Thousands march in France as Macron takes climate plan to Senate

PARIS (AFP) – Tens of thousands of people marched in France on Sunday calling for more ambitious climate action, as French President Emmanuel Macron’s promise to enshrine the fight in the French constitution appeared on the verge of failure.

The initiative to state in the constitution that France “guarantees environmental protection and biological diversity, and combats climate change” originated in a citizen’s body set up by Macron last year.

Seeking the upper hand in what could be a key issue in next year’s election, the president promised a referendum on the bill if it gained approval in both Houses of Parliament.

The National Assembly, where Macron has a majority, overwhelmingly voted in favour of the revision in March.

But yesterday the bill went to the Senate, where the right-wing Republicans hold sway.

Across France, meanwhile, tens of thousands turned out to pressure the government to pass more far-reaching legislation to tackle climate change.

Demonstrators march during a rally against climate change in Paris. PHOTO: AP

“I’m not here to save the planet and three turtles,” one activist, Vanessa, told AFP at the Bordeaux march. “I’m here to save humanity.”

Police said 8,500 people demonstrated in Paris – organisers put the number at 56,000.

Total turnout for 163 marches staged across France was 115,000 according to organisers and more than 46,000 according to police.

Greenpeace, while welcoming some advances, denounced what it said was the “tremendous waste” of the proposed law, which it said seemed more about appearances than real action.

Macron’s office told AFP that the plan to change the constitution was “in no way buried”.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal added that “obviously we want the referendum to happen, this is what the president committed to”.