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ENVIRONMENT

Macron offsets Trump by opening arms to US climate change scientists

Moving to fill a climate science gap in Donald Trump's America, French President Emmanuel Macron named 13 US researchers on Monday to be hosted and sponsored by France to help "Make Our Planet Great Again".

Macron offsets Trump by opening arms to US climate change scientists
AFP

They were among 18 beneficiaries of a Macron-led initiative to boost climate change research in the face of Trump's rejection of the Paris Agreement to limit climate change.

“I do want to thank you for being here, for your answer to this first call, your decision to move and come to Paris,” the French leader told the chosen few at an event dubbed: “Tech for Planet” held on the eve of his “One Planet Summit”.

“One of our main perspectives is obviously to address the current challenges of climate change,” he said, but also “to boost your research, to boost your initiatives, and to be sure that here you have help in order to deliver more rapidly and to do more.”

Macron has earmarked 30 million euros ($35 million) for his “Make our Planet Great Again” initiative — a play on Donald Trump's “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.

Macron made the offer after Trump, who has dismissed climate change as a “hoax”, announced in June the United States would withdraw from the Paris pact, painstakingly negotiated by nearly 200 nations over more than two decades.

The US is the only country to reject the agreement.

Speaking on the eve of the One Planet Summit, two years to the day since 195 nations adopted the climate plan, Macron rejected the idea that Trump
could negotiate a fresh deal and termed his withdrawal an “aggressive” maneuver.

The French president said: “I'm sorry to say that, it doesn't fly, so, so sorry but I think it is a big responsibility in front of the history, and I'm pretty sure that my friend President Trump will change his mind in the coming months or years, I do hope.”

He added: “It's extremely aggressive to decide on its own just to leave, and no way to push the others to renegotiate because one decided to leave the floor.

“I'm not ready to renegotiate but I'm ready to welcome him if he decides to come back.”

Trump has asked Congress to slash the climate research budgets of federal agencies, threatening billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

Macron's 30-million-euro pledge has since been matched by French universities and institutions, enough to pay for five-year postings for 50 scientists. More beneficiaries will be chosen later.

Junior researchers will be alloted up to one million euros over four years, covering their salaries, two doctoral students, and expenses.

Senior researchers will each have a 1.5-million-euro budget that provides for two assistants and two students. Spouses will be given French work permits.

$100 billion

“Make Our Planet Great Again is an unexpected opportunity,” Alessandra Giannini, a researcher at The Earth Institute at Columbia University, one of
the 18 recipients, told AFP.

For fellow beneficiary Nuria Teixido of Stanford University, the initiative was an important recognition “that science plays an important role” in
confronting the problem of climate change.

Tuesday's summit will gather leaders including UN chief Antonio Guterres, Mexico's Enrique Pena Nieto, Theresa May of Britain, Spain's Mariano Rajoy, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to talk about climate finance.

It follows just weeks after the 23rd annual Conference of Parties to the UN Climate Convention, which was held in Bonn.

The US president's rejection of the Paris pact threw a long shadow over the talks in Germany, where officials from Washington defended the use of fossil fuels blamed for global warming.

Trump was not invited to the latest talks, and Washington will be represented by an embassy official.

The gathering will look at sources of finance, public and private, to help countries make the costly shift to cleaner energy sources and to raise their
defences against climate change impacts such as sea-level rise, harsher droughts, floods and superstorms, and disease spread.

Rich nations have pledged to muster $100 billion in climate finance for developing nations per year from 2020.

On 2015 trends, total public financing would reach about $67 billion by that date, according to a report of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation
and Development (OECD).

Trump has said the United States — which had pledged $3 billion towards the Green Climate Fund, of which it delivered $1 billion under Barack Obama — would not fulfil its climate finance commitments.

On Monday, UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa said “a practical path forward for finance is needed” if the brakes were to be put on climate change.

Political agreements “will not be enough if we do not update and reset the global finance architecture and make all developement low-emission, resilient and sustainable,” she said.

CLIMATE CRISIS

Scorching summer was France’s second hottest on record

Three heatwaves since June produced France's second-hottest summer since records began in 1900, the Météo France weather service said on Tuesday, warning that scorching temperatures will be increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

Scorching summer was France's second hottest on record

With 33 days of extreme heat overall, average temperatures for June, July and August were 2.3C above normal for the period of 1991-2020.

It was surpassed only by the 2003 heatwave that caught much of France unprepared for prolonged scorching conditions, leading to nearly 15,000 heat-related deaths, mainly among the elderly.

Data is not yet available for heat-related deaths this summer, but it is likely to be significantly lower than 15,000 thanks to preventative measures taken by local and national authorities. 

Most experts attribute the rising temperatures to the climate crisis, with Météo France noting that over the past eight summers in France, six have been among the 10-hottest ever.

By 2050, “we expect that around half of summer seasons will be at comparable temperatures, if not higher,” even if greenhouse gas emissions are contained, the agency’s research director Samuel Morin said at a press conference.

The heat helped drive a series of wildfires across France this summer, in particular a huge blaze in the southwest that burned for more than a month and blackened 20,000 hectares. 

Unusually, wildfires also broke out even in the normally cooler north of the country, and in total an area five times the size of Paris burned over the summer. 

Adding to the misery was a record drought that required widespread limits on water use, with July the driest month since 1961 – many areas still have water restrictions in place.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Forecasters have also warned that autumn storms around the Mediterranean – a regular event as air temperatures cool – will be unusually intense this year because of the very high summer temperatures. A storm that hit the island of Corsica in mid August claimed six lives. 

“The summer we’ve just been through is a powerful call to order,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday, laying out her priorities for an “ecological planning” programme to guide France’s efforts against climate change.

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