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The gap widens between Laurent Wauquiez and environmentalists – POLITICO

With his high waist and his red parka, he has become the unmissable target of the Greens, both associative and political activists. But Laurent Wauquiez pays them back: between them, it’s permanent guerrilla warfare.

Latest episode to date: the refusal of the president of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region to set up the regional energy committee (CRE), called for by the law to accelerate renewable energies.

He opposes the composition proposed by the prefect for a simple reason: France Nature Environnement (FNE) should have a seat there. And too bad if he is the only regional president not to have set it up.

“He designated us as public enemy number one,” regrets Eric Ferraille, the general treasurer of the association, which nevertheless does not pass for the most radical.

“We are being punished,” laments Michel Jarry, the regional president of the association. In the region, we have not had a point of contact for a long time and no longer have access to any subsidies.

“Laurent Wauquiez has a particularity, he makes the fight against ecology a political argument,” jokes a minister. The president of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region plays rurality and the common sense of the fields against declining environmentalists whom he sometimes describes as “ayatollahs”.

Thus, from the first months of his mandate at the head of the region in 2016, he redirected the subsidies granted to ecological and environmentalist associations towards the hunter federations. It has since not renewed any of the region’s agreements with the FNE.

National opposition

At the national level too, he does not hesitate to defy legal obligations. Last fall, he rejected the objective of zero net artificialization (ZAN), voted in 2021 as part of the Climate and Resilience law to encourage land sobriety. He calls it “ruralicide” and promises not to implement it.

A few weeks earlier, three ministers took up their pen to express concern about the region’s financial withdrawal from the France Rénov system, which provides advice on energy renovation.

Laurent Wauquiez justifies these decisions by his opposition to an “ideology of deconstruction” which “only promises (…) degrowth, the multiplication of taxes, prohibitions and standards”, as he lists in a written response sent to POLITICO.

A man of action

Listening to those close to him, he should not trust appearances. Laurent Wauquiez would be a misunderstood ecologist capable of pronouncing magic words like “sustainable mountain” or “environmental patriotism”. Above all, he claims responsibility for his actions.

The stated ambition is to make its region the first territory to be carbon neutral before 2050. It is focusing in particular on green hydrogen, having invested in this sector since 2017.

At the beginning of March, for example, he announced that he wanted to update on solar energy, thanks to the Oser regional investment fund which it intends to recapitalize to the tune of 12 million euros. This should make it possible to go from just over 2 gigawatts installed in the region today to 13 gigawatts by 2050.

At the same time, he delivered the funeral oration for wind energy, declaring that he no longer wanted it on his territory and would cease all financing. The wind industry distorts the landscapes, requires 1,000 tonnes of concrete in the ground per mast and degrades biodiversity, insists its team in the region.

However, this is a subject on which he could find himself in agreement with the FNE, which does not dispute the “not stupid” conclusion of the regional president. Eric Ferraille summarizes: “We are not a windy region, not a region of plains, although we have sunshine. »

A professional in the sector is still choked up: “It’s a strategic error. This turnaround is a political posture: it aligns itself with the positions of the National Rally to try to siphon them off.

Local contradictions

Especially since the “environmental patriotism” of Laurent Wauquiez is struggling to be implemented, underline the elected environmentalists. “In solar, we had two flagships, Photowatt and Ferropem, but he did nothing to save them even though there was reason to create a sector,” accuses the head of the group in the region, Fabienne Grébert.

“We also had a company like Carbon which was looking for land for its gigaplant but we couldn’t find any, even though the head office is 200 meters from the regional one,” she adds.

A Carbon representative is more diplomatic: “We first looked for a site in Auvergne Rhône-Alpes but there was no turnkey site of 50 hectares. It was not a question of ill will on either side.

There gigaplant will finally be established in Fos-sur-Mer, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, which rolled out the “red carpet” for the project, according to Fabienne Grébert.

On the mountain too, the green elected officials regret the choice of the regional council. They readily rely on a report from the regional chamber of accounts from last February which points to “the choice of a strategy of adaptation to climate change central to securing snow production” and which leaves only one place “marginal to investments linked to the diversification of tourist activities”.

“We refuse the impasse of far-left environmentalism which operates ideologically and which consists of stopping all activity under the pretext of saving the mountain,” we respond to the region.

Two methods, the same objective

On the opposition to wind turbines or the reluctance to land sobriety, Laurent Wauquiez does not differ from the opinions of Xavier Bertrand, his counterpart in Hauts-de-France – and opponent announced to lead the right in the presidential election of 2027. But the method differs.

Xavier Bertrand was thus among the first ministers to appoint his regional energy committee, not without offering a seat to Bénédicte Coste Leclerc de Hauteclocque, president of the Stop Éoliennes Hauts-de-France Federation.

And if he is full of criticisms about the implementation of the ZAN objective, he does not “oppose” its implementation, as he confided to POLITICO in January.

In Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, after its autumn heatwave, Laurent Wauquiez has found his winter sanity. In a letter sent to elected officials, he announced his return to the ZAN system, welcoming an “important reflection” from Minister Christophe Béchu.

Developments which are neither specific to the region nor new, retorts the minister’s office. Since then, the Ministry of Ecological Transition has been playing “reconciliation”, says an advisor, and does not want to “rob” Laurent Wauquiez.

But if the government believes that the regional president has converted, it is seriously mistaken. The president’s team timely recalls Bruno Le Maire’s recent anti-ZAN attempts to strip an anti-industry ZAN and promises that the regional council “continues its discussions with the Ministry (of Ecological Transition) to try to limit the impact of this bureaucratic text on our territories”. A text that would be worthy of “Kafkaesque” logic.

Between Laurent Wauquiez and ecology, it is still time for trial.


Sara Adm

Aimant les mots, Sara Smith a commencé à écrire dès son plus jeune âge. En tant qu'éditeur en chef de son journal scolaire, il met en valeur ses compétences en racontant des récits impactants. Smith a ensuite étudié le journalisme à l'université Columbia, où il est diplômé en tête de sa classe.Après avoir étudié au New York Times, Sara décroche un poste de journaliste de nouvelles. Depuis dix ans, il a couvert des événements majeurs tels que les élections présidentielles et les catastrophes naturelles. Il a été acclamé pour sa capacité à créer des récits captivants qui capturent l'expérience humaine.
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