Wed Jan 3rd, 2007 at 11:39:36 AM EST
Even if you're not conversant with France, its life and customs, you'll know who Zinedine Zidane is. You might even have heard of Yannick Noah. (No? Black tennis player, now a singer?) But you're not all that sure to have heard of Nicolas Hulot
. Yet he came third, after Zidane and Noah, in the French Top 50 Favourite People poll
Hulot is a conservation advocate who has produced and presented, for the last twenty years, the nature/travel documentary show Ushuaïa on France's N° 1 TV channel, TF1. Everyone in France (almost) has heard him huff and puff into the microphone as he dives to show endangered coral reefs or climbs melting glaciers. He's always been a popular figure, but for some months now he's been running a presidential campaign, and that probably explains his high showing in the Top dear-to-French-hearts 50.
He's running (or maybe he won't) to force an issue: the environment has to take its rightful place at the centre of any political platform, right or left.
Sounds good? Well, perhaps it is.
More below the fold.
Hulot has not yet decided to run for sure. He has given himself till mid-January to make his choice. Mostly, what he's doing is using his popularity (cynics would say, increasing it by doing so...) to hammer home the message that governments, right or left, don't take environmental problems seriously. He's asking candidates to be clear about their intentions by signing his Ecological Pact, (which apparently just says they think the environment is very important, so several candidates, including Sarkozy but not yet Royal, have dutifully signed up), and, further, to take up a position concerning his Ten Objectives and Five Propositions. (These are much more constraining, and there is no rush of candidates to do this bit...)
What leverage does he have to force the "major" candidates to take notice of his demands? Well, he's been polling at from 8%-10% of voting intentions (first round, supposing he runs) through November and December. His threat is: if you don't listen to me, I'll run. And I'll come third or fourth, taking votes from all of you.
Does it go as far as saying: I'll adjudicate the second round, in favour of the Most Ecological Candidate?
Hulot says not. His Ecological Pact states that he does not wish "to influence the vote in any way in favour of any political family". However... His TV career has always been associated with the very conservative TF1. He is generally considered more sympathetic to the right than the left. He has been an advisor to Jacques Chirac. But then again, also to Laurent Fabius... And he is working with the excellent Pierre Rabhi, a genuine grassroots ecologist and agriculturalist. So he seems to be successfully walking the neutrality tightrope.
The main importance of this is for Les Verts. Their candidate, former Environment Minister Dominique Voynet, is stuck at 2% in the polls with only 10% of those 2% sure to vote for her. Why? Voynet is probably not a good candidate. Her image is worn (several years in the Jospin government, not much visibly accomplished). But also Les Verts, as a party, are looking pretty worn. Constantly gridlocked by endless internal dissension, (it took I don't remember how many votes to finally name Voynet candidate, for example), lacking leadership, the French Greens don't appear to have delivered much for their years of cooperation with the PS. So it's tempting for a lot of people to go off on the old "apolitical ecology" warpath, even though that question was settled years ago when it became clear that an "apolitical" environmental movement was little more than a wedge for the right to split and demolish any environmental movement at all.
If Hulot runs and polls 8%-10% (or even less but in excess of 5%), Voynet will take such a hiding it will probably threaten the very existence of Les Verts. Libération says Hulot may not want that to happen:
|En écrasant Voynet, il a conscience qu'il risque de plonger les Verts dans une crise dont ils ne se remettraient pas. Or Hulot ne veut surtout pas que son engagement empêche l'élection de militants écologistes dans la future Assemblée nationale.
|By crushing Voynet, he's aware of the risk of plunging les Verts into a crisis they would be unable to pull out of. And Hulot really doesn't want his candidature to prevent the election of environmental militants in the future National Assembly.
Dany Cohn-Bendit, Green MEP and member of les Verts, makes some astute points:
|"A partir du moment où vous êtes candidat, vous devez dire au deuxième tour ce que vous allez faire. Et vous allez dire 'moi je suis pour celui qui signe mon pacte', et si les deux (candidats présents au deuxième tour) signent le pacte, 'je suis pour les deux' ?".
"Ca ne peut pas marcher, à un moment il faudra choisir", a encore estimé le député européen.
Pour lui, "la normalisation de Hulot va poser la question aussi de quel groupe parlementaire écologiste existera". "Les groupes se font par négociation, les Verts doivent négocier avec le PS. Ce n'est pas Hulot qui va donner des circonscriptions: même s'il fait 8%, il n'en a aucune avec 8%".
|"Once you're a candidate, you've got to say, come the second round, what you are going to do. And you're going to say: I'm for the one who signed my pact, and if both candidates have signed the pact, I'm for both of them?"
"It won't work, at some point you have to choose," continued the MEP. According to him, "Hulot's [political] standardisation will also pose the problem of which ecological parliamentary group will come into being." "Groups are made by negotiation, les Verts must negotiate with the PS. Hulot can't hand out [parliamentary] constituencies: even if he gets 8%, he won't win one with 8%."
