Macron uses climate change to attack Le Pen

In a bid to woo left-wing voters for the final round of the French presidential election, Emmanuel Macron on Saturday slammed his far-right opponent Marine Le Pen as a “climate skeptic”and trumpeted his own plans to build a green economy.

Speaking in Marseille at his only large rally ahead of the April 24 vote, the liberal incumbent billed the election as a “civilizational choice” and vowed to turn France into a “great environmental nation.”

“The choice today is clear. The far-right is a climate-skeptic project, a project that wants to leave Europe’s climate ambitions, that wants to destroy windmills,” Macron told nearly 3,000 people. 

Dedicating most of his speech to his environmental ambitions, Macron painted his opponent’s idea to dismantle wind farms and impose a moratorium on new wind and solar energy projects in France while building new nuclear power plants as out of touch and dangerous.

“Good luck and good use of taxpayers’ money,” he said. 

It’s an effort to attract the supporters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left candidate who came in a surprisingly strong third with 22 percent in last week’s first round. Mélenchon made climate and environmental issues a key part of his campaign, but so far he hasn’t encouraged his backers to support Macon. However, he has made it clear his voters should steer clear of Le Pen, saying they should “not give a single vote” to her.

Polls show that 41 percent of Mélenchon’s supporters say they’ll sit out the second round, with 37 percent opting for Macron and 22 percent for Le Pen. With POLITICO’s poll of polls showing Macron ahead of Len Pen by 54 percent to 46 percent, he needs those reluctant voters to show up.

FRANCE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION POLL OF POLLS

For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.

Macron was in Marseille to persuade the waverers that it makes sense to back him, campaigning in a city where Mélenchon took first place last week. 

While many Mélenchon voters are wary of Macron’s economic liberalism, he sees an opportunity to appeal to them by emphasizing his green credentials.

The French president promised his next prime minister would be “directly responsible for ecological planning,” a concept coined by Mélenchon to ensure coordinated government measures to combat climate change.

A minister for energy planning and another for environmental planning would work on making France the first major country to stop using gas, oil and coal and on ramping up railways, electric cars and public transportation, said Macron. 

The incumbent vowed to reduce air pollution, plant 140 million trees, fight for a European carbon tax and speed up greenhouse gas reductions. Macron said he would close 50 large open-air landfills in the next three years and ensure that CEO bonuses are based on their company’s environmental results. 

Pitching a “green economy,” Macron proposed building 50 offshore wind farms by 2030 and six new nuclear reactors. 

While defending his track record on the environment, Macron admitted France would need to go “twice as fast” to respect the Paris climate change agreement.

Le Pen was in Saint-Rémy-sur-Avre in the center of France on Saturday, where she promised to help “the most vulnerable” — a continuation of her effort to shed her far-right image and play up economic issues.

But her opponents are making sure that her past positions aren’t forgotten. About 15,000 people took to the streets to protest Le Pen, who has come under fire for being hostile to immigrants, has been closely linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin and accused of backing policies that could destroy the EU if she’s elected.

She slammed the demonstrations as “deeply anti-democratic.”

Nearly 500 artists also called on French people to vote for Emmanuel Macron.

“If Emmanuel Macron was sure of winning, he wouldn’t be looking for athletes and actors,” was Le Pen’s response.

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