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France will pour 30 billion euros, or $34.6 billion, over the next five years into nuclear reactors, semiconductor plants and other strategic investments aimed at revitalizing and decarbonizing the nation’s industry in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, President Emmanuel Macron announced Tuesday.
Citing the need for the country to become a champion in innovation, Mr. Macron, who faces a tough bid for re-election next year, said spending would be targeted at making France “a global leader” in green hydrogen, which companies and governments are increasingly turning to as they pivot away from fossil fuels.
The plan comes just weeks before a major United Nations climate conference, COP26, where countries will promote their latest commitments to reduce greenhouse emissions.
The plan grants a key role to innovative start-ups that can renew French industry alongside France’s stalwart industrial giants. At least €1 billion will flow toward “disruptive innovation” to design small nuclear reactors with improved waste management, Mr. Macron said in a speech at the Élysée Palace. France relies on nuclear power more than many countries, generating about 70 percent of its electricity this way.
French manufacturers will receive financial support to produce cleaner vehicles, with a target date of 2030 for producing low-emission planes and two million electric or hybrid cars on the roads. Six billion euros will be spent on the semiconductor and robotics industries.
Additional funding will be dedicated to financing a revolution in French agriculture and technology in the fields, in a bid to improve the nation’s ability to produce its own food and reduce farming’s enormous carbon footprint.
France’s manufacturing base has shrunk over the last four decades, as production moved to less expensive countries in Asia and Eastern Europe, costing hundreds of thousands of jobs. Mr. Macron has talked about bringing production from some strategic industries back from China, and is working alongside Germany to create a new European base for key technologies such as electric battery production.
Improving economic stability in the wake of the pandemic is crucial, France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, said in a separate interview.
“We believe in the necessity of improving the competitiveness of our companies, of investing in innovation, in new technologies. We strongly believe in the necessity of taking some more risks to be successful. We believe in the necessity of fighting against climate change,” he said. “So let’s put together all those proposals.”