Climate discussed for 20 minutes in 3-hour-long Macron-Le Pen debate

Macron accused Le Pen of being a "climate sceptic", while she called him a "climate hypocrite" - with climate just being discussed for 20 minutes, this could well be what sticks in the minds of voters just a few days before election day. EPA-EFE/LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL MAXPPP OUT [EPA-EFE/LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL MAXPPP OUT]

During the three-hour-long debate between French presidential candidates Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, climate was discussed for just 20 minutes, despite being one of the most anticipated topics. EURACTIV France reports.

Climate was one of the ten topics on the debate’s agenda on Wednesday (20 April), ahead of the final round of voting on Sunday.

For several days,  there have been calls on social media to put climate at the heart of the election debate and for questions on the environment to be raised during the run-off debate.

However, some, including the Climate Quota Collective, lamented that the ecological crisis is the neglected topic of the election campaign.

Macron did, however, mention the climate in his introductory remarks, saying that “our France will be stronger if it knows how to tackle the ecological issue” and promising to transform the country into “a great ecological power”.

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Le Pen wants a slowed transition

For Le Pen, French purchasing power is at the heart of her discourse on the environment. The far-right leader promises to lower VAT on fuel, gas and heating oil while exiting “the European electricity market” to restore the purchasing power of the French.

While favouring the ecological transition, Le Pen wants “it to be slower than what is being imposed on the French, to enable them to cope with it.”

According to her, the current government is asking too much of the French people, and she blamed Macron for his “punitive ecology”.

Le Pen also believes that “wind power is an ecological and economic absurdity”. She promised a referendum on the dismantling of wind turbines and said she had “a plan to develop nuclear power” at the start of her mandate.

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Macron wants to ‘go twice as fast

In comparison, Macron recalled that he had halved emissions of greenhouse gases during his term of office and said he wanted to “go twice as fast in the next term”.

The incumbent president also promised to appoint a minister in charge of ecological planning to oversee energy renovations, promote hybrid vehicles and support the industrial and agricultural transition.

Macron also revisited his ambitions to develop nuclear and renewables, particularly agrivoltaics and offshore wind power.

“All the experts say it: there is no way out of fossil fuels that goes through all-nuclear,” he said, adding that “the only way to respond to the climate challenge is to make nuclear and renewable energies” at the same time. This would allow the creation of industrial sectors in France, he added.

The development of renewable energies in France is essential as new nuclear power stations will not be operational before 2035, Macron said.

The two candidates also criticised and deconstructed each other’s programmes.

Macron accused Le Pen of being a “climate sceptic”, while she called him a “climate hypocrite”.

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[Edited by Frédéric Simon/ Alice Taylor]

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