By Rajendra Shende
On 15th June 1947, the New York Herald Tribune ran a headline that said “Juliot-Curie Rips America for an Atomic Energy Report”. Juliot-Curie (full name Jean Frédéric Joliot-Curie) was a French physicist, professor, Nobel Laureate, and France’s first High Commissioner for Atomic Energy. He was instrumental in transforming a war-damaged France into a predominantly nuclear energy nation.
The newspaper stated that the Professor was angry as the report released by Princeton University had omitted the vital contributions of French scientists towards the Manhattan project—one that led to making of atomic bombs that ended World War II. The world knows about the contributions made by American, Canadian, and German (immigrant) scientists in making the atomic bombs. However, the contribution of the French scientists remains neglected. As per Joliot-Curie, without French contribution, the Manhattan project would have been delayed.
Seventy years later, history is being reversed. On 10th February 2017, through a video message, the 2017 French Presidential Candidate Emmanuel Macron enthusiastically invited American scientists, entrepreneurs, and engineers to come to France and work on climate change. This move comes at a point when the world is waging another war against climate change.
Macron said, “I do know how your new President now has decided to jeopardise your budget, your initiatives, as he is extremely sceptical about climate change. I have no doubt about climate change and how committed we have to be regarding this issue.” The primary message he wanted to convey was: “We will preserve our budgets, we will reinforce our public and private investment in order to do more and accelerate our initiatives in order to deliver in line with COP21 (the Paris summit on climate change)”. Quoting him, he directly invited the American scientists to come to France by saying, “You are welcome. It is your nation”. He added that France likes innovation and innovative people and that it is open to people working on climate change, clean energy, renewables and new technologies.
This video message from the front runner is an out-of-the-box act. Unsurprisingly, the French election itself can be described as ‘French exception’ mainly because of the exceptional character of Mr Macron. 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron did his schooling from Lycee Henri-IV in Paris and is a graduate of the privileged and fiercely competitive Ecole Nationale d’Admintration (ENA). He married his 64-year-old teacher against the wishes of his family.
Tracing Macron: The environment-friendly banker
His entire professional and personal career can be best described as atypical, and to an extent, even bizarre. Like any other ENA graduate, he began his career in the French finance ministry, but he quickly moved to a private investment bank by paying a compensation to the French government for breaching service contract.
He became a member of the Socialist Party after having made fortune in the investment bank. Incumbent French President Francois Hollande appointed him as his senior staff. This was followed by Macron being appointed as the Minister of Economy and Finance. Having pushed pro-business reforms through an unfriendly Parliament by using special constitutional provisions, he left the Socialist Party to form a new Party called “En Marche!” (“On the Move!”) at about the same time when the Paris Climate Agreement was adopted worldwide in 2016.
What does Macron intend to do?
Surprises from Mr Macron never stop. Mr Macron has been a passionate investment banker previously in his career. However, this hasn’t stopped him from pledging stringent action on climate change. He wants to double France’s wind and solar capacity by 2022 ban all new fossil fuel exploration including shell gas. He has promised to close all coal power stations in France within five years (a year earlier than the current target). Besides, he vows to reduce the share of nuclear power in France’s energy generation from the current 75% to 50% by 2025.
His election manifesto targets to “integrate the ecological cost” into the price of carbon. The manifesto promises to make implementation of the Paris Agreement a priority of his international agenda. Macron’s exceptional manifesto pleases the green parties and the general public. It proposes to pursue trade sanctions at European level against countries that do not respect the environmental clauses of trade agreements with the European Union.
Macron specifically signals to President Trump in his manifesto that “faced with the whims of the new American president, France will have to ensure that the United States faces its responsibilities.” Macron has previously warned that Trump would be making a “grave mistake” if he went back on his predecessor’s commitments on climate change.
Delving into dissimilarities: How Macron is different from his rival
His rival Ms Marine Le Pen is the ‘legacy candidate’ of the far-right party founded by her father decades ago. Apart from the general ecological pledges, her manifesto includes anti-immigrant and anti-globalisation policies. The final TV debate between Macron and Marine Le Pen was abusive, vociferous, and disorderly. If she wins, President Trump would have his trusted friend in Europe.
Macron’s proposed policies are completely opposite to those adopted by US President Donald Trump. While the Americans seem to have forgotten French contributions in ending the World War II, the current French Presidential candidate is openly inviting Americans to come to France and to fight the global war against Climate Change.
This is nothing short of a ‘disruptive innovation in political campaigning’.
Rajendra Shende is the Chairman at TERRE Policy Centre, an IIT Alumnus, and former Director of the UNEP.
Featured Image Credits: The Washington Post
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