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Emmanuel Macron hopes a green kingpin will help him secure a second term as French president by rounding up environmentally-conscious voters who backed left-wing candidates in the first round of elections.
It’s a sign of his spotty record in power that the candidate who ran five years ago on the motto of ‘make our planet great again’ must scramble to persuade skeptics he really is a green . But in a fierce race against his nationalist rival Marine Le Pen, he must convince those voters to choose him rather than stay home on April 24 for the second round.
He was in full environmental mode on Thursday during a trip to Le Havre, where he visited a wind turbine factory and pleaded for stronger green measures.
“If we want to succeed in our ecological transition, we must produce in a more carbon-free way but also recycle,” Macron told local radio. He promised to ban single-use plastics by 2040 and boost renewable energy.
Macron calculates that campaigning on green issues will help him attract voters who backed the Greens Yannick Jadot – who won 4.6% of the vote last week – and left-winger Jean-Luc Mélenchon – who arrived in third position with 22 votes. percent.
Macron insists that he shares “common ground” with Jadot and Mélenchon “on ecology, on carbon neutrality by 2050 and respect for the Paris agreement, while [Le Pen’s] far-right project denies these goals.
It even uses Mélenchon’s slogan of “ecological planning” – an idea that the government would fight climate change by coordinating measures ranging from banning certain types of fertilizers to properly insulating homes to reduce consumption. of energy.
“I think this idea is a good one,” Macron said.
For the moment, this does not arouse much enthusiasm in Mélenchon. The far-left candidate, who has made climate issues a central part of his campaign, did not explicitly call on his voters to support Macron, saying only that they should “not give a single vote” to Le Pen.
The danger for Macron is that about half of the Supporters of Mélenchon say they will not participate in the second round of the election. With Macron ahead of Le Pen 53% to 47% in POLITICO’s poll of polls, he needs those voters to show up.
Opposition to Macron among Mélenchon voters is “rather virulent”, said Pierre Latrille, pollster at Ipsos, but “voting for Marine Le Pen remains difficult”.
Jadot also called on his voters to block Le Pen, but warned that “our vote… does not mean supporting the project. [Macron] described during the campaign.
It’s a sea change for Macron, who won an easy victory over Le Pen in 2017, spurred on by a green agenda ranging from increasing global climate ambition to banning pesticides, to freeing bears in the Pyrenees and the reduction of nuclear energy.
Five years later, many of those promises seem outdated.
He had to withdraw a fuel tax after sparking months of violent protests by the Yellow Jackets movement.
Its militant environment minister, Nicolas Hulot, resigned, disgusted with his lack of influence on government policy.
The Citizens’ Climate Convention, a group of 150 randomly selected citizens invited to weigh in on the government’s green policies, was meant to be Macron’s flagship green policy. But it ended up irritating many when the government failed to push through all of the assembly’s recommendations. Macron’s efforts to include environmental protection and the fight against climate change in the French constitution have failed.
The High Climate Council – an independent government advisory body – says it has done too little to accelerate the reduction of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Instead of backtracking on nuclear, Macron is now promising an ambitious expansion program of 14 new reactors by 2050. This puts him in line with Le Pen and at odds with his left-wing opponents, who have called for phasing out nuclear power as soon as possible. possible.
With Donald Trump’s departure from the White House, the United States is once again becoming a leading power on climate change, leaving a lesser role for Macron and France.
The lesser evil
While Macron doesn’t get much love from the Greens, he claims he’s better on the climate and the environment than Le Pen.
“Le Pen’s project is to completely stop renewables and replace them with nuclear, which makes no sense in terms of timing,” Macron said in Le Havre, arguing that new nuclear power plants will not be put in place. in service only around 2035, “it therefore covers nothing of the needs of the next 15 years.”
Left-leaning voters who decide to vote for Macron in the second round are likely to be motivated by a desire to block Le Pen rather than strong support for his policies, even if he pledges to step up his green ambitions, a said Latrille.
“The argument of fighting the far right is likely to be more powerful than an argument that it can do leftist politics,” he said.
If Macron wins a second term thanks to left-leaning votes more frightened of Le Pen than excited about him, it is unlikely to mean good news for the president’s centrist party La République En Marche in the June legislative elections. .
“The problem is that the [left-wing] voters will have the impression that they have already given him a chance” by supporting him in the presidential race, believes Antoine Bristielle, who studies public opinion at the think tank of the Jean-Jaurès Foundation.
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