Comments by members of the French Citizen Climate Convention

Thomas Baïetto of Franceinfo has talked to 9 members of the French Citizen Climate Convention and reports their comments about their work.

Sylvain, a 45 year old Parisian marketing manager, says that before he was allotted he used to be “a cynical Parisian” rahter than an environmental activist. He does not hide his enthusiasm about this assembly of “citizen superheros, somewhere between Jaurès and Léon Blum” and about its complex mission.

“I was skeptical at first. I was thinking that these 150 people, if there were as ignorant as I am , that is going to be difficult,” says Grégoire, 31 year old from Caen. The first months of work, spread over a several weekend sessions in Paris, have convinced him that there is a possibility of formulating proposals that are “strong, powerful and acceptable by the population.”

“It is absorbing, very interesting, and very instructive. I do it with pleasure, it is not a burden at all. Contrary to what many think, we are neither manipulated, nor managed,” say Francine, a 70 year old retiree from Manosque (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence).

“There are days where I leaving saying to myself: “Nothing will come of this,” says Agnes, aged 42. This compensation manager from L’Haÿ-les-roses (Val-de-Marne) talks about a roller-coaster between peaks of optimism and chasms of worry about the breadth of the task.

Guy, 60 year old retiree from Limousin, regrets the absence of discussion among the 150 members and the interaction with the invited speakers. “We are supposed to interview them. That is a term I find a bit exaggerated. Experts present their work to us, but we are not qualified sufficiently on the subjects in order to pose technical and precise questions to them,” he opines.

Marie-Josée, a 65 year old retiree, who told L’Obs at the outset that she was afraid of being remote-controlled by the government, has not completely shook off this concern. “It may be a bit nasty to say “remote-controlled”, but this convention is nevertheless arranged by the government, with its agenda and data provided by the government,” she points out.

Angela, 46 year old from Moissy-Cramayel (Seine-et-Marne), does not want the government to use the work of the convention to reintroduce the carbon tax, which as triggered the Gilets Jaunes movement. “We hear a lot of talk about this by the speakers and the moderators. It is out of the question that we impose a tax on the the citizens.”

Muriel, a 47 year old occasional show-business worker from Toulouse, regrets that her request to interview the astrophysicist Aurélien Barrau – “someone who rattles people” and “who should be on the 8 o’clock news” – was not accepted. She is also unhappy about the work-groups that thinks are too big and which “target the citizens and not the industries”.

A climatic slap in the face

All the members who were interviewed agreed that the participation in this climatic crash course has been “a slap in the face”. “It was a real shock. The first session was dumbfounding. I remember two figures: a French-person emits 11 tons of CO2 every year. In order to meet the Paris accord, it is necessary to reduce this to 2 tons by 2050”, says William, an 33 year old architect from Nantes. Sylvain remembered the 10 billion peoples that “we will not be able to feed” and the 300 million climate refugees. “We are going to figure things out. We are up against a wall,” he worries.

Some, like Guy, have been affected emotionally. “The Monday following the first session I had a little depression. I felt completely lost,” says this grandfather, thinking of his seven grandchildren who “are going to live through those problems that are coming”. Others decided to change their habits: Agnes decided not to buy an SUV, which are particularly pollution, William will not fly to Berlin.

“I hope that our measures will be voted upon and applied,” says Angela. Muriel is unsure. She is waiting to see if there will be “a link between the words and the actions”. Francine is apprehensive about the way the proposals will be received by public opinion: “What worries me is that people will not feel concerned by the climatic urgency”. Sylvain hopes that the convention will not be a wet firecracker but will rather a point of real change.”

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