France's Macron defends nuclear and says wind and solar ‘should not disfigure’ landscape

President Macron says Paris owes "a debt" to French Polynesia over nuclear tests conducted between 1966 and 1996

Solar and wind farms need to coexist with the landscape and not become a blight on France’s natural heritage, French President Emmanuel Macron has warned.

He said more renewables were needed but these should be considered on a case-by-case basis and eco-power could harm the natural landscape.

He also said France had benefited from its nuclear industry.

Mr Macron was speaking in French Polynesia where he remembered the debt owed to the country after it was used as a nuclear testing area for 30 years.

He also visited the Criobe research centre, on Moorea Island, where scientists are studying the ways in which climate change is affecting coral and its biosphere.

"There are places where solar or wind projects are well coordinated, well thought out, fit into the landscape [and which] are accepted by the population and also make it possible to develop economic returns,” he said.

But with solar or wind projects, "where they create too much tension, distort and disfigure the landscape, you have to know where to adapt or give up,” he added.

“You have some of our regions, which have already built a lot of wind turbines. Like everywhere we must know a reason to keep them. We must listen.

“We have passed a reform that is important, which makes it possible to take into account the position of elected officials, to improve local consultation," Mr Macron said.

Mr Macron said he wanted to develop solar, which represents "less nuisance for fellow citizens" and in particular less "visual" nuisance.

"I do not want our landscapes to be damaged. It is part of our heritage and of our deep wealth, of our identity"

He also defended the nuclear industry role in France.

"We are the country in Europe that has the least tonnes of CO2 emitted per capita, and why? Because we have historic nuclear power," Mr Macron said.

In French Polynesia, Mr Macron did not apologise for the nuclear tests, as a long-running campaign has demanded, but did admit France owed the island chain a debt.

"The nation owes a debt to French Polynesia. This debt is from having conducted these tests, in particular those between 1966 and 1974. Nobody can claim that they were clean," he said.

The legacy of French nuclear testing in the territory remains a source of deep resentment among locals who think their home was chosen, at least partly, because of its distance from France.

"I want to tell you clearly that the military who carried them out did not lie to you. They took the same risks... There were no lies, there were risks that weren't calculated, including by the military.

"I think it's true that we would not have done the same tests in La Creuse or in Brittany," Mr Macron said, referring to regions inside mainland France. "We did them here because it was further away, lost in middle of the Pacific."

Officials earlier this month denied any cover-up of radiation exposure. French investigative website Disclose reported in March that the impact from the fallout was far more extensive than authorities had acknowledged, citing declassified French military documents.

France’s Parliament on Tuesday approved a compromise climate bill that was intended to transform travel, housing and industry.

But environmental activists said the bill did not go fast or far enough to slash the country’s carbon emissions.

Backed by President Emmanuel Macron, the legislation touches on issues central to French culture and economy, including farming, historical buildings and the aviation and automotive industries.

Updated: July 28th 2021, 10:04 AM