French presidential election: Macron at a rally

With six days until the first round of the French presidential election, incumbent centrist Emmanuel Macron leads the polls and is predicted to win a second term, however his environmental policies have left many, particularly young people, unsure who to vote for.

“The younger generation feels quite disillusioned by how these candidates are not touching on such an important topic and such an important issue, that’s going to affect our generation in particular,” says 23-year-old Douglas, a dual French-British national.

Initially planning to vote for Jannick Jadot, France’s Green presidential candidate, Douglas now isn’t sure after Jadot last week was corrected for not knowing Romania and Bulgaria are part of the EU.

Douglas is sceptical of voting for Macron because of his plans to increase France’s nuclear power. In February Macron said he planned to build 14 new nuclear reactors. He argued this would reduce France’s reliance on fossil fuels.

“Macron is using France as a springboard to develop that new technology of nuclear power generation, in France, to then be able to try to export it as a major exporter of nuclear power generation technology. It’s a big gamble,” says Cécile Deer, a French lecturer at the University of Oxford.

If France is unable to export this technology, it could have large economic repercussions. Ms Deer suspects “France is unable to export this technology because it’s not good enough.”

In the 1960s president Charles de Gaulle made nuclear energy central to the French economy as a way of ensuring national power generation independence. About 70% of France’s electricity currently derives from atomic energy.

Greenpeace France have called the president’s nuclear ambitions “anti-democratic”, “too expensive […] dangerous and obsolete in a climate emergency”.

As the energy and climate crises worsen, these concerns may determine the success of the candidates.

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