4th Mar 2024


The 150 random French citizens advising Macron

  • 'I was not much of an 'eco-type' before, but what I learned was like a slap in the face," Jean-Paul Moreau, from Brittany, said (Photo: Emma Sofia Dedorson)

Dressed up for the occasion, the 150 French citizens of the Citizens' Climate Convention (CCC) walked up the ceremonial courtyard of the Élysée palace. They pose for pictures in front of the porch.

"I feel like Queen Elizabeth" one lady joked, as she waved to journalists.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • 'One day last summer, I received a phone call from a lady saying I had been randomly chosen. I didn't believe it then, and I still don't believe it today. Just look where we are,' says chef Mohamed Muftah from southern France, gazing at the Élysée Palac (Photo: Emma Sofia Dedorson)

Last October, French president Emmanuel Macron tasked this randomly-selected group, "in a spirit of social justice", with finding ways to reduce France's carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030, compared with levels of 1990.

Expected to wind up earlier in 2020, meetings were naturally halted during the coronavirus lockdown. But by mid-June, the CCC could finally present their 149 proposals (one had already been rejected by an internal vote).

On Sunday, on the eve of the Élysée Palace event, local elections were held and France was swept by a Green Wave.

The Europe Écologie Les Verts (EELV) won a number of major victories while Macron's party, La République en Marche, (LREM) failed to win in any major city.

"It is clear that France is having a green awakening. I think that pushes president Macron to accept our suggestions" Mélanie Cosnier tells the EUobserver in the gardens of the palace.

Cosnier, a care-giver, has come by train from Souvigné sur Sarthe, a small town in the nort- west. Travel expenses, hotel stays, food and lost work days were covered by the government, as for all other CCC members.

While individuals are picked at random, the convention is intended overall as a sample of the French population: people from all parts of the country, of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds.

"One day last summer, I received a phone call from a lady saying I had been randomly chosen. I didn't believe it then, and I still don't believe it today. Just look where we are," says chef Mohamed Muftah from southern France, gazing at the Élysée Palace.

The idea of a 'convention' on climate emerged during the "Grand Debat National" [national consultation] initiated by Macron in 2019 as a way to defuse anti-government protests.

The so-called 'Yellow Vest' protests had emerged the year before, triggered by the government's eco-tax on fuel – perceived as a way to "greenwash" austerity measures targeting rural France.

In January 2019 the groups Gilets Citoyens [Citizen Vests] and Democratie Ouverte [Open Democracy] – individuals and organisations from the field of participative democracy, researchers, and famous names such as actress Marion Cotillard and the architect of the Paris Agreement on climate change, Laurence Tubianamet – met with Macron to suggest a citizen's assembly.

He said yes.

"We have worked in close collaboration with experts. I was not much of an 'eco-type' before, but what I learned was like a slap in the face," Jean-Paul Moreau, from Brittany, said.

Real power?

Unlike most such citizens' assemblies, the CCC has been given real power. At least that is what Macron claimed when took the podium in front of the Élysée palace.

"Thank you for coming to your house - this is the house of all French citizens" he said.

He then promised to inject an extra €15bn to fight global warming and said he had accepted all but three of the proposals, which would be submitted to parliament "unfiltered".

"His rejections were expected, we didn't all agree on all measures within the CCC either. The four percent dividend-taxes on investments for green policies was not a big thing, nor was the 110km/h speed limit that he postponed," CCC member Guillaume Robert Réunion commented.

Other accepted conclusions from the convention include: a mandatory energy retrofit for the least-efficient buildings by 2030 and for all buildings by 2040, with aid for low-income groups, a ban on producing new high-emissions vehicles by 2025 (instead of the current target of 2040), more support for local production and job creation to ensure health, food and energy security, and expanding train services.

Remarkably, Macron also gave his support for two referendums in 2021: one on writing climate goals into France's constitution.

The other is a referendum on making so-called "ecocide" a crime. According to the proposal, an ecocide is "any action causing serious environmental damage."

Macron went on saying that he "hoped" that a new law, based on their suggestions, would be drawn up by the end of this summer.

"We are invited to Brussels this autumn to pass the baton on to the EU. I just hope our work won't be put in a drawer somewhere.

"Sometimes I cannot help but to think: what if this is nothing but words and a ball at the castle? All this effort just to keep us calm?" Mohamed Muftah concluded.

Author bio

Emma Sofia Dedorson is a Paris-based journalist covering politics, culture and society in France, Spain and Italy.

France shuts oldest reactor amid Macron climate pledges

France's oldest nuclear power plant finally closed on Tuesday, one day after president Emmanuel Macron pledged to speed up the country's transition to a greener economy responding to the proposals from the French citizens' convention on climate.

Parliament calls for citizens' 'agoras' to shape future EU

Details have been revealed by the European Parliament of its proposals on how to conduct the two-year post-Brexit reform exercise of the EU. But a final format will have to be determined in talks with member states and the commission.


Covid-19 derails Germany's EU presidency climate focus

Action on climate change was long-slated as the priority for Germany's six-month presidency of the European Union which starts tomorrow. But as Europe struggles to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, is Germany really going to maintain momentum on climate?

Poland's climate neutrality pledge - delayed again?

Although Friday's summit was supposed to be an opportunity for Poland to commit to climate neutrality by 2050 - like the rest of the EU - the coronavirus has postponed that discussion, with domestic elections also upcoming.

EU supply chain law fails, with 14 states failing to back it

Member states failed on Wednesday to agree to the EU's long-awaited Corporate Sustainable Due Diligence Directive, after 13 EU ambassadors declared abstention and one, Sweden, expressed opposition (there was no formal vote), EUobserver has learned.


The six-hour U-turn that saw the EU vote for austerity

The EU's own analysis has made it clear this is economic self-sabotage, and it's politically foolish three months from European elections where the far-right are predicted to increase support, writes the general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation.


Why are the banking lobby afraid of a digital euro?

Europeans deserve a digital euro that transcends the narrow interests of the banking lobby and embodies the promise of a fairer and more competitive monetary and financial landscape.

Latest News

  1. EU must overhaul Africa trade offer to parry China, warns MEP
  2. EU watchdog faults European Commission over Libya
  3. Hungary's Ukrainian refugees in two minds as relations sour
  4. The six-hour U-turn that saw the EU vote for austerity
  5. Defence, von der Leyen, women's rights, in focus This WEEK
  6. The farming lobby vs Europe's wolves
  7. EU socialists fight battle on two fronts in election campaign
  8. EU docks €32m in funding to UN Gaza agency pending audit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us