Three months before the French presidential election, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National presented its ‘economically viable’ climate policy project, which aims to be pro-nuclear and pro-hydrogen, but anti-wind. EURACTIV France reports.
Le Pen’s spokesperson, MEP Nicolas Bay, presented Le Pen’s climate and energy programme on Tuesday (25 January), insisting on the idea of “a model that is authentically ecological but economically viable”.
A subtle mix given that the EU’s zero-carbon objective “does not make sense” and is not “economically reasonable,” Bay said.
“We cannot decouple the very legitimate concern for climate change from the economic concern and purchasing power,” he added while addressing a workshop organised by Equilibre des Energies, a non-profit organisation.
Lowering VAT on energy products
Le Pen’s key proposal to combine environmental action and social protection is to lower VAT on all energy products to 5.5%. The idea is to encourage households to improve the energy performance of buildings, for which actions “can be carried out easily at reasonable costs and timescales” and achieve more sustainable mobility.
“We defend the idea that it is better to massively support the insulation of buildings in particular” as well as “the evolution towards the electric vehicle, but without penalising” those with the “most modest” income, Bay also said.
As regards vehicles, Le Pen envisions a switch to hydrogen.
“The battery-electric vehicle is a transitional model; it places us in a situation of strong dependence [regarding] rare-earth elements and Asia,” said Nicolas Bay, adding that “the real technological leap would be hydrogen”, but did not give more details about the support his party wishes to provide to the sector.
Building six EPR reactors
On nuclear power, Le Pen plans to build six new European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) and increase the life span of existing plants. EPR is a third-generation pressurised water reactor design.
“The main virtue of nuclear power (…) is that it is almost totally carbon-free,” said Bay, calling the plan a pragmatic one. The spokesman also suggested that this energy could be “at the heart of our energy mix of tomorrow”, the idea being “to be able to produce for France and to export”.
Energy independence is another solid and long-term focus of Le Pen’s climate and energy programme. “It is not enough to limit ourselves to the presidential perspective, to a mandate which we know only lasts five years and which can only commit us to the beginnings of these major projects”, said Bay.
“The major choices that we will have to make in the coming years are choices that will commit us for decades,” he added.
Among these choices is a moratorium on wind power, which according to Bay, is “an ecological and economic aberration” that “offers no prospect of improvement”.
However, the spokesman noted that “immediately dismantling all wind turbines” would probably be economic nonsense and that dismantling those “most harmful” would make more sense.
Le Pen’s proposal for a new energy mix with more nuclear and less wind aims at energy autonomy without ruling out EU cooperation.
The candidate wants to get out of the system, “which leads us to have to put part of our electricity production on the European market and then buy it back at an exorbitant price,” said Bay.
The spokesman warned against the risk of “impoverishment of the population” and “the total weakening of our economic fabric”.
In particular, he pointed to the “extremely demanding standards” under discussion in Brussels, which would make economic actors more environmentally virtuous but impose costs that could even lead them to close their doors.
Le Pen should probably not rely on the EU to carry out her climate and energy programme. “The Green Deal is a slogan (…). For the moment, we can’t see it translated into operational policy,” Bay added.
Whether Le Pen’s climate programme will be changed if she is elected will be determined after 24 April.