The French government on Tuesday announced it would halt its efforts to alter the Constitution to recognize the fight against climate change.
Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the decision to ditch plans for a referendum to add environmental protection to the Constitution citing a disagreement between the lower and upper houses of Parliament.
“It’s deeply regrettable, but the fight goes on,” Castex said.
A 150-person “Citizen’s Climate Convention” conceived the idea of amending the Constitution and French President Emmanuel Macron adopted the idea in December, calling for the referendum.
However, French law requires both houses of Parliament to agree on a common version of a proposed constitutional amendment before it can be passed by a three-fifths majority or referendum.
Members of Macron’s La Republique en Marche Party, which dominates the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, proposed amending the Constitution to include a line stating France would “guarantee environmental protection and biological diversity and combat climate change.”
Members of the Senate, led by the right-wing Les Republicains Party, lodged an objection to the inclusion of the word “guarantee” suggesting it risked introducing “the virus of growth decline in our Constitution” as environmental concerns could provide an obstacle to business interests.
A group of centrist lawmakers linked to the LREM Party said the decision to abandon the referendum “illustrates the irresponsibility of the senatorial right on environmental issues.”
“The conservatives in the Senate fail to understand the importance of environmental issues,” they said.
Green Party lawmaker Matthieu Orphelin joined climate activists and other members of his party in dismissing the debate over the amendment’s language as a political stunt.
“It was easy to see through, it was an acting game for months,” Orphelin said.
Environmental group Our Ecological Constitution described the referendum as “a constitutional reform that has been hijacked and undermined by political maneuvering from the start.”
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