July 27, 2021

The executive renounces to include the “preservation of the environment” in the Constitution and to have it adopted by referendum

There will be no referendum to include the climate in the Constitution, in line with the proposals of the citizens’ convention: the executive buried, Tuesday, July 6, the revision project, for lack of agreement between the National Assembly and the Senate . On Monday, the latter, with a right-wing majority, adopted at second reading a wording different from that voted by the Assembly around the inclusion, in the fundamental law, of the preservation of the environment.

And it was during the questioning session to the government, Tuesday at the Palais-Bourbon, that the death knell sounded: “This vote unfortunately puts an end to the process of constitutional revision which we continue to believe was essential for our country”, launched the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, recalling the Constitution, which provides that the text must be adopted in identical terms by deputies and senators.

Believing to have done ” a step “ towards the Senate by amending the text at the margin, Mr. Castex deplored that “This outstretched hand” does not have “Not entered” by senators on Monday. “It is deeply regrettable, but the fight continues”, he said after being arrested by the deputy La République en Marche (LRM) Pieyre-Alexandre Anglade. The senatorial majority “Sacrifice the climate emergency on the altar of partisan and political interests”, had just criticized the LRM reporter of the text.

Read also Climate in the Constitution: semantic battle and blockage in the Senate

This announcement signals the failure, for the second time in this five-year term, of a constitutional reform, after that on the institutions, aborted after the Benalla affair in 2018. The French Constitution can only be revised in two ways: either by text is approved by three-fifths of Parliament meeting in Congress, ie deputies and senators agree on an identical text, which is then submitted to referendum. The executive had opted for the second option, to no avail.

It was initially a question of including in article 1, which lays down the founding principles of the Republic (equality, secularism …), that France “Guarantees the preservation of the environment and biological diversity and the fight against climate change”. In front of the members of the citizens’ convention on the climate (CCC), Emmanuel Macron announced in December that he wanted to submit this project to a referendum.

Semantic battle

However, the two chambers fought a battle of words, which ended in an impasse. The Senate rewrote the draft constitutional law in May, opposing the term “guarantee” wanted by the Head of State, which would institute a “Quasi-obligation of result”. The majority in the Assembly then said to do ” a step “, by replacing in second reading the verb “to fight” by the verb “to act”. But weary, despite the solemn appeals of the majority, the senators adopted Monday a formulation still excluding the term “guarantee”.

The French Republic “Acts for the preservation of the environment and biological diversity and against climate change, under the conditions provided for by the environmental charter of 2004”, adopted under Jacques Chirac, they suggested. The Minister of Ecological Transition, Barbara Pompili, said her « consternation », lambasting “Climate-inactive”, “Climate-resigned”.

The parliamentary shuttle could have continued, but time was running out, less than a year before the presidential election. And “It is not a question of consulting the French on a hackneyed or watered-down formula”, argues the rapporteur, Mr Anglade.

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For his part, the chairman of the Senate Law Commission François-Noël Buffet (Les Républicains, LR) was moved by “Extremely disagreeable remarks with regard to the Senate”, which “Would block the system”. The President of the Senate, Gérard Larcher, while saying he is ready to address the issue “In an open and positive manner”, had asked a ” Red line “ at the start of discussions: “No degrowth society”.

The left at the Luxembourg Palace sent back the government and the senatorial right. “The blame is shared between LRM and LR. Everyone has played their part at the expense of the general interest ”, said the ecologist and ex-LRM Matthieu Orphelin. For him, “If the government wanted it, it could have started much earlier and organized a consultation”.

Socialist Eric Kerrouche pointed out “Pharisees’ debates where everyone pretends to seek a compromise in a lying poker game”. For the ecologist Guy Benarroche, “The funeral” was “Predictable, prepared, premeditated”.

From the abolition of certain domestic overhead lines to the ban on the rental of accommodation serving as thermal sieves, some of the 146 other proposals of the citizens’ convention are the subject of a separate “climate and resilience” bill. It is unlikely that deputies and senators will find a compromise on this text too, but the former will have, in this case, the last word.

Read also: What happened to the proposals of the climate convention, which Emmanuel Macron had committed to take up “without filter”?

The World with AFP