In view of a green vote, Macron pledges to get out of oil, coal and gas

By Michael Rose

MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) – President Emmanuel Macron vowed on Saturday to make France the “first major nation” to stop using oil, coal and gas as energy sources, in an address to young voters and Greens which he fears will abstain in next week’s election run-off.

At a rally in the Mediterranean city of Marseille, which voted overwhelmingly for leftist instigator Jean-Luc Melenchon on the first ballot, Macron sought to expand what opinion polls show as a narrow lead over her far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

Ahead of the second round on April 24, the presidential race is contested on the left, with the two contenders seeking to attract voters who chose Mélenchon in the first round last Sunday.

Macron said he would entrust his next prime minister directly with what he called “green planning”, appealing to leftist voters’ nostalgia for post-war communist-inspired central planning while exploiting 21st century concerns about climate change.

“I heard the anxiety of our young people,” Macron told flag-waving supporters in a park overlooking the Old Port of Marseille, France’s second-largest city.

“The mission of this prime minister will be to make France the first major nation to get out of gas, oil and coal. It is possible, and we will,” Macron said. “Between coal and gas on the one hand, and nuclear on the other, I choose nuclear.”

The president wants to build six new nuclear reactors and launch studies for eight others, increase solar energy capacity tenfold and build 50 offshore wind farms by the middle of the century. He also wants to insulate 700,000 homes a year to save energy.

Macron, a centrist, has also said he wants to create a national nature day in May each year. He called Le Pen a “climate skeptic”.

Melenchon came third on April 10 with more than 21% of the vote and while the two candidates in the second round seek to attract his supporters, Le Pen opts for the more working and rural part of this electorate by focusing on the cost of life, rising food prices and high gasoline prices following the war in Ukraine.

Macron, meanwhile, is trying to appeal to the more educated, center-left and urban segments of Melenchon’s supporters.

An opinion poll for Ipsos on Saturday showed that 33% of Mélenchon voters planned to vote for Macron, 16% for Le Pen and 51% were undecided.

Thousands of anti-far-right protesters marched across the country on Saturday as opponents of Le Pen seek to form a united front to prevent him winning the second round.

In Marseille, Mehdi Sam, a 25-year-old computer engineer and left-wing voter, said he was interested in Macron’s environmental agenda, but added that his father, who voted for Mélenchon in the first round, planned to join. abstain in the second round.

“I think it’s a mistake. I can understand that not everything suits him (with Macron)… but we forget what’s on the other side: a camp that is extreme, with very negative values, and that’s not the France that I want for tomorrow,” he said.

(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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