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French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron would push for tougher EU rules on pesticide use and endocrine disruptors, while his opponent Marine Le Pen promises “patriotic protectionism” to benefit the environment and save French jobs.
The second and final round of France’s presidential election May 7 offers voters a stark political choice, pitting a left-leaning centrist against a far right leader who wants to take the country out of the euro currency.
While the campaign commitment documents of both candidates set out environmental and energy policies, independent candidate Macron—a former Rothschild banker who was minister of economy, industry and the digital economy in outgoing President Francois Hollande’s Socialist government when the country hosted global climate talks in 2015—offers more detail than does National Front candidate Le Pen.
Macron, who often draws on goals set by Hollande, calls for a gradual elimination of pesticides, starting with the most dangerous for health and environment, and he proposes to “eliminate conflicts of interest” by imposing rules to ensure that companies that advise farmers are not the same ones selling them pesticides.
He would speed the French process for banning endocrine disruptors proven to be dangerous, while pushing the EU to “completely revise” its methods for evaluating substances that can interfere with the hormone system.
Le Pen, by contrast, “promises to preserve the environment by breaking with an economic model based on wild trade globalization,” asserting that “real ecology” consists in producing, processing and consuming close to home.
On energy, she promises to modernize and secure the country’s aging fleet of nuclear reactors, in particular through a program proposed by flagship energy company Electricite de France (EDF) that would spend tens of billions of euros through 2025 to extend reactors’ lives beyond 40 years.
Macron said a strategic decision on extending reactors’ lives should wait for a report by the country’s Nuclear Safety Authority (l’Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire), expected in 2018.
Le Pen says she would reassert state control of EDF, which until 2004 was fully state owned, and would not allow the closing of the troubled Fessenheim nuclear power plant.
Closing Fessenheim is an unkept promise by Hollande that Macron has vowed to carry out. But Macron said he would wait until after the next-generation Flamanville European pressurized reactor (EPR) plant comes online.
Originally meant to be in operation by 2012, the Flamanville plant has suffered several construction delays and cost overruns due to safety and other problems.
Macron would continue the Hollande government’s plan, set out in the framework 2015 law on energy transition related to green growth, to reduce nuclear energy’s share of French electricity generation from the current 75 percent down to 50 percent 2025.
Both candidates vow to continue the country’s ban on shale gas exploration, with Le Pen saying the ban would remain until “satisfactory conditions” for the environment, safety and health are met.
Macron vows to wean France off fossil fuels, including by closing the country’s remaining coal-fired power plants within five years, and says he would carry out the energy transition law’s schedule to gradually increase the carbon tax to 100 euros ($109) per ton by 2030, from the current 30.5 euros.
Le Pen said she would reduce France’s dependence on oil by developing capacity for hydrogen energy, through state support for research and development. She would make support for home insulation a budget priority.
Both candidates profess strong support for renewable energy, with Le Pen promising “massive” development of French capacity for solar, biogas, wood and other sources, “through an intelligent protectionism, economic patriotism, public and private investment and through orders made by EDF.” However, she would “decree an immediate moratorium on wind energy.”
Land-based wind energy has for several years faced strong public resistance and big regulatory hurdles in some parts of France.
Macron said he would cut red tape for deployment of renewable projects, calling for a doubling of wind and solar photovoltaic capacity by 2022, and government policies to encourage 30 billion euros ($32.7 billion) in private investment, including for research and investment in energy storage and smart grids.
He proposes a special bonus to encourage people who have automobiles made before 2001 to buy “more ecological” cars, whether used or new, and he would accelerate deployment of electric cars.
Le Pen wants a ban on imports of food that doesn’t meet French health and environmental standards, and an outright ban on genetically modified organisms, based on the so-called precautionary principle. She would prohibit “factory farms” for livestock.
Macron wants a ban by 2022 on the sale of chicken eggs from cramped battery-cage production methods, to be replaced by “alternative raising” methods.
Le Pen said would she simplify urbanization standards to ease a housing shortage, while maintaining rules to protect the environment and natural habitat.
Macron would push for European trade sanctions against countries that don’t respect environmental clauses in trade agreements with the EU and said France should make a priority of getting the Paris climate agreement implemented.
“Considering the U.S. president’s expressed intentions, France should in particular push for Europe to pressure the United States to face up to its responsibilities,” Macron said.
The candidates meet for a two-hour televised debate May 3, their only one-on-one debate of the campaign.
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