A green wave has swept France as the environmentalist party and its left-wing allies won control of major cities including Lyon, Strasbourg and Bordeaux in local elections, allowing the Greens to up pressure on President Emmanuel Macron for his meeting with members of the Citizen’s Convention on Climate on Monday.
Europe Ecology, The Greens party (EELV) took control of key cities including Lyon, Bordeaux and Strasbourg.
They also won the smaller cities of Besancon, Tours, Poitiers and Annecy, hung on to Grenoble and became a power-broker in Marseille.
Having endorsed the Paris socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo, the Greens also played an important role in ensuring her re-election with 48.7 percent of the vote.
EELV described the results as “historic”.
“Today, ecology is taking a big step. A giant step,” the party’s secretary Julien Bayou said in a statement, adding that “it is THE mandate to act on climate and social justice,” echoing a tweet by Green MEPs.
“The French are ready for change. Great, so are we,” he said.
The election was marked by record-high abstention rate of 59 percent.
President Macron expressed his concern and acknowledged that the elections were marked by a “green wave”, the presidency said.
Upping the pressure
Green MEP Yannick Jadot said the results proved that Macron had been “in denial” over growing public demand for ambitious measures to fight climate change.
He told Europe 1 radio EELV would not join Macron’s government as part of a widely-expected cabinet shake-up, saying instead the president should enact “as he promised” 149 measures proposed this month by his Citizen’s Convention on Climate.
Macron is to meet the council’s members on Monday where he plans a “first response” to their proposals, including reducing motorway speed limits and making “ecocide” a crime.
The Covid effect
Jadot described EELV’s strong results as a “political turning point for our country,” with a landscape “recomposed around ecology”.
In an interview with Le Monde he attributed the party’s good performance both to “the government’s powerlessness and lack of options [proposed] on ecological and social issues, and the vertical nature of its governance”.
The run-off local poll had been delayed by three months due to the two-month lockdown imposed in France.
While the record high abstention rate was in part due to fears over transmission of the coronavirus, the lockdown itself may also explain the Greens’ good score.
For him, a lot of discussion centred around “questions of lifestyle and consumer habits which are putting our ecosystems under strain”.
“Lockdown acted as an accelerator,” he said “with people asking for more localism and a slowdown in the frenzy of consumerism. The lockdown period reinforced EELV themes.”
The first phase of a vast urban farming project in Paris is now under way following a two-month delay caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Set on a Paris rooftop, the farm is set to grow over the next two years to become the largest urban farm in Europe.
The farm, on a rooftop of the Paris Exhibition Centre in the south-west of the city, currently covers an area of 4,000m², but those behind the project plan to expand the agricultural space to 14,000m² by 2022.
They hope to be able produce around 1,000kg of fruit and vegetables every day in high season thanks to a team of around 20 farmers while providing a global model for sustainable farming where produce is grown locally and according to the seasons.
“The goal is to locally supply healthy, pesticide-free products to local businesses, company restaurants, and to farming associations in a nearby area,” Agripolis president Pascal Hardy told AFP.
Along with commercial farming, locals are able to rent space on the rooftop to grow their own fruit and veg, while visitors can sample the produce at an on-site restaurant.
The farm is part of what appears to be a growing trend in the French capital to produce and consume food locally, with a number of urban farming projects springing up around the city in recent years, while Paris City Hall has committed to creating 30 hectares of urban farming space in the city in 2020.
“The real trend today is towards quality local products, more so than organic,” said Hardy.
“We’re at the top of the organic wave, but we’re on the way down, and the challenge now is to be able to show how the products were generated, and also to show that they don’t come from the other side of the planet, like beans from Kenya, for example, or from deep in Spain with farming practices that are not very virtuous.”
Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s reelection manifesto calls for a green revamp of the Boulevard Périphérique, the city’s car-clogged inner ring urban highway.
By Feargus O’Sullivan
Like so many cities, Paris is girdled by beltways — several of them, in fact. The innermost and most notorious one is known as the Boulevard Périphérique, a 22-mile-long ring road completed in 1973 and built in part upon the footprint of the city’s historic walls. The traffic-clogged urban highway plays a major role in Parisian mobility, but it’s also a prime contributor of pollution, both atmospheric and aural, as well as an all-but-impassable barrier severing the historic city from its inner suburbs. Last year, Paris deputies proposed downsizing the Périphérique, removing vehicle lanes and dropping speed limits to transform the road from a smog-spewing limited-access highway into a tree-lined “metropolitan avenue.”
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