Emmanuel Macron vows climate action as French president

Centrist candidate supports a coal phase-out by 2022, carbon price rise and trade sanctions on polluting countries, but needs a parliamentary mandate to deliver

Emmanuel Macron promises to promote climate action as France's president (Pic: Le Web/Flickr)

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Emmanuel Macron promised to promote international cooperation on climate change in his victory speech on Sunday, after being elected president of France.

The centrist, pro-EU candidate won two thirds of the vote in a run-off against the far right’s Marine Le Pen.

In a short, sombre speech, he called for national unity and assured world leaders France would be a constructive partner on matters of global concern.

Macron said: “France will be active and mindful of peace, of the balance of power, of international cooperation, of respect for the commitments made on development and the fight against global warming.”

Following Donald Trump’s rise to power in the US and Britain’s vote to leave the EU, a win for Le Pen would have represented a hat-trick for nationalist populism. In contrast, Macron offered a vision of openness to the wider world.

Laurence Tubiana, a key architect of the Paris climate deal turned head of the European Climate Foundation, welcomed the result.

At home, Macron’s climate policies include phasing out coal power and doubling renewable capacity by 2022, and raising the carbon price to €100 a tonne by 2030.

He has also proposed using trade sanctions at an EU level against countries that do not respect the bloc’s environmental standards. That could put pressure on the Trump administration to conform with climate objectives and the UK to avoid weakening environmental protections during Brexit negotiations.

Somewhat provocatively, Macron invited American climate researchers threatened by Trump’s agenda to move to France. “We like innovation, we want innovative people,” he said in a video message.

To deliver on his mandate, Macron will need to secure a base in the parliamentary elections next month. Having founded his own party, En Marche! [Onwards!], a year ago, he has no incumbent lawmakers.

If his candidates cannot replicate Macron’s personal popularity, which was boosted by the stark contrast with Le Pen, it could lead to political gridlock.

An opinion poll published by OpinionWay-SLPV Analytics last week predicted En Marche! would win 249 to 286 seats in the National Assembly, short of the 289 needed for a majority.

Accordingly, climate advocates were cautious about interpreting the result.

“Macron’s victory should not be called a victory for climate in France yet,” said Lucile Dufour, from Climate Action Network France, at a briefing on the sidelines of interim climate talks in Bonn.

“Macron did not make the energy transition a key topic during his campaign. What we can say now is that Macron is unlikely to slow down the French environmental transition. However, if he is not strongly pushed by other countries and also by civil society, he will not accelerate the pace of the energy transition in France.”

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