IPCC WG III is out, and reading through the comments at
I stopped and smiled at this from TinyCO2:
“Aunty BEEB and Granny Guardian are right behind you and if this year you’re not a success, there’s always COP21 in Paris next year.”
Next year is far away, and so many things might happen: a Russian invasion of the Ukraine; soaring gas prices; fracking; a ban on fracking; a winter cold spell, causing blackouts; a summer heat wave, causing George Monbiot to run naked through the streets of Camden flagellating himself (stop fantasising and get on with it…)
But Paris will still be Paris, and one of the few constants of European history is the capacity of the French for p*ssing off friends and enemies alike.
I’m no great shakes at political prophesy, but one thing I’m pretty sure about is that it will be the French who bring the European Union either to its knees or its senses. Greece, Portugal, and Spain have suffered more, but they have all experienced military dictatorships within living memory, and know that they are on parole. Italy is doing something under a charismatic leader. (Isn’t it amazing how many charismatic leaders Italy has produced in its 150 years of existence – many of them household names?)
The French president, who has done precisely nothing in the two years since his election, has a popularity rating of 18% (about the same as that of Brezhnev before the fall of the Soviet Union. But we don’t have a Berlin Wall to tear down, more’s the pity).
But we did have local elections last month and his Socialist party lost heavily, largely to the far right National Front.
I live in a town which has been in the hands of the same family, father and son, for – well – generations. The three main leftwing parties, the Socialists, the Left Front, and the Communists, wisely decided to amalgamate, which didn’t stop four other leftwing parties from standing – two Trotskyists, an ecologist and a Youf Party. The neo-fascist Front National came top, and the leftwing alliance, which just scraped through to the second round with a bare 10% of the votes, nobly desisted, recommending its voters to vote in the second round for the corrupt rightwing party, which I duly did.
(All parties are corrupt in France, but this could only happen in our town. In the previous elections a party official was found with his socks stuffed full of false ballot papers. It’s warm here in the South of France in May. People don’t wear socks. The election was annulled and in the following bye-election the governing party won by an even bigger majority. People reasoned that the opposition had brought the town into disrepute by making a fuss about the sock-stuffing..)
I love voting in France. The last time I voted was the first time European nationals were allowed to vote in local and European elections. The voting station was full of gypsy ladies decked out in their Sunday best. Just four people were indicated as having voted before me on the register open on the desk, and two of them had signed with an X. (The town where I live is reputed to have the largest sedentary gypsy population in Western Europe. And they’re good voters, as two generations of mayors can attest).
Of course, when I went to vote, they couldn’t find my name. I was voter number 000001, but on the supplementary list. So I went and stood in the queue at the problem desk, which has a hotline to the Town Hall. The guy in front of me was a gypsy, and the official behind the desk was patiently explaining: ”I’m sorry Monsieur X, but you’ve just come out of prison and you have not yet been accorded your voting rights.” To which the guy replied: “If I can’t vote, then my wife’s not voting either!”, which didn’t stop the mayor from getting elected…
But anyway, they sorted out my problem and found the supplementary register at the bottom of their chest of voting paraphernalia – an imposing volume one metre square when opened, with just two names, mine and some Dutch bloke. I duly voted and signed.
Next Sunday was the second round of voting, and as I entered the voting station the lady behind the desk nudged her neighbour and said: “It’s him!” By the time I emerged from the voting booth, they had the supplementary register proudly open for me to sign.
Media commenters this year were unanimous that socialist voters were fed up with the rightwing policies enacted by Socialist President François Hollande, so he did the only decent thing – he sacked his prime minister and appointed in his place the most rightwing member of the socialist party – Manuel Valls (This is practically a carbon copy of what happened in Italy, except that the Italian president is a 95 year-old figurehead, whereas the French president has powers which make Barak Obama look like an eight stone weakling.. By the way, I haven’t seen the news for three hours. Have we declared World War Three yet?)
And the new prime minister – like Matteo Renzi in Italy – has appointed a honed down cabinet, with some new faces, including Ségolène Royal as Minister of Ecology.
Now Ségolène Royal was the previous unsuccessful socialist candidate for the presidency seven years ago – unsuccessful, it has been widely suggested – because the socialist party apparatus, under its secretary, the current President François Hollande, sabotaged her campaign.
François Hollande is the father of Ségolène Royal’s four children.
Then there are the ecologists, the members of the party “Europe Ecology the Greens” who officially support the government, and are the recipients of 18 grace and favour seats
in parliament thanks to the socialist party, but who walked out of the government, (not because of any personal animosity towards Manuel Valls, of course, but because of his policies, which he hadn’t yet announced).
The Minister of Energy and Climate Change in Britain has certain well-defined responsibilities, such as keeping the lights on while ensuring that the planet doesn’t heat up unbearably – a heavy charge for a junior minister in a second-rate power.
The French Minister of Ecology has no such limitations. She has a minimal budget, and therefore zero power, but she has the responsibility for keeping France looking nice.
France gets 80% of its electricity from nuclear, which is low on CO2, but also unpopular with the public, who think they prefer wind turbines and solar.
The state owned (illegally of course, because, remember, socialist policies of state ownership are illegal under European law) EDF has been happy, so far, to take on a certain percentage of unprofitable wind and solar energy programmes because they can afford to, given the money they make selling nuclear energy to the Brits and others. Hence the numerous windfarms here in the south of France, which do nothing but kill a few eagles and keep the Greens happy.
The policy of the new Minister of Ecology is to reduce France’s dependence on nuclear, resist fracking, and go for renewable energy. There are 40,000 communes in France, 39,000 of which (my estimate) have a barren hillside somewhere they’re wiling to let out to a windmill company.
The country’s energy supply is still in the hands of the EDF, a nationalised company run by an intellectual élite educated under a system installed by Napoleon. “L’École des Mines” don’t just turn out coal miners. Like “Les Arts et Métiers” (the school my son went to, I’m proud to say) they prepare the scientific élite of a proud country for the job of running a modern technologically advanced society.
And confronting them are the Greens, a party which scores 3% in national elections, but which until recently merited two seats in government, and who have 80% of the population behind them when they demand the closing of France’s nuclear power stations.
Today the Leftwing parties called for a demonstration against the austerity programme of the leftwing government. Only about a quarter of a million people turned up, which is pretty feeble in French terms. It takes a demonstration of 2 or 3 million to get rid of a prime minister, something which only happens about once every 10 years – but just wait. Next week the government will be announcing details of the 50 billion euro cuts demanded by Brussels and Berlin, and the real conflict will begin.
In Paris in 2015 each French politician will be trying to make the environment his or her own. François Hollande, leader of one of the world’s top powers, will be demonstrating his commitment to the green cause in his own way. And next to him on the world stage, Ségolène Royal, Minister of Ecology, failed candidate for the post of president, and mother of his four children, will be demonstrating her commitment in hers.
Meanwhile, I don’t doubt, the quarter of a million who demonstrated today will be still there. Their leaders in the parties of the left are among the most fervent defenders of the green cause of course. But frankly, I don’t expect reductions in CO2 emissions to rate high in the priorities of left-leaning voters contemplating the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2017. This summer or the next promise to be hot, but it won’t be about global warming.