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US researchers flock to join Macron's climate change project

LCI/AFP | French President Emmanuel Macron announced his ‘Make Our Planet Great Again’ project on the same day Trump announced the US would pull out of the 2015 Paris accord.

Eighteen climate scientists, 13 of them based in the United States, were on Monday named the first beneficiaries of the research grants linked to French President Macron’s “Make Our Planet Great Again” project, which will see them relocate to France.


“The selected projects are of very high standards and deal with issues that are particularly important,” the jury said in a statement, noting its members had received a total of 1,822 applications, of which 1,123 came from the US. A second round of laureates will be announced “during the course of the spring of 2018”, it said.

In all, a total of 50 research grants will be handed out, lasting a minimum of three years and worth between €1 million and €1.5 million each.

Among Monday’s 18 laureates were senior researchers from prestigious US universities, including Venkatramani Balaji from Princeton, Nuria Teixido from Stanford University and Louis Derry from Cornell University. Although the vast majority of the laureates are currently based in the US, they also include researchers from Canada, India, Italy, Poland and Spain.

“The laureates will settle in France in the next few months,” the jury said.

In France, the scientists will conduct research on a wide array of topics, including how global warming impacts natural catastrophes like hurricanes, the health implications of climate change and how a warmer planet can affect the circular economy.

Trump rebuke

Macron's research initiative is a direct rebuke of US President Donald Trump’s June decision to pull his country out of the 2015 Paris climate change accord.

Macron, whose administration created YouTube videos and set up a website to promote the project, called on foreign researchers, and in particular US-based scientists, to come to France to fill the research void created by Trump and his decision.

“To all scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision by the president of the United States, I want to say, that they will find in France a second homeland. I call on them: Come, and work here with us. [Come] to work here on concrete solutions for our climate, our environment. I can assure you, France will not give up the fight,” the French leader said as he launched the project this summer, just hours after Trump’s announcement.

To be legible for the grants, candidates needed to show they were established in the climate science field, had completed a thesis and had a viable three- to five-year project in mind to work on in France.

Macron announced the winners at Parisian startup incubator Station F, where Microsoft and other tech companies announced projects to fund emission-reducing activities.

The announcement comes on the eve of the opening of the One Planet Summit in Paris. Some 50 world leaders are expected to attend the event, which is co-hosted by the United Nations and the World Bank, in a bid to give new impetus to the Paris agreement. Trump has not been invited to the event, however.

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