Analysis: What will Macron and France do on climate change?

Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and candidate for the 2017 presidential election, waves from his car as he leaves his home during the second round of the election, in Paris

The next President of France, Emmanuel Macron, waves from his car as he leaves his home during the second round of the election, in Paris, France. Photo credit: Reuters / Jean-Paul Pelissier.

By Anders Lorenzen

Emmanuel Macron was this evening elected France’s next president. The 39-year-old former banker and finance minister will be France’s youngest ever president.

But when it comes to tackling climate change what can we expect from him and France?

EU stability is the biggest victory for climate

Arguably the biggest climate change victory with a Macron Presidency is its reach, far beyond France. Had Le Pen claimed victory it could have proved fatal for the European project. She had promised a French EU referendum if she had won. You might think that the French people would be unlikely to vote for it, but that was also what we thought in the UK. Were France to follow Brexit with Frexit, one could wonder if the loss of such big players would end the European project. A collapse of the EU would be disastrous not only for Europe taking a lead on climate change but their role in pressing the US, China, India and other regions to do their bit.

But with both Holland and France have fought off their far right candidate combined with a German election expected to do so too in September, maybe some well-needed stability can be brought to the EU. And that is good news for tackling climate change.

Legislative elections are key

But what will determine domestic French climate change policies as well as other policies, is the French legislative elections in June. These will decide how many members the different parties will have representing them in the Assembly. It is likely that even though Le Pen lost the Presidential election, her party, Front National, will do well here, and could well sit as opposition towards climate-friendly policies and seek to block them. It is also likely the outgoing President Francois Hollande‘s Socialist Party will take a blow, as was the case in these Presidential elections. The far left party La France insoumise with strong environmental views, but an anti-EU stance could, on the back of the strong performance by their leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the presidential election, also do well. The same goes for the Republicans as their leader François Fillon scored around the same amount of votes as Mr Mélenchon.

Of course, these are all predictions at the moment, based on the Presidential election. We will have to wait for the polls emerging nearer the time to have a clearer idea of the lay of the land. But whichever way they lean, it will have huge implications for what Macron will be able to achieve on climate change, energy and all other issues.

Strong climate policies

Based on what Macron has said so far we know that on the very controversial issue of nuclear energy he would continue Hollande’s line by reducing capacity from 75% to 50% by 2025. Coal would be gone within five years (there are currently only four coal power plants in France). He has previously said he will ban fracking. On renewables, he will continue to finance the development with the aim to double wind and solar PV capacity by 2022. He will also use the state to encourage private investment to the tune of €30 million. He also wants to cut some red tape, shortening and simplifying the procedures for deploying renewables. In general, he has indicated hydrocarbon exploration under his leadership will stop. And in order to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles, he will introduce a €1,000 payout helping those with vehicles built before 2001 to buy greener new or second-hand cars. In addition he will keep current bonus-malus incentives for lower carbon cars. Macron has also said he will accelerate the rollout of EV charging points. Importantly he indicated he will increase the price on carbon by integrating the ecological costs, which will increase the carbon tax to 100 € / tCO2 in 2030.

But as mentioned earlier the result of the legislative election will decide how many of these policies can become a reality.


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