France just unveiled the biggest European COVID-19 recovery plan to date, according to Prime Minister Jean Castex.
Announced at a press conference in Paris on Thursday and totalling €100 billion — €40 billion of which were allocated from the EU — “France Relance” (France Relaunch) aims to get the French economy back to its pre-crisis level by 2022 with a focus on three key pillars: ecological transition, competitiveness, and social cohesion.
"The ambition and size of this plan are historic," Castex said after a cabinet meeting, adding that its value was the equivalent of 4% of France’s gross domestic product (GDP), and four times larger than the stimulus package put in place after the 2008 crisis.
Stressing its desire to “build the France of 2030”, the French government emphasized the need to make the fight against climate change an integral part of its recovery plan.
Ministers announced a €30 billion investment towards “ecological transition”, including €9 billion in support of the hydrogen industry and renewable energy; €4.7 billion for the state railways; and €6.7 billion on improving insulation in homes and public buildings.
“Our goal is clear: to become Europe's first major carbon-free economy,” the French government said on its website. “These investments will enable France to thrive through sustainable and fair growth.”
In June, President Emmanuel Macron pledged €15 billion to sustainable growth and renewable energy. While the investment came in response to recommendations from the Citizens’ Convention on Climate (CCC), Greenpeace expressed disappointment and said these measures were “ineffective in the face of climate change”.
Now, campaigners are sharing similar sentiments following the announcement of “France Relance”.
“After multiple announcements of a plan meant to ‘reconcile economy and ecology’, the government has presented a recovery plan from a bygone era,” head of Greenpeace France Jean-François Julliard told the Guardian. “It’s a lot less green than it looks.”
As long as the automobile and aviation industries are not held responsible for their contribution to climate change, such plans will continue to miss the mark, Julliard explained to the Guardian.
“Blank cheques have been written to the aviation and automobile sectors… and the government is still kowtowing to the private sector,” he said. “There are €20 billion of tax cuts for industry in the recovery plan that companies will benefit from regardless of their environmental impact, with no green conditions attached.”
As part of its 149 recommendations, the CCC had already urged the government to adopt a series of measures to limit the harmful effects of international and domestic air travel.
About a third of these proposals should be enacted in the coming months — but whether or not this legislation will meet the expectations of climate activists remains to be seen.