14 April, 2007
With the first round of the French presidential elections coming up on 22 April, the Economist this weekend features a lead article anointing Nicolas Sarkozy as France’s great hope for reform. Unfortunately, the Economist’s definition of reforms (“to get the economy growing faster”) lacks any awareness of the real challenge our “spaceship Earth” faces: to redefine and redistribute prosperity now that we are facing the threat of new economic scarcity (marked by climate change and declining natural capital).
The real important issues of the 21st century have been remarkably absent in the French presidential campaign. Except for the politically naïve “Pacte Ecologique” campaign by TV media star Nicolas Hulot, climate change and energy insecurity as symptoms of an ill-defined progress have played no part in the positioning of the main contenders for the throne. They all “talked the talk” knowing very well that “greenness” these days is a fashionable but it is very questionable whether any of them will remember his or her ” green” days once in the Elysée.
Make no mistake: I am not saying the Economist is completely wrong. France (just as other countries) is in need of fundamental reform. The labour market, liberalisation and tax reforms advocated by the magazine are valid battle horses, but they need to be redefined as part of a new sustainable development agenda and not as old remedies from a past long gone.
The days of classical economic growth based on cheap natural resources are over. Now is the time for smarter, more equitable and ecological development!
BTW: the French Alliance pour la Planète has (over-)rated the presidential candidates.Author : Willy De Backer