Offsetting Trump, Macron moves to 'Make Our Planet Great Again'

Paris (AFP) –


Moving to fill a perceived climate research gap under Donald Trump's administration, French President Emmanuel Macron will name on Monday the first scientists to be hosted in France to help "Make Our Planet Great Again".

Macron will announce the grant winners, the presidency said, at an event dubbed "Tech for Planet" held on the eve of his "One Planet Summit".

He called the meeting, which will gather some 50 world leaders in the French capital, two years to the day since 195 nations adopted the Paris Agreement to limit climate change.

The French president has earmarked around 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 global pact painstakingly negotiated by nearly 200 nations over more than two decades.

The US is the only country to reject the agreement.

Furthermore, Trump has asked Congress to slash the climate research budgets of federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

If enacted, the cuts would total billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

Macron in June called Trump's rejection of the Paris Agreement "disappointing," and urged climate scientists to "come work here with us".

His 30-million-euro pledge has since been matched by French universities and institutions, enough to pay for five-year postings for 50 scientists.

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 -

In September, project leaders said the list of candidates had been whittled down from thousands to 90, nearly half of them from the United States.

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 Bonn talks, 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 seek to identify 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 climate change is to be braked.

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.

A grouping of 54 companies including Adidas, Marks & Spencer, Michelin, Philip Morris International, Unilever and Woolworths committed to "proactively tackling" climate change in their own activities, and urged governments to accelerate decarbonisation of the global economy.