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Yellow Vest (Gilets Jaunes) protesting rising oil prices and living costs, near the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris, Nov. 24. Photo: Mehdi Taamallah/NurPhoto via Getty Images

After three weeks of demonstrations against an increase in gasoline taxes, French President Emmanuel Macron yielded to the Yellow Vest protesters by suspending the hikes for six months.

The big picture: The wealthy countries pushing to address climate change have been seen as best equipped to bear the costs of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables, hence their commitment in the Paris Accord to channel energy transition funding to the developing world. But the French protests and Macron’s response suggest that even developed societies may meet resistance from their more disadvantaged members, who may not be so willing to make sacrifices to their way of life.

Macron’s response reveals that developed countries’ governments, democracies as they are, may be especially vulnerable to widespread dissatisfaction.

Polish President Andrzej Duda bluntly expressed that sentiment at the opening of COP24 in Katowice, Poland, this week.

  • On the eve of Poland’s Miners’ Day, he underscored coal’s role as a strategic and indispensable resource for the Polish economy, pointing to 200 years of coal reserves that not only serve the country’s energy-security goals but also provide jobs to 100,000 Poles.
  • Duda is acutely aware of the political consequences of potential anti-coal action, given the 101 (out of 460) parliamentary seats in the country's coal region that politicians need to compete for every four years.

Yes, but: While such resistance is admittedly discouraging in the face of dire climate-change warnings, it does not spell doom. Rather, it highlights the need to understand the mindset of billions of people all over the world whose economic situation makes it difficult for them to justify immediate costs to their well-being, or to forego advancement, in exchange for the diffuse future benefits of climate action, however important.

The bottom line: If those sentiments are not factored into developed countries’ climate-policy equations, they may find themselves in a situation akin to that of President Macron, unable to follow up on their climate commitments.

Anna Mikulska is a nonresident fellow in energy studies at Rice University’s Baker Institute's Center for Energy Studies and a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania's Kleinman Center for Energy Policy.

Go deeper

Trump can't quit mainstream media

Bob Woodward and Robert Costa are interviewed by Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" in September. Photo: William B. Plowman/NBC via Getty Images

Bob Woodward and Robert Costa issued a rebuttal on Friday to a statement by former President Donald Trump that misrepresented their reporting — and once again showed the 45th president's thin skin about mainstream media.

Driving the news: "Former President Trump said ... our book, 'Peril,' implied that he was planning to go to war with China," the statement begins. "[W]e report that Chairman of Joint Chiefs Mark Milley 'believed that Trump did not want a war' before or after the 2020 election."

NY declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron COVID variant

Governor Kathy Hochul makes an announcement about a new plan transforming Penn Station on Nov. 3, 2021. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday declared a state of emergency amid rising COVID-19 cases and the newly-identified Omicron variant of the virus.

Driving the news: The declaration enables the state to acquire supplies to fight a potential surge in cases, increase hospital capacity and combat potential staff shortages, NBC's local affiliate reports.

2 hours ago - Health

First cases of COVID-19 Omicron variant discovered in U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Two cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant were detected in the United Kingdom overnight, the U.K. Health Security Agency announced Saturday.

Why it matters: The discovery comes as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.