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Macron tells France's heavy polluters to cut emissions, pledges aid

By Elizabeth Pineau

PARIS, Nov 8 (Reuters) - President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday told France's biggest polluters they should cut their greenhouse gas emissions by half over the next decade and said there would be more public money available to help decarbonise the economy if they acted quickly.

Oil and gas group TotalEnergies, cement-maker Holcim and steelmaker ArcelorMittal were among those invited to the Elysee Palace to listen to Macron, who wants France to be a leader in cleaner industry. The country aims to become carbon neutral by 2050.

Addressing executives whose companies operate France's 50 most polluting industrial sites, Macron said that if they alone reduced their emissions at these plants by half the country's greenhouse gas output would drop by 5%.

"We're going to fight to have more public and private investment to accompany this," Macron told the executives.

Industry accounts for just 10% of jobs in France but 20% of national greenhouse gas emissions, according to official data. The 50 dirtiest industrial sites accounted for half of those emissions - equivalent to the emissions of roughly 4 million people in France.

Macron said the government would double the 5 billion euros hitherto budgeted for helping decarbonise industry if the executives presented plans to cut emissions within 18 months.

He said he could not discuss greening-up French industry without making reference to the United States' Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) law.

Paris, Berlin and other European capitals fear the IRA, which among other incentives provides tax credits for eligible components produced in a U.S. factory as well as a tax credit on the cost of new or upgraded factories that build renewable energy components, will take investment away from Europe.

"I don't think it's in line with World Trade Organization rules. I don't think it's friendly," Macron said, adding he would raise the issue when he visits Washington next month.

Macron on Monday said at the COP27 climate conference in Egypt that while the world was distracted by a confluence of global crises, it was important not to sacrifice national commitments to fight climate change.

During Macron's tenure, the state has twice been fined by France's highest administrative court for failing to improve air quality in major cities and ordered by another court to do more to fight climate change. (Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau, Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by David Gregorio)

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