The referendum on the environment proposed by Emmanuel Macron, a “political maneuver” for the constitutionalist Philippe Derosier

After three and a half hours of discussions in front of the Citizen’s Climate Convention, the Head of State, Emmanuel Macron, announced on Monday a future referendum to include the guarantee of the preservation of the environment and biodiversity in the Constitution , thus taking up one of his proposals. “We are still in the political maneuver, it is a symbolic measure”, reacted this Tuesday on franceinfo, Jean-Philippe Derosier, constitutionalist and professor of public law at the University of Lille.

franceinfo: Parliament must validate this referendum, so it is not won?

Jean-Philippe Derosier: It is even very far from being won. The way to make this referendum is the way of article 89 of the Constitution, because it is a constitutional referendum. And this constitutional referendum presupposes a preliminary agreement between the National Assembly and the Senate on an identical text, before the referendum can be called and the people vote. However, we are in a context where the Senate, in particular, is not really prepared to give a gift to the Head of State. We are entering a context of first regional and departmental campaign, but above all presidential campaign. We know that the Senate is politically opposed to the Head of State. If he agreed with the National Assembly to make this agreement on the text, then this referendum, it would be supporting Emmanuel Macron. I am pretty sure he will find a loophole to say that now is not the right time, that there are other concerns to be had, especially in terms of economic recovery. All the more so since what the Head of State proposes to include in the Constitution already exists with the Environmental Charter which was integrated almost fifteen years ago.

Is it a political bet, a way to put pressure on elected officials?

It is a political bet. It is even a political maneuver and this is where we must be vigilant because the Constitution cannot be the game of political maneuvers. We can use it, use the law to make this type of maneuver, to implement the policy that we can lead. But the Constitution is the basic common standard on which, precisely, we must agree beyond partisan divisions. That is why there is this procedure which imposes agreement on Parliament. While there Emmanuel Macron wants to use it to make this maneuver, to put this pressure and put the Senate in front of its responsibilities. There is already an environmental charter.

What will this new environmental mention in article 1 of the Constitution concretely change?

It will be a symbolic measure, we are still in the political maneuver. Article 1, as its name suggests, is the first article of the Constitution. It contains the first words that will mark the Constitution. It is a strong symbol, it is indisputable, but it remains a symbol. The fight against global warming and biodiversity do not appear as such in the Environmental Charter. However, there are two articles in it, one concerning the right to live in a balanced environment which respects health, and the duty to take part in the protection and improvement of the environment. According to a decision of the Constitutional Council made on Thursday, December 10, the legislator cannot go against these two articles and cannot take measures that would not participate in this improvement of the environment. This means that in reality, the protection and improvement of the environment, the fight against global warming, are already in the Constitution.

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