The Yellow Vests movement in France is raising up a vital message: blame the fossil-fuel industry and the rich for the ecological crisis, not ordinary people.
Hundreds of thousands of French protesters have flooded into the streets and the Right is salivating, broadcasting the “Yellow Vest” (gilets jaunes) riots there — sparked by an environmentally framed fuel tax — as definitive proof that the fight for climate action is a losing battle.
Bowing to pressure, Emmanuel Macron’s government agreed to quash the tax and caved to a slew of other demands just last night, with the first installment earning praise from Donald Trump. The Rupert Murdoch–owned Wall Street Journal cast its lot in with the rabble, lauding what it called a “Global Carbon Tax Revolt” as the death knell of an “ecological transition” — scare quotes and all. The timing on theirs and Trump’s end couldn’t be better, as talks to finalize the Paris Agreement enter their second week in Poland — talks Macron will skip to attend to matters at home.
In trying to stir up a conflict between working people and the planet, though, the WSJ ends up raising an uncomfortable truth in spite of itself: “voters don’t believe that climate change justifies policies that would raise their cost of living and hurt the economy.”
Nor should anyone. The enemy here isn’t climate policy, though. It’s neoliberalism.