France’s Proposed Climate Law Is Stirring Divisions

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The main employers lobby, the Movement of the Enterprises of France, or Medef, which represents France’s biggest corporations, went through the citizens’ group’s proposals line by line, highlighting those considered to be the harshest and recommending softened versions of the text, according to the Journal du Dimanche, a weekly newspaper.

Medef was especially opposed to making “ecocide,” — defined as deliberate and lasting pollution — a crime. Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, Medef’s president, told a Senate panel that his members worried that it would stigmatize business and penalize economic activity. He said lawmakers, not random citizens, should write laws.

Tougher rules could also hobble companies weakened by the pandemic, François Asselin, president of the Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, told the panel. “So be careful not to bring them to their knees with too-restrictive measures,” he said.

BASF, a German multinational chemical company and a major producer of pesticides with operations in France, was more blunt. In a post on its website, it singled out recommendations by the citizens panel to reduce pesticides and fertilizer in agriculture, saying they “reflect a profound ignorance of reality.”

“In seeking to re-energize democracy,” BASF added, referring to the citizens’ proposals, “aren’t we running the risk of weakening our democratic institutions and fueling populism?”

The criticism may be having an impact. In the legislation passed by the National Assembly, “ecocide” was changed from being labeled a crime, as proposed by the citizens’ panel, to a civil offense. It could still result in jail time.

The proposal to ban short-haul flights originally barred trips that could be covered by a four-hour train trip. After airlines and airports objected, the rule was scaled back to cover only flights that could be replaced by a rail trip of 2.5 hours — a change that barred only eight routes. A measure that would have made it more difficult pave over empty fields and lots for Amazon-style warehouses now exempts e-commerce companies.

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