Jean Pisani-Ferry was one of the main architects of Emmanuel Macron’s platform for the 2017 presidential election. A close friend of Macron, the former general commissioner of France Strategy, a government-funded policy discussion body, sounds the alarm on France’s environmental challenges and their economic and social consequences. In a report published on Monday, May 22, the economist calls for debt to support the climate transition and advocates a specific tax on the assets of the wealthiest. “The economic cost of the climate transition will only be accepted if the sacrifices are fairly distributed,” he said in an interview with The world.
In your report, you come up with a very gloomy assessment of adaptation to climate issues, referring to the “decade of all difficulties.” Can we still be optimistic on the issue?
If we want to meet the goal of a 55% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, we will have to do in 10 years what we barely did in 30. That gives you an idea of the acceleration that is needed! Initially, the climate transition will not create wealth: On the contrary, it is a negative economic shock. Beyond 2030, there are reasons to be optimistic: The fall in the cost of renewable energies shows that dependence on fossil fuels has long distracted us from technical progress, which was only waiting to be awakened. There will be economic and welfare gains. But in the meantime, we face a wall that must be climbed. Let’s not hide the reality of the difficulties. We are talking of a real industrial revolution and the job is far from done. We can also see this elsewhere, such as in Germany, with the automotive industry fretting over the scheduled end of the combustion engine in 2035.
“This five-year term will be green, or it will not be,” Macron said in Marseille a year ago during the presidential campaign. Have we lost time?
Between 2017 and 2022, we did. Macron’s first term began with the idea that carbon taxation would do the job but the government had to back down with the Yellow Vests. Then the Citizens Convention for Climate made practical proposals [in mid-2020] but without evaluating them against the set objectives. We went from “we’ll do everything through prices” to “we’ll do everything through practical measures.” Neither one works.
Since 2022, work has been done, particularly at the level of a General Secretariat for Environmental Planning [attached to the office of the French prime minister]. Still, political decisions have not yet been taken. We are not on the path to carbon neutrality by 2050. The government has to decide on the breakdown of actions over time, on the extent of support for households and on the assistance to be provided for the transition with regard to the labor market and skills . This requires planning over 30 years.
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