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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Macron pledges 700 million euros to support solar projects 

French President also takes a dig at Donald Trump at first meeting of the International Solar Alliance in New Delhi

French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend the founding conference of the International Solar Alliance in New Delhi. Ludovic Marin / AFP
French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend the founding conference of the International Solar Alliance in New Delhi. Ludovic Marin / AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday pledged hundreds of millions of euros for solar projects in developing countries, as world leaders met in India to promote greater investment in renewable energy.

Mr Macron, who in December warned that the global shift to a green energy future was too slow, said France would extend an extra €700 million (Dh3.16 billion) through loans and donations by 2022 for solar projects in emerging economies.

President Macron did not name his American counterpart while speaking at the first meeting of the International Solar Alliance in New Delhi. But while hailing the "solar mamas", a group of women trained as solar engineers, he said the women had continued their mission to promote solar energy even after "some countries decided just to leave the floor and leave the Paris agreement".

Mr Trump announced last June that the US was withdrawing from the Paris accord, which aims to slow the rise in global temperature by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

France had already committed 300m euros to the initiative when it co-founded with India a global alliance in 2015 to unlock new cash for solar projects in sunny yet poor nations.

"We need to remove all obstacles and scale up," Mr Macron said at the launch of the International Solar Alliance in New Delhi on Sunday.

Read more: France and India to co-operate in fighting climate change

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has committed to reducing India's sizeable carbon footprint through a massive scale-up in renewable energy, said it was vital that nations were not priced out.

"We have to make sure that a better and cost effective solar technology is available to all," Mr Modi told the gathering of investors and world leaders from about 20 mainly African nations.

"We will have to increase solar in our energy mix."

India, the world's third-largest polluter, is undergoing spectacular growth in its solar sector and is on track to become one of the world's largest clean energy markets.

It pledged at the Paris climate summit in 2015 to source at least 40 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2030, mainly via solar.

The energy-hungry giant of 1.25 billion people is banking on solar to electrify homes for hundreds of millions of its poorest citizens without adding to its considerable emissions output.

Both leaders hope the alliance will spur $1 trillion in new solar spending by 2030 in 121 countries lacking investment in the sector.

These countries have "the paradox of being the sunniest in the world while enjoying the least solar energy", said Segolene Royal, a former French minister in India as a special envoy for the alliance.

Mr Macron told world leaders in Paris in December that "we are losing the battle" against climate change and urged faster action to combat global warming.

The French leader called on private sector attendees in New Delhi to engage more actively because "solar investments are becoming more profitable".

He and Mr Modi will open a new 100 megawatt solar plant near the city of Varanasi on Monday. The French leader will also visit the Taj Mahal in Agra later Sunday.