France promises green revolution

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, has put a moratorium on the growing of genetically-modified crops and has announced plans to ban energy-wasting lightbulbs along with a raft of other concessions to the environment in a move which is supposed to put France in the vanguard of 'green' states on the international stage.

Speaking at the end of a major conference which brought together politicians, business people and environmental activists, Mr Sarkozy pledged to lead a green revolution.

While his speech was full of good intentions, concrete promises were thin on the ground.

He did say GMOs would be banned, though it was unclear whether this would be a permanent measure or a temporary moratorium to allow for further investigation into their potential environmental impact.

He also said France would aim to phase out all incandescent lightbulbs by 2010, nine years earlier than the European industry’s own self-imposed targets.

Perhaps most importantly, he hinted at a shift in political culture which would see France’s institutions adopt the precautionary principle when dealing with potential environmental threats – rather than expect those opposed to a practice to prove it could be harmful, those proposing ecologically destructive decisions will need to prove there is no other choice.

Environmentalists have expressed disappointment that there was no suggestion that France would reduce its reliance on nuclear power generation and that action on transport, a major source of emissions for the country, looked likely to be limited.

Mr Sarkozy called for more use of train transport, and better fuel efficiency for cars but there were no firm proposals on how this might be encouraged.

While the President’s speech was lacking in detail, it did spell out a change in emphasis from his administration and if the rhetoric translates into action then France could soon be on the way to becoming a world leader in sustainable development.

Sam Bond

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