French president puts environment first

– Macron pushes efforts toward preservation with establishment of new agency, additional measures

By Cindi Cook

PARIS (AA) – President Emmanuel Macron concluded a week of initiatives that will help make 2020, in his words, a "decisive" year for the environment.

Macron announced the establishment of the French Office of Biodiversity (OFB), a new government agency that is charged with monitoring and restoring the French environment.

His efforts come after a key visit to Mont Blanc on Thursday, Western Europe's highest peak and France's celebrated mountain in Chamonix. Macron pledged to establish a protected nature reserve at its base. In the past few years, rising tourism has caused increased pollution on and off the mountain.

The president said the goal of biodiversity is "a fight for our own survival." His efforts come at a time of expanded awareness within France — as well as on a global level — of the need for proactively safeguarding the environment.

Thursday morning Macron visited Mer de Glace, France's largest glacier that sits atop Mont Blanc. In recent years, the glacier has shrunk exponentially.

Experts have warned in recent years that te the 7.5-kilometer (4.7-mile) high glacier could be in danger of possible collapse.

The reserve at the foot of Mont Blanc will include regulations about the number of visitors allowed, in winter and summer. This week, France's Ecology Minister Elisabeth Borne announced that starting in July, civil servants will receive a 200 euro ($218) bonus annually for a commute that involves ride sharing or cycling.

Vehicle use will change significantly as well, with government ministers confined to using electric or hybrid power cars, including Macron changing to use of an armored hybrid vehicle. In probably the most dramatic announcement, the French government will in July cease buying single use plastic, a change that has been in the works for some time.