French election sparks relief for scientists, hope on climate change reform

Following a second round of voting over the weekend in a snap election called by President Emmanuel Macron, France’s left-wing New Popular Front has secured a leading plurality of seats in parliament. Defeating Marine Le Pen‘s far-right National Rally party, the shocking victory has reportedly elicited a wave of relief among the country’s leading climate scientists. While further political uncertainty remains, and no group secured an outright majority of National Assembly seats, the implementation of science-hostile policies promoted heavily by National Rally candidates appears to be, for now, unlikely.

“We have avoided a catastrophe,” said Alain Fischer, president of the French Academy of Sciences, in a Monday interview with Nature. “It can now be hoped that international scientists will continue to work in France … We do not know who will govern, but I don’t expect there to be much change in policy for us. Science and education were absent from the European and French parliamentary election campaigns, and budget constraints mean that research will not be a priority.”

Champa Patel, executive director for Governments and Policy at Climate Group, emphasized the need to protect the European Union’s Green Deal, a set of proposals aiming to create the first climate-neutral continent — and to stay on track in reaching the 2030 climate goals established by the French High Council for the Climate. 

”The New Popular Front’s and Ensemble’s victory in the French parliamentary elections brings some relief from the threat of an ascendant far right in France. But no party has won an absolute majority. As we wait to see how the political pieces land, it is critical that parties commit to safeguarding the EU Green Deal and ensuring a sustainable future for the continent,” Patel said in a Monday statement.

France is Europe’s third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, and the National Rally party previously proposed a spate of policies that would have reversed several French commitments to European Union climate goals.

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