Wednesday

28th Feb 2024

Opinion

Macron's hypocrisy at COP28

  • French president Emmanuel Macron at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, with EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen (Photo: European Commission)
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A few days after French president Emmanuel Macron performed his unending monologue at COP28, serenading every actor but France about their responsibility to do more, it is worth looking at the French government's behaviour in EU negotiations related to climate.

Quite predictably, Macron is not putting his money where his mouth is.

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First, the obvious: Macron's call for a pause on EU environmental regulations in May 2023 opened the floodgate for a series of heavy critiques towards the EU's Green Deal. In a chain reaction, this gave coverage for right-leaning politicians across the continent to attack, water down and, in at least one instance, kill some of the EU's landmark green directives.

But France was not done. Despite Macron's insistence in his COP28 speech that the global financial system is not geared towards an effective climate transition, and that it should urgently be reformed to become so, France is in the same breath attempting to carve out an unprecedented exemption for the entirety of the financial sector in the closing negotiations of the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive.

The directive is a broad legal package designed to hold multinational corporations accountable for profiting from human rights violations, environmental crimes, and climate-wrecking emissions contained in their value chain.

Yet the French government, using a catch-all argument for "protecting competitiveness", spent the past year pressuring negotiating parties to shield banks, insurers, pension funds and asset managers from any due diligence obligations.

Considering the financial sector is repeatedly identified as one of the largest pillars of support for the fossil fuel industry, and more widely for the largest polluting sectors of the world, it seems the French government is engaging in yet another attempt to dupe the world about its real climate action.

Macron's COP28 speech highlighted the ever-increasing risk for the emergence of stranded assets — investments into polluting activities that will need to be abandoned to maintain the world on a course for a liveable future, but could destabilise the world market by creating huge and sudden losses for investors and financiers.

That argument is also reflected in a recent speech from the European Central Bank's executive board member Frank Elderson, who stressed that an application of due diligence and climate obligations contained in CSDDD to the financial sector would in fact "help to ensure that financial institutions — including banks — systematically integrate sustainability matters into their decision making and risk management practices".

Translation: with an inclusion of the financial sector, CSDDD can help protect the financial market from the risks posed by stranded assets, and thus shield EU financial institutions from a foreseeable drop in competitiveness.

Not to mention the human suffering prevented if financial institutions stop funding human rights violations… Why then carve out such an exemption?

And yet, unfortunately, France is not stopping there. By opposing civil liability for multinationals who do not fulfil their climate obligations as part of CSDDD, France is making sure citizens can't bring them to court if they don't comply with their obligation to protect the climate and the world's collective future.

And for the most part of the year, it's even advocated for an obligation to publish climate transition plans, but against an obligation to implement said plans; in other terms, France is advocating to give multinational corporations a licence to greenwash, while they freely reap billions from their climate-wrecking activities.

Can France really claim a position of climate leadership, when its government is continuously engaging in backroom manoeuvres, and shielding some of the largest contributors to the climate crisis from scrutiny and reform? If Macron spent as much energy implementing science-backed solutions as he does crafting self-congratulating speeches, maybe; and maybe we would have a chance to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

Author bio

Alban Grosdidier is climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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