Macron urges France’s big polluters to cut emissions by half

Nov 8, 2022, 4:27 AM | Updated: Nov 9, 2022, 1:53 pm
Smoke rises from the Butachimie plant in Chalempe, eastern France, Tuesday, Nov.8, 2022. Just back ...

Smoke rises from the Butachimie plant in Chalempe, eastern France, Tuesday, Nov.8, 2022. Just back from the U.N. climate summit in Egypt, French President Emmanuel Macron is to meet Tuesday with the heads of the country's most climate-damaging industries to pressure them to reduce greenhouse gases emissions, amid growing competition from the U.S. and China. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

(AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday urged the country’s most climate-damaging industries to double their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the next decade, one day after his call for action at the U.N. climate summit in Egypt.

Macron convened a meeting Tuesday at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris with the heads of some 50 industrial sites in France, accounting for about 10% of France’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

He urged the 50 sites, owned by about 30 French and international groups, to cut by half their emissions within the next decade, from over 40 millions of tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide released in the atmosphere to about 20 millions of tons. The industries include major producers of cement, steel, aluminum and other metals and chemicals.

In exchange, the French state is ready to double its financial aid on condition another similar meeting in 2024 ensures the goal can be met, Macron said.

“If you double your efforts… we will double the financing dedicated to this issue and will increased the state aid package from 5 to 10 billion euros ($5 to $10 billion),” the French leader said.

The move comes one day after Macron called on the world’s nations to “continue to take action” to respond to the climate emergency at the COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

In total, industry represents about 20% of France’s national greenhouse gas emissions.

Changes in the sector are key to meeting the goals set by the European Union to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels and reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

Yet the transition toward new, greener technologies is costly. France and the European Union also want to avoid seeing big industries leave the continent and instead invest in other parts of the world, like the U.S. and China.

The challenge is made even more difficult as these industries are already suffering from the major energy crisis aggravated by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration this summer passed a bill that provides billions in climate incentives, notably designed to make costs of renewable energy substantially lower in factories. The move could spur other nations to do more — especially China and India, the two largest carbon emitters along with the U.S.

“The U.S. are producing cheap gas that that they sell us for expensive price. And in addition, they made massive state aid for some sectors that fully throw our (European) projects out of the market,” Macron said.

He warned that the U.S. measures to address climate change and boost the economy, Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, could upend the “level playing field” on trade with the EU. He said that’s contrary to the World Trade Organization rules and called it an “unfriendly” initiative.

He added he will discuss the issue with Biden during his state visit to the U.S. on Dec. 1st.

“We need a European wake up on this issue. Europe can not be the only place where there’s no ‘Buy European Act’,” he said.

China, which has set a long-term goal to become carbon neutral by 2060, last year launched its first national carbon exchange to create financial incentives for companies to reduce emissions.

Among those represented in Tuesday’s meeting were the French subsidiaries of the world’s biggest cement groups, Holcim — owner of Lafarge France — and HeidelbergCement. Top managers from chemicals producers Solvay, Borealis, ExxonMobil Chemical France and Total Petrochemicals France also attended, as well as global steel producer ArcelorMittal.

Companies promoting solutions to reduce carbon emissions, like clean hydrogen and carbon sequestration, were also at the meeting.

Macron has launched plans to accelerate the development of renewable energy in the country, including offshore wind farms and solar power, as France is lagging behind some of its European neighbors on that.

He also announced earlier this year that France will build six new nuclear reactors as part of the country’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. France’s nuclear power provides about 67% of French electricity, more than any other country.

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Macron urges France’s big polluters to cut emissions by half