Marseille, France- President Emmanuel Macron has promised to put the environment at the heart of his government if he is re-elected next weekend – in a speech he gave in the south of France on Saturday intended to please the public. young voters and environmentalists.
Macron held a large rally in the port city of Marseille while his rival, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, traveled to a village west of Paris.
Polls show Macron extending his lead over Le Pen, with a new poll by Ipsos Sopra/Steria on Saturday suggesting Macron would triumph with 55.5% to Le Pen’s 44.5%.
“I hear the anxiety that exists in many of our young people. I see young people, teenagers, who are afraid for the future of our planet,” Macron told the rally.
He acknowledged the “powerful message” sent in the first round of elections on April 10, when nearly 8 million voters backed far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon and his very green agenda.
“It’s up to us to react and it’s up to us to act,” Macron said.
As well as promising to make France “the first major nation to abandon gas, oil and coal”, Macron said he would appoint a prime minister who would be officially in charge of “ecological planning”.
He also pledged new investments in renewable technologies, energy-efficient home renovations and organic food production, while pledging to tackle air pollution and single-use plastics.
The speech was a clear pitch for young left-wing voters who backed Melenchon and Greens candidate Yannick Jadot in the first round, and who will be crucial in the second round on April 24.
The idea of a prime minister in charge of “ecological planning” was first proposed by Mélenchon.
Macron has accused Le Pen of being “a climate change skeptic”, attacking her for offering to dismantle wind turbines, which she sees as costly and inefficient eyesores.
Polls show the environment is a top priority for French voters, but it was overshadowed during the election campaign by the war in Ukraine and the soaring cost of living.
Several hundred activists from the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion blocked a main artery in central Paris on Saturday to denounce the “inaction” of politicians.
“It’s the only way to make sure everyone talks a bit about climate change,” said Antoine, a young Extinction Rebellion activist who declined to give his last name.
Meanwhile, Le Pen was visiting the village of Saint Rémy-sur-Avre, around an hour and a half drive west of the capital, where she won the first round last weekend.
After hearing complaints about the loss of hospital beds and local bus services, she vowed to “govern the country like a mother, with common sense” and stand up for “the most vulnerable”.
She has sought to tone down her image in this year’s campaign, emphasizing her proposals for solutions to the rising cost of living rather than her usual topics of immigration and Islam.
Union-backed rallies against the far right took place in major cities on Saturday. Nearly 23,000 people took part in the demonstrations, according to estimates by the Ministry of the Interior: 150,000 according to the organizers of the rallies.
Le Pen has faced repeated questions this week about her plan to ban the Islamic headscarf in public places, which she says will be met with fines by the police.
The 52-year-old mother-of-three admitted on Saturday it was a “complex issue” and would be discussed by parliament if she won.
But “we must solve the problem of women who are forced to wear it under pressure from Islamists,” she said.
She has also sought to woo leftist voters, which she will need to defeat Macron.
“We speak to all French people,” she told a rally in the southern city of Avignon on Thursday evening. “We hold a firm hand but of friendship and respect.”
Although both candidates claim to have strong environmental agendas, they have clear differences in foreign policy, attitudes towards immigration and the economy.
Eurosceptic Le Pen wants to revisit France’s commitments to the European Union and has proposed closer ties between the Western military alliance NATO and Russia once the war in Ukraine is over.
Macron and Le Pen are set to meet on Wednesday evening in a crucial one-on-one debate that has proven crucial in swaying voters in the past.
Meanwhile, investigative site Mediapart reported on Saturday that the EU’s anti-corruption office, OLAF, delivered a report to French prosecutors last month accusing Le Pen of fraudulently using the money that she received when she was an MEP between 2004 and 2017.
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