Climate

French President Awards US Scientists With ‘Make Our Planet Great Again’ Grants

As President Donald Trump reverses US commitments to act on climate change, French president Emmanuel Macron awards over $70 million in climate research funding, including support for 13 US scientists to conduct their work in France.

French President Emmanuel Macron receives Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Elysee Palace on June 23, 2017 in Paris, France. On their agenda was the United States withdrawal from the COP 21 and global climate change. | Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images
French President Emmanuel Macron receives Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Elysee Palace on June 23, 2017 in Paris, France. On their agenda was the United States withdrawal from the COP 21 and global climate change. | Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

In a conspicuous rebuke to President Trump and US policy, French president Emmanuel Macron this week awarded 18 research grants to climate change scientists – mostly from America – to come and pursue their work in France.

Macron devised the grant competition himself and announced it just hours after Trump pulled the US from the Paris climate accords in June. On Monday, Macron made good on the concept by announcing 18 initial winners, 13 of whom hail from the United States.

The competition was initially limited to US researchers, but Macron later opened the event to all foreign scientists. More than 5,000 individuals from more than 100 countries participated in the competition.

The winners will divvy up 60 million euros (around $70 million) in funds from French research institutes, both public and private. The grants also include stipends to facilitate relocation to France with all expenses paid. Researchers are invited to remain in France for the rest of Trump's presidential term.

The targeted brain drain is a dramatic gesture in and of itself, but the French couldn't resist throwing in another wicked jab by unofficially branding the grant competition, "Make Our Planet Great Again,” a play on Trump’s promise to make America great again.

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The French program is an explicit counter to the US rejection of the Paris climate agreement. The US is the only nation to reject the global climate accords, now backed by more than 190 countries.

Macron has said that he hopes the money will help to fill any funding gaps brought about by the Trump administration’s rejection of climate science.

"We will be there to replace" US financing of climate research, Macron said in Paris on Monday.

University of Texas researcher Camille Parmesan is one of the 18 initial winners of the French grants. She told the Associated Press that she's elated at the prospect of continuing her research in France instead of the US.

“[The award] gave me such a psychological boost, to have that kind of support — to have the head of state saying, 'I value what you do,'” Parmesan said.

Parmesan said she will move her research operations to an experimental ecology station in the Pyrenees mountains, where she will study the effects of climate change on wildlife populations.

More than 50 world leaders are expected in Paris this week for the One Planet Summit, hosted by the United Nations and the World Bank, on the two-year anniversary of the original Paris agreement. The summit is designed to help all participating countries continue to finance the climate goals of the accords.

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