France’s next president could ban wind turbines

Celebration when Emmanuel Macron was elected President of France in 2017. Photo credit: By Lorie Shaull CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia.

By Anders Lorenzen

France could be at a crossroads, and it could be a worrying one if you care about the climate crisis. 

On the 10th of April in the first round of the general election for the next president of France, the centrist leader of En Marche Emmanuel Macron won ahead of the far-right controversial leader of the National Rally, Marine Le Pen.

The race was far closer than many had hoped, with Macron winning 27.8% against Le Pen’s 23.1%. Under the Constitution of France, unless either candidate scores more than 50% of the votes there will be a run-off election on the 24th of April, between the two highest-scoring candidates. As a result, anyone who cast their votes for any of the other candidates in the first round, will now either have to vote for Macron or Le Pen and therefore the result is far from certain. 

It is also an election that could very much decide how France responds to the climate crisis. While Macron has positioned himself as a pro-climate action word leader he is unpopular amongst many climate activists and people on the left, with many disliking his support for nuclear power and pro-business views.

Banning wind turbines

Even though Le Pen is not shy of controversy, she still created a furore when she recently said that if elected she would ban wind turbines. She has argued that boosting the nuclear sector as well as hydropower and thermal energy would provide France with the energy mix it needs. She has also suggested she will scrap subsidies for solar and wind energy, saying this would save the treasury 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion), and insist that energy produced from them be sold at the market rate. She would furthermore impose a moratorium on new wind and solar projects and progressively dismantle existing land-based wind farms. Nuclear represents the core of her energy plan, in which she would build 20 EPR reactors, extending the life of existing plants to 60 years from more than 40 and re-opening the Fessenheim plant shut in 2020.

An aberration

Unsurprisingly, Macron has pushed back against the plans to ban wind turbines and solar farms calling it an “aberration”. Whilst he also supports boosting the nuclear energy industry, he equally supports the renewable energy industry: “Exiting renewables today would be a complete aberration, we would be the only country in the world doing that,” Macron said adding that Le Pen’s plan would mean: “spending hundreds of millions of euros dismantling existing wind turbines”.

The French Renewable Energy Trade Association (SER) also came out against Le Pen’s remarks saying her plan would be: “a major step backwards for our country and for the climate, by increasing our greenhouse gas emissions and our imports of fossil fuels, at the expense of taxpayers and the most precarious consumers”.

Nuclear currently supplies around 70% of France’s electricity, meaning that its electricity network has one of the lowest carbon footprints in Europe. But since his election five years ago, Macron has aggressively been expanding renewable energy capacity, such as solar and wind.

Ahead of the second round of voting on the 24th of April polls, are showing that Macron is narrowly ahead of Le Pen but that the contest promises to be tight.

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