What’s in France’s New Climate Law

France train
High-speed train in France (Adobe Stock/Chlorophylle)

French lawmakers adopted a far-reaching climate law this week that puts the country on track to meet its Paris commitment of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

That is short of the 55-percent cut the European Commission has proposed in its “Green Deal”, which has yet to be approved by member states.

The French measures do align with the EU’s new Common Agricultural Policy, which sets aside 20 to 25 percent of funding for “eco-schemes”, which can range from organic farms to forests and wetlands being retained for carbon sequestration.

Some of the policies flow from the citizen consultations President Emmanuel Macron held across France in the wake of the 2018 Yellow Vests protests, which were sparked by a rise in gasoline tax.

Here is an overview. Read more “What’s in France’s New Climate Law”

The EU’s Farm Deal, Explained

France cow
A cow in Nantes, France (Unsplash/Mathieu Odin)

Nobody is happy with the EU’s new farms policy. Greens argue ambitions for biodiversity and sustainability are too low. Agricultural groups complain they are too high, and farmers will receive lower subsidies to boot.

Which suggests the compromise — the outcome of two years of negotiations — may not be unreasonable.

Here are the most important things to know. Read more “The EU’s Farm Deal, Explained”

Italy Joins Trump in Resisting Canadian Trade

Italy has learned from Donald Trump that Canada is now the enemy of the West.

In an interview with the newspaper La Stampa, the country’s new agriculture minister, Gian Marco Centinaio of the far-right League, said he would ask parliament not to ratify the trade agreement the EU negotiated with Canada in 2016.

Without ratification by all 28 member states, the treaty cannot go into effect for the entire European Union. Read more “Italy Joins Trump in Resisting Canadian Trade”

Macron Breaks Taboo, Spain Makes Gibraltar Demands

Emmanuel Macron touched one third rail of French politics and didn’t die: labor reform. Now he is grabbing the other: agriculture.

French farmers rely heavily on EU agricultural subsidies and are generally less innovative (defenders would say more traditional) than their peers in Germany and the Netherlands, the two largest exporters of agricultural goods in Europe.

Macron has already opened the door to subsidy reform, arguing that, due to Brexit, cuts are inevitable.

At the same time, he has promised €5 billion in public investments to kickstart a “cultural revolution” in the sector.

That may not be enough to convince skeptical farmers while cutting EU subsidies will run into opposition from Italy, Poland and Spain. But it’s a start. Read more “Macron Breaks Taboo, Spain Makes Gibraltar Demands”

By Promoting Autarky, Russia Condemns Its People to Poverty

Following Russian sanctions banning the import of most farm products from Europe and North America, Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev on Tuesday suggested the country should become agriculturally self-sufficient. This foolish longing for autarky does not bode well for the country, already teetering on the brink of recession.

On a visit to Pyatigorsk in the North Caucasus, Medvedev promised a new food program for Russia that would boost state investments in agriculture to end its dependence on imports.

The Russian import ban was itself a response to Western sanctions enacted against banks and energy companies following the downing of a passenger airliner over the east of Ukraine last month for which European countries and the United States blame pro-Russian separatists. Russia denies Western accusations that it backs the Ukrainian uprising even as Russian weapons have found their way into country — possibly including the advanced missile launchers needed to intercept an airplane at high altitude.

The uprising in Ukraine has sparked the worst crisis in East-West relations since the end of the Cold War and threatens to reverse at least part of the economic integration that has taken place between Russia and the West since then. Both sides now prioritize geopolitical imperatives over economic wellbeing — but only Russia seems to welcome the opportunity to withdraw itself from international trade. Read more “By Promoting Autarky, Russia Condemns Its People to Poverty”

Russia Retaliates Against Western Sanctions, Economy on the Brink

Russia on Wednesday suspended beef and cattle imports from Romania. While it cited an outbreak of mad cow disease in the former Soviet satellite state — first reported in July — the timing of the embargo suggests it was enacted in retaliations against Western sanctions.

A day earlier, Russia announced it would sue German defense contractor Rheinmetall after the company was forced to cancel a €100 million contract to export combat simulation and training equipment to the Russian army.

The Russian business daily Vedomosti reported the same day that the country may restrict or ban European airlines from flying over Siberia — which would make flights to Asia take longer and require more fuel.

Russia earlier banned dairy products and juice from Ukraine, vegetables from Poland and beef from Australia. Read more “Russia Retaliates Against Western Sanctions, Economy on the Brink”

Fueled by Green Policy, Corn Production Hurts Environment

While federal ethanol subsidies expired last year, the Obama Administration’s strict clean fuel standards still give farmers across the United States an incentive to plant corn — to the detriment of the environment.

The Associated Press reports that “across the Dakotas and Nebraska, more than one million acres of the Great Plains are giving way to cornfields as farmers transform the wild expanse that once served as the backdrop for American pioneers.”

The physical expansion of the American Midwest, the world’s largest contiguous piece of farmland, is fueled by a green energy policy that requires oil companies to blend billions of gallons of corn ethanol into their gasoline, keeping prices high. Read more “Fueled by Green Policy, Corn Production Hurts Environment”

European Union Finalizes Trade Deal with Canada

Canada and the European Union cleared the way toward ratification of a comprehensive trade agreement on Friday although France, which is stalling talks for a similar pact with the United States, signaled some reservations about the influx of Canadian beef.

“I am waiting for confirmation from the commission that this accord, particularly in agriculture, does not set a precedent for talks with the United States,” said France’s trade minister Nicole Bricq at a meeting with her European counterparts in Luxembourg.

The deal with Canada, which eliminates tariffs on almost all goods and services and is expected to increase bilateral trade by more than €25 billion per year, will give French cheese makers easier access to markets across the Atlantic. Canada’s dairy industry had resisted raising the quota for European imports but the provincial government of Quebec, which produces half of the country’s cheese, said Prime Minister Stephen Harper had agreed to compensate producers for any losses they suffered as a result of the treaty.

“This is the biggest deal our country has ever made,” Harper said in Brussels, adding that it outstripped the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, Mexico and the United States. Read more “European Union Finalizes Trade Deal with Canada”

North Korea Plans to Liberalize Agriculture, Slightly

Is North Korea coming to terms with economic reality? Officials deny it but announced agricultural reforms suggest it is.

Last week, North Korea’s state news agency denounced speculation of change in the country as “foolish” while quoting a spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, one of the North’s bodies responsible for relations with the South, who said rumors to the effect were “ridiculous rhetoric” spread with “sinister intent.”

North Korea watchers have noted changes in the way the regime presents itself to the world since Kim Jong-un took over as leader from his father Kim Jong-il in December of last year. The young Kim seems more susceptible to Western influences and has apparently curtailed the power of the army in favor of the party which would represent a shift from military to civilian rule. Read more “North Korea Plans to Liberalize Agriculture, Slightly”