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Sunday, 16 March 2014

Let's play odds and evens - the French government's answer to dealing with high pollution levels in Paris

There's nothing like dealing with a problem when it occurs.

Just ask the French environment minister Philippe Martin.

Philippe Martin (screenshot TF1 news)

Parts of France have been hit by high pollution levels over the past four or five days because of (to put it very simply) the mix of "cold nights and warm days, which have prevented pollution from dispersing".

And what has the environment minister done to deal with the situation?

Well he has waited and watched, announcing that he was "working on sustainable measures to fight against pollution," (yadda, yadda, yadda) and that there would be "an announcement by the summer of a plan to protect the atmosphere of the areas most affected.'

Par for the course really from the man who took over the ministry after his predecessor Delphine Batho was sacked in July 2013, and has faced bad weather conditions with remarkably enterprising resolve coupled with the usual political platitudes

When heavy rain, thunderstorms and hail battered towns in Brittany for weeks on end, Martin was quick to give his expert opinion that "the flooding could be related to climactic disturbances."

Really? Now there's a novel concept.

And during the flooding in Var at the beginning of February, he took to a helicopter to "understand the reasons behind what had happened". How very reassuring.

In fact helicopters and having a look seemed to feature largely in Martin's method of helping out flood victims.

Anyway, back to the high pollution levels. Finally the government has taken a decision.

It announced on Saturday that Paris and its suburbs would be subjected to "alternate driving days" as of Monday because of the continued "high pollution levels" that were expected.

Jean-Marc Ayrault's office even issued a statement saying, "The prime minister is aware of the difficulties that this may cause to the everyday lives of Parisians, but this extra step is necessary."

And get this, Ayrault "trusted in the spirit of responsibility and citizenship of each and every person."

Hello! We're talking Parisians here, deservedly or not, hardly world-renowned for their civility.

The statement wasn't enough though. Martin had a sales job to do and up he popped on TF1 prime time news to give the reasons for decision and brandishing, in  "show and tell" fashion, two licence plates - both old and new - to explain the difference between an odd number and an even one.

Philippe Martin in "show and tell" mode (screenshot TF1 news)

"Public health is what most concerns us here and in spite of the measures taken since the beginning of the week (measures introduced by the local authority in Paris such as free public transport) there's a risk of another rise in pollution levels at the beginning of the week," he said.

"We had to take this decision and we're relying, of course on the responsibility of Parisians which will allow us to cope with the situation," he added, proving he had a) been briefed and b) read the prime minister's official statement before going on air.

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