French president calls for environmental protection to be enshrined in the constitution
In his largest ever speech on the environment, President Jacques Chirac called for the right to a protected environment to be placed on a par with civil liberty.
Chirac announced in the speech in Orléans that in the last decade environmental concerns had become a part of everyday life, citing “the uncontrolled spread of GMOs” as one such phenomenon and called for five defining measures of environmental protection to be “inscribed by Parliament in a Charter of the Environment backed up by the constitution”: responsibility; precaution; integration; prevention and participation.
On assuming responsibility, Chirac called for greater use of the polluter-pays principal to be applied to all from drivers to farmers and acknowledged that France is “far too lax in enforcing environmental laws”. GMOs are one area where precaution should be exercised the president said.
On the integration of environmental policy, Chirac called for a “green audit” of all governmental departments annually, with a cost to the environment of each piece of legislation to be clearly announced. On participation, children should be taught about environmental protection from primary school age and more open public enquiries on matters affecting the environment at a local level carried out, he said.
Chirac cited the growth of forest cover through sound management policy and the governance of water basins as evidence of areas where France provides an environmental lead to others, but highlighted other areas which need sound new policy. Water charges are too high while the contamination of groundwater, particularly by agriculture, which needs to clean up its act generally on the environment, is increasing. Noise and air pollution need tighter control, with regional planning for the latter, the president said. He called for less reliance on transport of freight by lorry and integrated methods such as rail and water to be used. A European maritime security force should also be established to combat pollution. The public must also be fundamentally re-educated on the need to cut down on household waste and recycle.
On energy, France needs to make far more use of renewables, especially biofuel, which has great potential in agriculture, Chirac said. He paid tribute to nuclear power for limiting greenhouse gas emissions, calling it “necessary, but not a universal solution”. The Kyoto Protocol should be ratified and warned the United States that it would pay a heavy price if it failed to play its part.
Europe should assume a pioneering role in global environmental diplomacy, be more generous in assisting sustainable development in poorer nations and should help form a World Environment Organisation, on a par with that for health. A national debate is essential for future plans to be evolved, he concluded.