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ENVIRONMENT

France to ban controversial weedkiller ‘within three years’ despite EU vote

French president Emmanuel Macron has vowed to ban the use of controversial weedkiller glyphosate within three years, despite the EU voting to renew its license for a further five years on Monday.

France to ban controversial weedkiller 'within three years' despite EU vote
Photo: AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that he has asked the French government to look for alternative pesticides and ban glyphosate in France
within three years.

“I have asked the government to make the necessary arrangements so that the use of glyphosate is prohibited in France as soon as alternatives have been found, and at the latest within three years,” Macron said, via Twitter.

Paris will also lobby for the EU to change the way it determines the safety of chemical products, the prime minister's office told AFP.

But earlier EU countries broke months of deadlock on Monday when they voted to renew the licence for the controversial weedkiller glyphosate for five years after heavyweight Germany surprisingly voted in favour despite health concerns.

With the bloc's largest population, Germany's change of heart was instrumental in ending the stalemate within the 28-nation union over the fate of the pesticide, which some critics fear causes cancer.

But its U-turn appeared also to reveal extraordinary tensions in Chancellor Angela Merkel's efforts to form a new governing coalition, after a minister in
Berlin said German officials in Brussels had disobeyed direct orders to abstain on the vote.

Glyphosate was introduced in 1974 by US agro-giant Monsanto under the brand-name Roundup. A WHO study found it was “probably carcinogenic” but later studies have disagreed.

Eighteen of the 28 EU states voted in favour of the European Commission's proposal for a five-year renewal, with nine including France voting against,
and one abstaining.

“Today's vote shows that when we all want to, we are able to share and accept our collective responsibility in decision making,” EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said in a statement.

CLIMATE CRISIS

Scorching summer was France’s second hottest on record

Three heatwaves since June produced France's second-hottest summer since records began in 1900, the Météo France weather service said on Tuesday, warning that scorching temperatures will be increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

Scorching summer was France's second hottest on record

With 33 days of extreme heat overall, average temperatures for June, July and August were 2.3C above normal for the period of 1991-2020.

It was surpassed only by the 2003 heatwave that caught much of France unprepared for prolonged scorching conditions, leading to nearly 15,000 heat-related deaths, mainly among the elderly.

Data is not yet available for heat-related deaths this summer, but it is likely to be significantly lower than 15,000 thanks to preventative measures taken by local and national authorities. 

Most experts attribute the rising temperatures to the climate crisis, with Météo France noting that over the past eight summers in France, six have been among the 10-hottest ever.

By 2050, “we expect that around half of summer seasons will be at comparable temperatures, if not higher,” even if greenhouse gas emissions are contained, the agency’s research director Samuel Morin said at a press conference.

The heat helped drive a series of wildfires across France this summer, in particular a huge blaze in the southwest that burned for more than a month and blackened 20,000 hectares. 

Unusually, wildfires also broke out even in the normally cooler north of the country, and in total an area five times the size of Paris burned over the summer. 

Adding to the misery was a record drought that required widespread limits on water use, with July the driest month since 1961 – many areas still have water restrictions in place.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Forecasters have also warned that autumn storms around the Mediterranean – a regular event as air temperatures cool – will be unusually intense this year because of the very high summer temperatures. A storm that hit the island of Corsica in mid August claimed six lives. 

“The summer we’ve just been through is a powerful call to order,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday, laying out her priorities for an “ecological planning” programme to guide France’s efforts against climate change.

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