French President Emmanuel Macron warned last week that France faced “sacrifices” in a new era marked by climate change and instability caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that signaled “the end of abundance.”
After a summer marked by drought, massive wildfires and continuing loss of life in Ukraine, the 44-year-old leader delivered a stark speech at the start of the first cabinet meeting after the country’s traditional August holiday break.
“I believe that we are in the process of living through a tipping point or great upheaval,” Macron said. “Firstly because we are living through the end of what could seem like the end of abundance.”
Referring to the war in Ukraine, he added: “Our system based on freedom in which we have become used to living, sometimes when we need to defend it, it can entail making sacrifices.”
The speech appeared designed to prepare the country for what promises to be a difficult winter ahead, with energy prices rising sharply and many families struggling with inflation.
The severe drought over the summer, leading to water restrictions across most of the country, has also caused many French people to express fears about the increasingly obvious impact of climate change.
“This overview that I’m giving − the end of abundance, the end of insouciance, the end of assumptions − it’s ultimately a tipping point that we are going through that can lead our citizens to feel a lot of anxiety,” Macron said. “Faced with this, we have duties, the first of which is to speak frankly and very clearly without doom-mongering.”
French inflation was clocked at 6.1% last month, one of the lowest rates in Europe thanks to costly government price caps on electricity and gas, as well as tax cuts on petrol and diesel.
“Our measures have worked. Apart from Malta, no one is doing better than us,” government spokesman Olivier Veran said after the cabinet meeting.
But trade unions are pushing for higher wages and have called for a day of strikes and rallies on September 29.
The head of the hard-left CGT union, Philippe Martinez, told BFM television that the president’s speech was “inappropriate,” adding that the poorest were already paying the price of the war and that further sacrifices could not be expected.
“He’ll ask for them and we will oppose them,” Martinez said.