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Macron at COP28: ‘Nuclear energy is back’

France and around twenty other countries signed a pledge to ‘triple nuclear energy capacity from 2020 by 2050’ at Dubai’s COP28 international gathering on Saturday.

This declaration, which is not legally binding, recognises “the key role of nuclear energy in achieving global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions/carbon neutrality by or around mid-century”, in line with the Paris Accord.

A total of 22 countries signed the pledge, including the United States, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Hungary, and the Netherlands.

The International Paris Accord, adopted in 2015, commits all 196 signatory countries to keep the rise in temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 and do everything possible to keep it below 1.5 degrees.

“[A]nalysis from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] shows nuclear energy approximately tripling its global installed electrical capacity from 2020 to 2050 in the average 1.5°C scenario,” the declaration reads.

This declaration was signed alongside another call to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030, supported by 120 countries. COP28 participants also “reaffirmed the need to accelerate efforts to phase out unabated coal in the global energy mix”.

Growing demand for nuclear

“Nuclear energy is back,” said President Emmanuel Macron, who celebrated in Dubai hours after the pledge was made public. Tripling production capacities “sends a powerful message to the world”, he said.

Macron further claimed that “we need the World Bank, international financial institutions [and] multilateral development banks to include nuclear energy into their energy-lending policies”.

This is the only way to support the growth of nuclear infrastructures in emerging countries. “Many developing countries want to invest […] in SMRs [Small Modular Reactors], which are safe and reliable alternatives to fossil fuels, and a good investment for strategic autonomy,” Macron outlined.

Just a week ago, European Commissioner for the Single Market, Thierry Breton, unveiled the creation of a new European Alliance on SMRs, which should see the light of day in early 2024 (more details in French here).

The COP28 declaration also makes clear it intends to work with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure nuclear infrastructure development “adheres to the highest standards of safety, security, and safeguards”.

Nuclear is ‘false solution’

But criticism against the pro-nuclear pledge is mounting.

“Notwithstanding the specific dangers of nuclear power, the idea [of an international declaration] is ridiculous […] and worthy of someone more concerned with the future of the nuclear industry than with saving humanity”, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, founder of far-left party La France Insoumise, said on Saturday.

Placing all bets on nuclear power “is a false solution”, Green MEP and EU Parliament Transport Committee President Karima Delli told Europe 1: it would go “against our History, as even the International Energy Agency says it clearly: we have to rely on […] renewable energy”.

In a press release, Greenpeace also criticised Macron’s “pro-nuclear obsession, [which] masks his lack of seriousness when it comes to climate action”.

The COP28 international meeting, an annual event, is due to close on 12 December.

Source: Euractiv