There's no question of Hulot replacing Voynet as candidate of les Verts. There would appear to be a fair chance Hulot will announce he is desisting, in a week or so's time. If he persists, there's a fair chance les Verts will be in trouble.
But what is Hulot asking presidential candidates to take up a position on? Here are his Ten Objectives (pdf) (translation and errors mine):
|Objectif 1 Économie : vers une logique de durabilité
En bref : concevoir les produits industriels pour qu’ils durent, soient réparés ou recyclés afin de réduire les flux de matières, de déchets et d’énergie.
|Objective 1 Economy: towards a logic of sustainability
Briefly: design industrial products to last, be repaired or recycled so as to reduce the flow of materials, waste, and energy.
|Objectif 2 Énergie : organiser la baisse de la consommation
En bref : lutter contre le réchauffement climatique en réduisant massivement le recours au pétrole, au gaz et au charbon pour diviser par quatre nos émissions de gaz à effet de serre d’ici 2050.
|Objective 2 Energy: organize reduced consumption
Briefly: combat global warming by massively reducing the use of oil, gas, and coal, to divide by four our greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
|Objectif 3 Agriculture : produire autrement
En bref : concilier la production agricole avec le respect de l’environnement, le travail paysan, la
qualité des produits et la santé.
|Objective 3 Agriculture: produce differently
Briefly: bring agricultural production into line with respect of the environment, human work on the land, product quality, and health.
|Objectif 4 Territoire : contenir l’extension périurbaine et relocaliser les activités humaines
En bref : préserver l’espace rural et naturel, cesser de multiplier les infrastructures et « d’artificialiser » les surfaces, lutter contre l’étalement urbain par le rapprochement des lieux de travail et d’habitation.
|Objective 4 Land use: limit ex-urban expansion and relocate human activities
Briefly: preserve rural and natural areas, put a stop to the increase of infrastructure building and "artificialising" of land, fight urban spread by bringing workplaces and homes closer together.
|Objectif 5 Transports : sortir du tout routier
En bref : réduire la demande en transports fortement consommateurs de pétrole et grands émetteurs
de gaz à effet de serre (camions, automobiles et avions), augmenter l’offre en moyens de
déplacement moins gourmands et plus propres (trains, transports en commun, transport fluvial, vélo).
|Objective 5 Transport: get out of everything-by-road
Briefly: reduce demand for high oil-use and GHG-emission transport means (lorries, cars, planes), increase supply of cleaner and more economical means (trains, public transport, waterways, bike).
|Objectif 6 Fiscalité : établir le véritable prix des services rendus par la nature
En bref : faire apparaître le coût économique réel des activités humaines, supprimer les subventions
publiques entraînant la dégradation de l’environnement, réorienter le budget en faveur du développement durable.
|Objective 6 Taxation: fix the real price of nature's contributions
Briefly: take into account the real economic cost of human activities, end public subsidies to activities that degrade the environment, steer the budget towards support for sustainable development.
|Objectif 7 Biodiversité : faire entrer la nature dans l’aménagement du territoire
En bref : intégrer la préservation du patrimoine naturel dans la stratégie globale de développement
durable, avec la création d’un réseau écologique national qui relierait entre eux tous les espaces
protégés et garantirait leurs fonctions écologiques.
|Objective 7 Biodiversity: bring nature into land use management
Briefly: integrate conservation into the overall sustainable development strategy, with the creation of a national ecology network to link up protected areas and guarantee their ecological functions;
|Objectif 8 Santé : prévenir avant de guérir
En bref : évaluer le poids des dégradations environnementales dans le coût global des maladies,
engager une politique de prévention, en particulier en ce qui concerne l’alimentation, l’emploi des
pesticides et la dissémination des OGM.
|Objective 8 Health: prevention before treatment
Briefly: evaluate the importance of environmental damage in the overall cost of sickness, get prevention policy moving, particularly re food, pesticide use, the spread of GM crops.
|Objectif 9 Recherche : faire de l’environnement un moteur pour l’innovation
En bref : mettre la recherche en cohérence avec le projet d’une société durable ; favoriser les liens entre les disciplines.
|Objective 9 Research: turn the environment into an innovation engine
Briefly: bring research into coherent line with the project of a sustainable society; favour inter-disciplinary links.
|Objectif 10 Politique internationale : prendre l’initiative
En bref : ériger en priorité diplomatique le défi écologique et les menaces qui pèsent sur la sécurité mondiale.
|Objective 10 International policy: take the initiative
Briefly: make the ecological challenge and the threat to world security into a diplomatic priority.
The Five Proposals are too long to translate completely, but here's a summary:
- A Vice-Prime Minister (Government Number Two) would be in charge of Sustainable Development.
- A regularly-incremented Carbon Tax.
- Redirect agricultural subsidies towards high-quality agriculture.
- Make participative democracy procedures systematic.
- A major policy of environmental education and information for all.
Nice, if we can get it...
Also see Jérôme's diary, Green Is Rouge