was accepted Friday by the Council of Ministers, a group of senior French officials.

Le Maire, who was appointed by President Emmanuel Macron in 2017, made appearances on French television on both Saturday and Sunday defending the budget.

“The [predicted] level of growth is not enough to finance the energy transition,” Le Maire said in defense of the corporate tax cuts included in the 2020 budget package.

The budget reduces the overall tax burden on both households and businesses, including an elimination of a housing tax on all primary residences in the country. Its repeal was part of Macron’s campaign promises as well as a demand of the Yellow Vest protestors, a populist movement that seeks lower taxes on fuel and household expenditures.

The budget also includes a number of measures that make up the so-called Big Investment Plan, which aims to address four major problems in France: carbon emissions, employment, economic competitiveness and the digital fluency of the government.

As part of the plan, the government aims to introduce an eco-tax on flights departing France, reduce fuel subsidies for certain industries and increase investment in renewable energies. There will also be a 41 million euro, or about $44.7 million, allowance for the newly created Biodiversity Office.

Two days prior to the budget unveiling, the French government released the results from the first Green Budget Initiative, part of Macron’s call to “make our planet great again,” a jab at U.S. President Donald Trump.

Following the United States’ announcement that it would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, France began working together with the intergovernmental Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and Mexico to create a system that could assess national budgets on their environmental impact. The system rates all expenditures in France’s budget on a scale of -1 (direct harm to the environment) to 3 (directly produces an environmental good or service).

Auditors at the  Inspectorate General of Finances, the country’s interdepartmental auditing body, found the vast majority of the 2020 budget was neutral (400 billion euros), while 35 billion euros in expenses was mostly positive for the environment and 25 billion euros was mostly negative.

According to Gérald Darmanin, France’s minister of public accounts, subsidies for fossil fuels make up the most environmentally harmful sections of the budget.

The Climate Action Network, a coalition of French environmental and social groups, issued a statement calling the budget “an essential step” but indicated that measures did not go far enough.

Aurore Lalucq, a French member of the European Parliament with the left-wing party Place Publique, said, “At the moment, the ‘green budget’ looks a bit like greenwashing.”

Coverage of the budget was overshadowed in French media by the death of former French President Jacques Chirac on Thursday.

%d bloggers like this: