Opinion

Look to France to see real action on the climate crisis

While we tinker around the climate crisis in Britain and say ‘What if’, the French shrug and say ‘Voila!’ says Big Issue editor Paul McNamee

Climate crisis in France

Demonstrator holds a placard that reads, 'no vaccine for the climate' during a rally against the climate change in Paris on March 28 2021. Image credit: Michel Euler/AP/Shutterstock

The French laid down a marker. Last week they announced they were banning domestic flights that could be travelled by train in under two-and-a-half hours.

It is the first time any major global economy has blocked air travel on environmental grounds.

The policy was an idea that came from the French citizens’ council, a collective gathered by President Macron as a way of showing he was paying attention after the Gilets Jaunes protests.

And clearly France is really listening. While we tinker around in Britain and say ‘What if?’, the French shrug and say ‘Voila!’

To further shake their environmental tail feather at us all, the French are also now set to offer car owners a €2,500 trade-in on their old motors towards an E-bike. They’re not messing around.

The ticking environmental clock means that the time for pleasantries and hand wringing is over. And if the French example illustrates anything, it’s that the public, too, believe in change.

Don’t be hoodwinked by anybody who’ll claim this is elitist greenwashing wokeism, or by those with a vested interest who insist moves such as the French are making will be catastrophic for jobs.

At The Big Issue we understand very well the value of a job.

And we also see the potential for new, longer-term jobs and solid foundations for what is to come. There isn’t really a choice anymore.

The ticking environmental clock means that the time for pleasantries and hand wringing is over

As we look for new futures beyond Covid and as the environmental clock ticks towards midnight, there is no more vital time to welcome this week’s guest editor, Chris Packham, one of Britain’s best, boldest and most influential broadcasting and environmental voices.

Chris doesn’t do things by half. As well as the world’s leading teenage influencer Greta Thunberg and the best spaceman of all, Professor Brian Cox, he has assembled a collection of creators, thinkers, agitators and those who have lit a beacon for change.

And importantly, he provides a guide for what we can all do next. It’s an edition of hope and practical change. It’s an honour to have Chris Packham take charge.

A copy will soon be on the way to Number 10. We’ll sign it ‘Merci’. Can’t let the French steal a march…

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue

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