France
French Citizens want a referendum on climate measures

A survey shows that 81% of French adults are in favor of submitting the most important proposals made by the recent Citizens’ Convention on Climate in France to a Referendum. The measures drafted by 150 randomly-selected citizens also find significant approval in French society, with the notable exception of a speed limit on highways. It is now up to the government of Emmanual Macron to prove that they are committed to responding to the demands of the citizens.

The survey, which was commissioned by le Figaro and Fraceinfo and conducted by Odoxa, questioned a representative sample of over 1000 French citizens on their opinions on the Citizens’ Convention on Climate that recently drew to a close.

The French Citizens’ Convention on Climate is a  unique democratic experiment: Over the course of seven weekends, spread over nine months, 150 randomly-selected citizens, representative of the whole of French society, deliberated measures to reduce France’s greenhouse gas emissions with 40%, compared to levels of 1990. They came up with a comprehensive programme of 150 proposals that was submitted for a vote to the French Parliament. The Convention has also called for a referendum to add to the Constitution that, "The Republic guarantees the preservation of biodiversity, the environment and the fight against climate change,” and to introduce the crime of ecocide in the French penal code. 

President Emmanuel Macron had previously committed to submitting the proposals of the citizens of the Convention “without a filter” either to a referendum, to a vote in parliament or for direct regulatory implementation.

The Odoxa survey now shows that a large majority of French citizens are in favor of implementing the measures proposed by the Convention. When asked if they approved of four specific measures, respondents showed that they were clearly in favor of three of them: to integrate the preservation of the environment in the constitution (82%), making the energy-efficient renovation of private buildings obligatory (74%) and to introduce the crime  of ecocide in the penal code (52%). Only lowering the speed limit on highways to 110km/h could not persuade citizens (26%). This was also the most contested proposal at the Citizens’ Convention itself, with only 59% of the 150 members voting in favor of it. 

Six in ten respondents were familiar with the work of the Convention, with older respondents and people living in rural communities being the least likely to have heard of it. 62% of those familiar with the Convention were generally in favor of the measures proposed, they also judged the proposals to be effective and realistic.

On the downside, however, 73% of the French think that the government will only put a small part of these measures in place. An analysis of posts on social media shows a deep-rooted mistrust in the motivations of the government in organising the Convention, with citizens suspecting it to be “a gadget” by President Macron, rather than a sincere attempt to involve citizens in decision-making. 

A large majority (81%) of citizens said that they would be favorable to submitting the most important proposals of the Convention to a referendum and this goes for sympathisers of all political parties in France. The social media analysis of posts related to the Convention, reveals that internet-users in France are worried that even the three referendum questions proposed by the Convention will not be put to the citizens and if they are, will not be followed up on by the government. A large spectrum of posts shows that French citizens feel a need to be heard more by their political leaders and to play a bigger role in political decision-making. It is now up to the parliament, the government and President Macron to prove that they take the French citizens seriously.