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What the papers said 13th September 2018

rfi English, Sep 13

A climate conference in San Francisco hears that local leaders can do more than presidents to save the planet; can Emmanuel Macron save the economy; and how worried should Hungary be about the decision by Europe to sanction the government of Viktor Orban?

In yet another gas-fired effort to save the planet, 4,500 city mayors, regional administrators, business leaders and non-governmental organisations met yesterday in San Francisco to tell the politicians that more needs to be done to slow global warming.

Four thousand five hundred delegates is a lot of airline seats. But let's not be picky, that's pollution in a good cause.

Le Monde gives the event, the first World Summit for Climate Action, front-page coverage.

The point of the talk-in was to stress that local green initiatives are, finally, more important that national decisions.

Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles and a Democrat, told the assembled faithful that local leaders were more important than the man in the White House, news which is sure to provoke a Twitter storm from the current man in the White House.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo told the delegates that they need to be radical and that they do have the power to change things, notably in the areas of public transport, recycling, waste treatment and the insulation of buildings.

Somebody better do something. Thanks to the policies of US President Donald Trump, who abandoned of the Paris climate agreement, the efforts of the United States to slow global air pollution are now dangerously off target. Put simply, as things stand, America will miss by more than one third the 2025 target established in Paris as the basic minimum.

The good news is that several US cities, most of them run by Democrats, have actually improved their pollution profiles since the president announced Washington's decision to burn the Paris agreement.

Disappointing growth slows economic revival

Emmanuel Macron is at the top of the front page of Le Monde, struggling to get the economy running smoothly again, and being hampered by, well, the economy.

French economic growth is not, alas, going to be as good as had been forecast. Which makes the organisation of the next budget a delicate and politically dangerous task.

Already the government has had to admit that the public debt next year will be more than hoped for. Unemployment figures remain stable, job creation is down, inflation is up, and business confidence is looking the other way, blankly.

The fixed-smile optimists at the finance ministry say it's just an air pocket, a temporary fall which will surely be reversed once government measures to boost spending power work through to the economic growth statistics.

The political opposition say it's a disaster, and all the fault of Emmanuel Macron.

Europe gets tough with Viktor Orban

Right-wing daily Le Figaro wonders how worried Hungary should be about the decision by the European Union to sanction the government of Viktor Orban.

Not very worried, would seem to be the simple answer.

Orban has had his knuckles rapped for, basically, refusing to play the democratic game, acting too much like an old-style dictator. He now faces seeing Hungary lose its voting rights at the European Parliament.

Viktor Orban has based his rise to power on a vehement detestation of European unity, of immigrants, of weak-kneed non-governmental organisation, of a free press and an independent judiciary. So he's hardly going to lose too much sleep over the latest EU decision.

Especially since the sanction remains purely symbolic for the moment and is virtually certain, according to Le Figaro, to be vetoed in the long run by Poland, Austria and Italy, all of whom share Orban's concerns about immigration.

Europe, however, does have a problem.

What if, asks Le Figaro, Orban emerges from the flames of sanction as the flag-bearer of the hoards of European nationalists who, in Italy, Austria and in Bavaria, see themselves as the front line in a battle to save Christian Europe from Islamic invasion?

What if Viktor Orban decides to strengthen relations with Russia's Vladimir Putin, himself no fan of the European project?

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