Macron talks up green credentials ahead of French election

French President Emmanuel Macron promised to put the environment at the heart of his government if he is re-elected next weekend, in a speech in southern France on Saturday designed to appeal to young and green-minded voters.

Macron talks up green credentials ahead of French election
France's President and La Republique en Marche (LREM) candidate for re-election Emmanuel Macron (C) gestures, surrounded by supporters, at the end of an election campaign meeting in Marseille, southern France on April 16, 2022, ahead of the second round of voting in France's presidential election. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

Macron held a major rally in the port city of Marseille while his rival, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, visited a village west of Paris.

Polls show Macron stretching his lead over Le Pen, with a fresh survey on Saturday by Ipsos Sopra/Steria suggesting that Macron would triumph with 55.5 percent versus 44.5 percent for Le Pen. 

“I hear the anxiety that exists in a lot of our young people. I see young people, adolescents, who are fearful about the future of our planet,” Macron told the rally.

He said a “powerful message” had been sent in the first round of elections on April 10, when nearly eight million voters backed hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon and his ecology-heavy programme.

 “It’s up to us to react and up to us to take action,” Macron said.

As well as promising to make France “the first major nation to abandon gas, oil and coal”, Macron said he would appoint a prime minister who would be formally tasked with “ecological planning”.

He also promised new investments in renewable technologies, energy-saving residential renovations and organic food production, while pledging crackdowns on air pollution and single-use plastics.

The speech was a clear pitch to the young and left-wing voters who backed Melenchon and other candidates in the first round and will be crucial in the second round on April 24.

Some of them are expected to back Macron, with others drifting to Le Pen or abstaining.

Extinction Rebellion activists hold placards with the logo at a protest in Paris

Activists from climate change action group Extinction Rebellion block Paris’ Grands Boulevards during a demonstration on April 16 2022. (Photo by JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP)

Several hundred activists from the Extinction Rebellion climate activist group blocked a main road in the centre of Paris on Saturday to denounce the “inaction” of French leaders.

“This world is dying. Let’s build the next one,” read one large banner held by protesters.

Le Pen meanwhile was touring the village of Saint Remy-sur-Avre, about an hour and half’s drive west of the capital, where she came top in last weekend’s first round. 

After hearing complaints about the loss of hospital beds and bus services locally, she promised to “govern the country like a mother, with common sense” and to defend “the most vulnerable”.

She has sought to moderate her image during campaigning this year, stressing her proposed solutions to rising living costs rather than her usual topics of immigration and Islam.

Protestors holds a banner reading ‘no to the far-right, for justice and equality’ during a demonstration ‘against racism and fascism’ near Marseille’s prefecture in southern France, on April 16, 2022. (Photo by CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP)

Rallies against the far-right were staged in around 30 cities on Saturday, attended by hundreds of people holding placards reading “No to racism”.

READ ALSO: IN PICTURES: Thousands of people take part in anti-fascism protests across France

Le Pen has faced repeated questions this week about her proposed ban on the Islamic headscarf in public places, which she has said will be punished with fines by the police.

The 52-year-old mother-of-three admitted on Saturday it was a “complex problem” and would be discussed by parliament if she won.

But “we need to resolve the problem of women who are obliged to wear it under pressure from Islamists”, she said.

She has also sought to appeal to left-wing voters, who she will need in order to defeat Macron, a centrist who won the presidency standing in his first election in 2017.

“Come out and vote. We are speaking to all the French. We hold out a firm hand but one of friendship and respect,” she told a rally in the southern city of Avignon on Thursday evening.


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France proposes getting rid of penalties for ‘minor’ speeding offences

The French government is considering changing speeding laws so that drivers will not lose points on their licence if they are caught going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

France proposes getting rid of penalties for 'minor' speeding offences

France’s Interior Ministry is considering changing its current rules for minor speeding violations – proposing getting rid of the penalty for drivers who only violate the rule by going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

The Ministry has not laid out a timeline for when this could come into effect, but they said they are currently in the preliminary stages of studying how the change could be carried out.

“The fine of course remains,” said the Interior Ministry to French daily Le Parisien.

That is to say you can still be fined for going five kilometres over the speed limit, but there might not be any more lost points for driving a couple kilometres over the posted limit. 

READ ALSO These are the offences that can cost you points on your driving licence

Of the 13 million speeding tickets issued each year in France, 58 percent are for speeding violations of less than 5 km per hour over the limit, with many coming from automated radar machines.

How does the current rule work?

The rule itself is already a bit flexible, depending on where the speeding violation occurs.

If the violation happens in an urban area or low-speed zone (under 50 km per hour limit), then it is considered a 4th class offence, which involves a fixed fine of €135. Drivers can also lose a point on their licences as a penalty for this offence. 

Whereas, on highways and high-speed roads, the consequences of speeding by 5 km per hour are less severe. The offence is only considered 3rd class, which means the fixed fine is €68. There is still the possibility of losing a point on your licence, however. 

How do people feel about this?

Pierre Chasseray, a representative from the organisation “40 Millions d’Automobilistes,” thinks the government should do away with all penalties for minor speeding offences, including fines. He told French daily Le Parisien that this is only a “first step.”

Meanwhile, others are concerned that the move to get rid of points-deductions could end up encouraging people to speed, as they’ll think there is no longer any consequence.

To avoid being accused of carelessness, France’s Interior Ministry is also promising to become “firmer” with regards to people who use other people’s licences in order to get out of losing points – say by sending their spouse’s or grandmother’s instead of their own after being caught speeding. The Interior Ministry plans to digitalise license and registration in an effort to combat this. 

Ultimately, if you are worried about running out of points on your licence, there are still ways to recover them.

You can recover your points after six months of driving without committing any other offences, and there are also awareness training courses that allow you to gain your points back. It should be noted, however, that these trainings typically cost between €150 and €250, and they do not allow you to regain more than four points.