08 September 2023
Emmanuel Macron’s environmental hypocrisy exposed by the most prestigious international scientific journal
08 September 2023
On Tuesday 5 September, the prestigious international scientific journal Nature published an editorial entitled “Hypocrisy is threatening the future of the world’s oceans“, reflecting the concern of the scientific community as it helplessly watches the accelerating destruction of the ocean and climate due to political negligence.
Nature‘s editorial highlights “the disturbing misalignment of promises and action from self-proclaimed ocean champions“, citing French President Emmanuel Macron by name, who organized the ‘One Ocean Summit’ conference in Brest in February 2022, which has become a symbol of environmental greenwashing. Emmanuel Macron also stepped up diplomatic efforts to ensure that France hosts the next United Nations Ocean Conference in Nice in June 2025, while the government opposes any measures to protect marine ecosystems in France and even in the Indian Ocean.
This article reveals that, despite the government’s bludgeoning of ecological communication and proclamations of ‘High Ambition for Nature and People’, the imposture of French ocean protection policy is no longer fooling anyone on the international stage.
Government spokesman Olivier Véran gave a masterclass on the ‘Macron method’ France Inter’s morning radio show on 7 September, citing a list of conferences organized by France as proof of their ecological performance. But organizing conferences and proclaiming announcements is not the same as protecting the ocean.
It’s up to the government to get its act together and take the necessary measures to ensure that the United Nations Ocean Conference does not turn into an international diplomatic collapse by becoming just another environmental marketing operation.
BETWEEN GRAND ANNOUNCEMENTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION
Since his June 2017 speech to #MakeOurPlanetGreatAgain, French President Emmanuel Macron has doubled international initiatives and summits on environmental protection, climate, forests, finance… and the ocean. Over the past two years, the ocean has become a key element in the Élysée’s environmental marketing campaign (see ‘Further information’).
But in the face of diplomatic efforts portraying France and its President as determined to protect the ocean and “make France this great ocean nation”, the scientific community sees above all a series of renunciations and maneuvers that “[undermine] progress towards global ocean sustainability”. And Nature magazine concludes:
“This isn’t just about dewy-eyed sentiment for our beautiful blue planet: the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people depend on the oceans and the life they sustain. There’s much that scientists can do to achieve ocean sustainability. But to get SDG 14 back on track for 2030, world leaders must stand by the promises in their rhetoric.”
Beyond the grand announcements, France has taken up the cause of industrial fishing lobbies in Paris, Brussels and international bodies. It has adopted a cynical, uncompromising policy, whether it’s fighting against the ban on destructive fishing methods in Marine ‘Protected’ Areas, or undemocratically defending the interests of French tuna fishing in the Indian Ocean at all costs (see ‘Further information’).
It is this French public policy, which disregards scientific recommendations and mocks the general interest by corrupting democratic processes in order to please an industrial fishing lobby bent on defending the status quo, that the scientific journal Nature denounces in its latest issue.
THE SCIENTISTS’ WARNING
In its editorial, Nature explicitly denounces France’s double game ahead of the United Nations Ocean Conference: “France, also the host nation for an upcoming UN Ocean Conference in 2025, is opposing a measure to exclude a destructive fishing practice called bottom trawling from marine protected areas in the European Union.“
Similarly, Nature warns of anti-environmental decisions taken by the EU to defend the interests of the French and Spanish industrial fleets: “The EU itself (…) has been fighting conservation measures in the Indian Ocean that would curb chronic overfishing of yellowfin tuna. French and Spanish ships harvest up to one-third of tuna in these waters with the aid of fish-aggregating devices – large floating structures made of wood or plastic that attract fish, including juveniles, and are associated with unsustainable fisheries.”
In Paris and Brussels, such an editorial should be a wake-up call, since the proliferation of diplomatic initiatives cannot hide the harmful nature of the French President’s actions. If the next United Nations Conference on the Oceans is not to turn into a fiasco, France has to pull itself together.
