Tuesday, December 19, 2017

France Shows Trump What Climate Leadership Looks Like

France is leading climate action. The host nation for the signing of the historic Paris Agreement has repeatedly refuted Trump's climate denial while adopting a raft of measures as part of an ambitious national climate plan.  It is fair to say that with its support of science, climate focused political agenda, and progressive climate plan France is one of the most sustainable countries in the world.  French efforts have been ongoing for years and include everything from mandatory sustainability reporting to the problem of food waste. In May France announced that it was moving forward with 17 GW of clean energy investments. These are just some of the reason France has emerged as a global climate leader.


The US under Donald Trump is the only nation in the world that is not signed on to the Paris Climate Agreement. In reponse to Trump's contempt for climate science, France awarded "Make Our Planet Great Again" grants to 18 researchers including 13 US climate scientists. The research grants will extend throughout the remainder of Trump's term (assuming he is able to avoid impeachment). The laureates include professors and researchers from Cornell University, Columbia University, and Stanford University.

Following Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Accord in June French President Emmanuel Macron said that France would cover the US share of funding for a U.N. climate change panel. When Macron and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger met in July they made fun of Trump's climate denial. "Now we will deliver together to make the planet great again," Macron said.

He also sent out an invitation to US climate scientists saying:

"To all scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs who were disappointed by the decision of the President of the United States I want to say that they will find in France a second homeland. I call them to come and work here, with us on concrete solutions for our climate and our environment. I can assure you that France will not give up the fight".

Macron awarded 3-5 year long climate research grants worth between €1 - €1.5 million. The grants cover research for climate modeling as well as well as the technological and social challenges associated with transitioning away from fossil fuels. At the beginning of 2018, France is teaming up with Germany to provide €60 million worth of grants to 50 projects.

Macron said during the ceremony: “We will be there to replace US financing of climate research. If we want to prepare for the changes of tomorrow, we need science”.

As reported by the Star one of the awardees lamented the "devaluing of science by this administration" These remarks came from Louis Derry, a leading professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell, who also said that he is happy to be free of the "crazy stuff that goes on in Congress and with the current administration".

Another grant recipient is Núria Teixidó Ullod, a visiting scientist at Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University. Her research revealed the relationship between fossil fuels and drought. Another recipient of the French grant is Alessandra Giannini. Giannini is a Research Scientist at Columbia University. Giannini is well known for having conducted research that makes a causal connection between global warming and drought.

Trump is pleased to see these people go because their research flatly contradicts his climate denying narrative.


Macron has made it clear that climate action will continue regardless of what the ruling US administration does. After it has become clear that the US president has no interest in listening to reason, The French president seems to have decided that Trump is not relevant. Macron is part of a growing chorus that sees Trump as irrelevant. To make the point Trump was not invited to the climate-focused UN and World Bank's "One Planet Summit," that took place one day after the Macron's grant award ceremony.

France must also be acknowledged for having stemmed the tide of right-wing populism. In the wake of Trump's electoral victory, some were concerned that similar dystopia creating governments would pop up all across Europe.

Many are saying that France's rejection of the far right in recent elections killed the momentum that threatened all of Europe. Germans followed the French lead reelected Angela Merkle. Europeans seem to be rejecting the politics of Trump (and UK Prime Minister Theresa May), instead they are embracing progressive centrist forms of government. The importance of France in this respect cannot be overstated. France is a bulwark against the cancerous nationalism that is presently dividing Americans.

The fossil fuel industry pays the Repubublicans handsomely to deny climate science and the recent tax bill is an homage to that relationship. It would appear that Trump and the GOP are using nationalism to mask a plutocracy.

Although Macron's government is decidedly pro-capitalism, they are also anti-corruption. The Trump administration by contrast is the most corrupt administration in Amercian history. 


France is a model for Republicans who purport to be concerned about the economy and claim to be pro-business. Since 2015 the French economy has been steadily growing. Entrepreneurs seem to be thriving in the country and this has pushed France ahead of the rest of Europe in startup fundraising.Macron acknowledges the importance of climate consideration as both a health concern and an economic issue. This is evident in their appraisal of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada. In October France announced that they would only ratify the trade deal it will not affect the nation's climate policies and regulations.

France has seen tremendous economic returns from their investments in clean energy.  First with nuclear and increasingly with renewables France is a clean energy titan. France is currently a low carbon energy leader getting more than 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. It produces so much energy, in fact, that it exports much of it to nearby nations to the annual tune of $3.2 billion.

"France wants to become the No. 1 green economy." This is part of France's ambitious climate plan. After the announcement Shares of French automaker, PSA Group rose 2.4 percent and Renault SA gained 1.9 percent, making them the day’s best performers on the Bloomberg 500 Autos Index.

Climate plan

In July French Ecological Transition Minister Nicolas Hulot unveiled details of a national climate plan to help France eliminate net carbon emissions by 2050.  Macron's predecessor President Francois Hollande, strongly supported renewable energy and he made bold strides towards ramping up capacity.  Holland announced that France will close all of the nation's coal-fired power plants by 2022.

Macron is continuing Holland's agenda by ramping up renewables and encouraging homeowners to produce their own energy. Last summer Macron announced that he is planning a massive home renovation retrofit program that will reduce energy consumption and cut CO2 emissions.

France is embracing renewables are abandoning fossil fuels. This includes an initiative to end the sale of fossil fuel powered cars by 2040. Hulot said that the government will stop issuing licenses for oil and gas exploration on French territory. "There will be no new exploration licenses for hydrocarbons," Hulot told BFMTV. Hulot has previously indicated that France will offer tax incentives to help get fossil fuel powered vehicles--especially older vehicles--off of the road. Hulot has also expressed an interest in raising diesel taxes.

On the issue of climate change Trump is like Macron's polar opposite just as Scott Pruitt is Huot's evil antithesis. Trump and Pruitt are eroding support for renewables and smoothing the path for more fossil fuel development.  The contrast between the climate focus of Macron's government and the rampant denial in the Trump administration could not be starker. The two governments have diametrically opposed climate narratives. While Macron is charting a course into the future, Trump is reaching back to the darkness that got us here.

Related Posts
Vive La France! French Electorate Rejects Climate Denial and Commits to Progressive Action
France: One of the Most Sustainable Countries in the World
France Curbs Vehicles and Decrees Green or Solar Roofs
Why France is a Global Climate Leader
France Restricts Both GMOs and Cars
Obama and Hollande Call for Climate Action

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