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Macron to Pressure France's Most Climate-Damaging Industries

The meeting aims to accelerate the reduction of carbon emissions, which requires new technologies and investments worth billions.

Smoke rises from the Butachimie plant in Chalempe, eastern France, Tuesday, Nov.8, 2022.
Smoke rises from the Butachimie plant in Chalempe, eastern France, Tuesday, Nov.8, 2022.
AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias

PARIS (AP) — 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 gas emissions, amid growing competition from the U.S. and China.

The meeting at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris aims at accelerating the reduction of carbon emissions — which requires new technologies and investments worth billions of euros (dollars). Macron is expected to provide details about potential state aid to help polluting industries to act.

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 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Industry represents about 20% of France's national greenhouse gas emissions. Some 50 industrial sites in France, which account for over half of these emissions, are owned by about 30 French and international groups, whose leadership has been convened to the Elysee. They include major producers of cement, steel, aluminum and other metals and chemicals.

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

Yet the transition toward new, greener technologies is costly and France and the European Union 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 Elysee said.

The challenge is made even more difficult as 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.

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

Among those represented in Tuesday's meeting are 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 will also attend, as well as global steel producer ArcelorMittal.

A French presidency official said that the fact that "all these emissions are generated on a relatively small number of sites obviously offers a perspective on the ability to de-carbonize them. It also shows how huge the task is."

The aim is to get industries on French soil that are able to make carbon-free products or at least drastically reduce emissions, he stressed. The official spoke anonymously in line with the French presidency's customary practices.

Companies promoting solutions to reduce carbon emissions, like clean hydrogen and carbon sequestration, will also attend 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.

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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