The situation is urgent.
In the next few months, France will define its ‘National Sea and Coastal Strategy’, its ‘Strategic Coastline Documents’ and its ‘Ocean Action Plan’. Before the launch of the ‘Year of the Sea’ in September 2024, Emmanuel Macron has the potential to demonstrate that his declared desire to protect the ocean is not the latest avatar of an environmental marketing policy that is contradicted point by point by the facts.
CHRONOLOGY OF FRENCH DIPLOMATIC ANNOUNCEMENTS CONCERNING THE OCEAN
- In February 2022, as Nature magazine points out, “France hosted representatives of more than 100 countries at a historic ocean summit in Brest”. This ‘One Ocean Summit’, which we denounced at the time, was also the occasion for Emmanuel Macron to launch, alongside Costa Rica and the UK, a ‘Coalition of High Ambition for Nature and People’. An international alliance with a grandiloquent name, it set itself the goal of bringing the objective of protecting 30% of land and sea by 2030 to the COP15 on biodiversity.
- A few months later, at the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon in June 2022, there was a new twist: following a major public mobilization, Emmanuel Macron called for a moratorium on deep-sea mining – a much-needed and welcome moratorium – and offered to host the next United Nations Ocean Conference in France.
- Finally, in December 2022, France arrived at COP15 in Montreal with a ‘High Ambition Coalition’ comprising over 100 Member States. At the end of the negotiations, it was able to publicly congratulate itself on the adoption of an international agreement setting a target of 30% protection by 2030… without any concrete constraints being attached to this notion of ‘protection’.
- On 10 February 2023, Emmanuel Macron confirmed that the third United Nations Ocean Conference would be held in Nice in 2025. On social media, the French President announced: “An agreement to protect the ocean as humanity’s common good, that is our ambition”.
- On World Ocean Day, 8 June 2023, Emmanuel Macron drove the point home. The objective? “To make 2025 the year of the ocean“, he declared, adding: “The oceans are extremely important for the whole world, but particularly for our country, France, because we are a great ocean nation. We are the world’s second largest maritime power, thanks in particular to our overseas territories. It’s a huge issue because it’s a treasure trove of biodiversity, it captures carbon and therefore prevents us from suffocating.“
A POLICY OF UNCOMPROMISING DESTRUCTION
Hosting conferences and making promises has no impact on ocean protection. What counts are public policies, and in this area, France is knowingly contributing to its destruction. In February 2023, when the European Commission called on EU Member States to implement thirty-year-old European legislation to protect our supposedly ‘protected’ marine areas, France showed its true colors. Throughout March 2023, following in the footsteps of Emmanuel Macron and Elisabeth Borne, the French Secretary of State for the Sea, Hervé Berville, told one lie after another, in the Senate, the National Assembly and the Council of the European Union, asserting without hesitation that France was “totally, clearly and firmly opposed to the banning of bottom fishing gear in Marine Protected Areas”. This large-scale, misleading communication campaign ended with ports being blocked, the offices of the French Office for Biodiversity in Brest being set on fire, a diplomatic defeat in Brussels, and all ambitions to protect marine ecosystems being called into question.
At the same time, Indian Ocean coastal States won a first victory for the protection of marine ecosystems and coastal economies, by adopting a resolution to ban an extremely destructive fishing method called ‘Fish Aggregating Devices’ (FADs), worshipped by French and Spanish tuna fishermen for its ultra-efficiency. Under pressure from industrial lobbies and their political relays at a European and French level, 11 countries – all closely linked to the economic interests of these lobbies – obtained the cancellation of this crucial resolution. The fight against overfishing and neo-colonialism will have to wait a few more years.
France has played a leading role in this destructive madness: it even made the key person in its administration available to the European tuna lobby in order to short-circuit any environmental ambitions; a provision for which the Parquet national financier (the French judicial institution charged with investigating economic crime) opened an investigation in December 2022 for conflicts of interest, following revelations by BLOOM and Anticor.