France to give up support for mega gas project in the Arctic

This is a clear signal, but not yet final. The President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, strongly hinted: the state is in the process of giving up support for a mega gas project in the Russian Arctic, an area threatened in particular by global warming. Supported by the French oil company TotalEnergies and the Russian Novatek, the Arctic LNG 2 project aims to build a gigantic liquefaction plant in the Russian Far North that will allow natural gas to be exported to Europe and Asia.

France had initially considered support this project through export guarantees. Thanks to this mechanism, the country guarantees loans for French companies through the public investment bank, Bpifrance. Like the German and Italian credit agencies, also solicited, Bpifrance officially announced at the end of June that the file was being studied.

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The president chose the World Congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to express his reservations in public. “France will not wait for the laws to take all the measures it can so that nothing of the biodiversity in the Arctic region can be degraded by economic projects carried out by companies”, he said in Marseille on September 3.

This declaration, if it does not explicitly mention Artic LNG 2, seems to indicate that Paris intends to give up supporting it. At the Elysee Palace, however, we refuse to be more explicit. “The orientation is rather straightforward”, notes an advisor. At the Ministry of Ecological Transition, it is considered that the president’s statement is welcome. Barbara pompili “Is pleased that the president has shown his opposition to fossil projects harmful to the environment of the Arctic”, indicates his entourage.

“We want him to move from speech to action”

Despite the comments made in Marseille, the environmental organizations mobilized for many months on the file are not entirely reassured. During the first meeting of the quinquennium between their representatives and the president, on August 31, Emmanuel Macron seemed clear. According to several participants, the president said he did not want to sign this guarantee.

Why, then, was the head of state less precise during the IUCN congress? “It is a rather characteristic speech of the way in which Emmanuel Macron can present himself on the international scene, everyone can understand what he wants to understand”, regrets Anna-Lena Rebaud, climate and just transition campaign manager at Friends of the Earth, one of the organizations most committed against the gas project. In fact, the Head of State had already expressed himself to be alarmed by the state of the Arctic on the occasion of the G7 international summit in Biarritz, in 2019. “Now we want him to move from speech to action”, adds Mme Rebaud.

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