Macron Tries to Appease ‘Yellow Vest’ Protesters in Conciliatory Eco Energy Speech
The French leader has stood behind his fuel tax hikes while arguing in favor of consolation solutions.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron has attempted to calm down the amorphous protest movement of the “Yellow Vests”, which has been staging often unruly rallies across the country for 11 days now.
The “Yellow Vests” have been enraged by Macron’s hikes on fuel taxes designed for environmental purposes, which, however, the protesters deem disproportionately detrimental to the working class outside urban centers.
Two people have died so far in violent clashes during protest rallies, which figured prominently at high-profile venues such as Paris’s Champs Elysees Avenue.
“I have heard your anger,” the French leader stated on Tuesday in an hour-long speech discussing addressing the “Yellow Vest” grievances, as cited by France24.
At the same time, he refused to backtrack on the disputed fuel-tax hikes, and offered a promise to adapt a tax he admitted was “a bit blind” to the changes in market prices, thus supposedly reducing the effect of the hike on frequent drivers with no other options.
“What I want to make French people understand – notably those who say ‘we hear the president, the government, they talk about the end of the world and we are talking about the end of the month’ – is that we are going to treat both, that we must treat both,” Macron said during his televised address from the Élysée Palace.
He defended the need to transition to environmentally friendly energy sources, including for the sake of France’s own sovereignty vis-à-vis suppliers of fossil fuels such as Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“[Yet,] this transition should not happen at any cost,” the French President acknowledged.
Macron invited “representatives of the Yellow Vests” to come up with solutions during talks over the next three months on how best to handle the transitioning to eco-energy
He admitted that the available options to mitigate home and vehicle energy costs and upgrades were not sufficiently adequate, and therefore not utilized by those in need.
The French President also vowed to increase France’s current annual budget of EUR 5 billion for supporting the development of renewable energy to EUR 7 – 8 billion.
In his speech, he also made it clear that the country was going to bring down the share of nuclear power in its energy production from the present-day level of 75% to 50% by 2035.
Macron emphasized that the originally slated date, 2025, had been an unrealistically set target.
France’s nuclear power sector employs a total of 220,000 people, and has a total of 58 nuclear reactors, the second largest number in the world, after the United States.
As a compromise between the country’ economy and environment ministers, the French leader said 4 – 6 nuclear reactors would be shut down before 2030, with a total of 14 to be closed by 2035.
“[That is] a pragmatic approach… that takes into account the security of supply”, he said, arguing France should not do away with its nuclear power just to import energy from countries with less clean production.
“Nuclear allows us to benefit from energy that is pared of carbon emissions and is low cost,” Macron said.
(Banner image: France24)