French President Emmanuel Macron extolled the Franco-American relationship on multiple fronts but issued a stern warning about the need to address climate change during his address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.
Speaking entirely in English, Macron laid out the numerous ways ― human rights, trade, terrorism ― in which both the U.S. and France must strengthen multilateral ties in order to confront what he called a “new world order” marked by violence and conflict.
His most forceful comments came in the form of a veiled rebuke against President Donald Trump on climate policy. Macron has emerged as a leader in the fight to protect the legitimacy of the Paris climate agreement after Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw last June. Minutes after Trump’s announcement, Macron tweeted a slogan riffing off of Trump’s own campaign rallying cry: “Make our planet great again.”
On Wednesday, he demanded again that the U.S. do its part to provide future generations with “a planet that is still habitable in 25 years.” Some people, he continued, feel that securing jobs and restoring industry are more urgent concerns, yet he insisted that the long-term goal of creating a low-carbon economy is primordial.
“What is the meaning of our life, really, if we work and live destroying the planet, sacrificing the future of our children?” he asked as the room erupted, mostly among Democratic members of Congress, in applause.
He’s confident, he added, that the U.S. and France can work out their disagreements on the matter because “on the long term we will have to face the same realities.”
Travis Nichols, media director for Greenpeace USA, applauded Macron’s address.
“Donald Trump should never have rejected the Paris Climate Accord in the first place, and he should by all means reverse course immediately,” Nichols said on Wednesday. “Trump must listen to not only President Macron, but the majority of people in this country who want the United States to stay in the Paris Agreement. As climate-fueled disasters around the world continue to worsen, even Trump should now see that the Paris terms are immensely favorable when compared to climate inaction, denial, and isolation. Destruction wrought from climate change is only going to get worse, and the rest of the world already knows it.”
Macron’s time in Washington, D.C., this week marks the first official state visit of the Trump administration. Macron and Trump have quickly developed an affability that the U.S. leader hasn’t displayed toward other key allies. A series of praiseworthy comments ― Trump at one point called Macron “perfect” ― plus a variety of hugs and handshakes during public events on Tuesday pointed to the warmth between the two.
Yet a handful of thorny international issues are on the table as the two leaders meet, most notably the Iran nuclear deal and Western involvement in the ongoing civil war in Syria.
Many view Macron as the only person with a shot at getting Trump to change his mind about pulling out of the Iran nuclear agreement. Trump has long railed against the deal signed during the Obama administration. He yet again called the agreement “insane” and “ridiculous” on Tuesday but did signal a willingness to negotiate a new deal.
Trump set a deadline of May 12 to determine the fate of the current Iran deal. In classic Trump fashion, he has so far not indicated what he plans to do.
“Nobody knows what I’m going to do on the 12th, although Mr. President, you have a pretty good idea,” Trump said on Tuesday, addressing Macron. “We’ll see also if I do what some people expect, whether or not it will be possible to do a new deal with solid foundations.”
Macron said Wednesday that France doesn’t plan to leave the agreement but is happy to work with Trump in crafting a new, more comprehensive deal that addresses some of the issues that both countries feel were left out of the current deal.
As for Syria, Macron is thought to be playing an integral role in influencing Trump’s decisions. He said in a recent interview that he was the one to convince Trump not to pull troops out of the beleaguered country.
“We’ll be coming home but we want to leave a strong and lasting footprint,” Trump said Tuesday of his decision to leave troops in Syria.
Macron also took credit for persuading the president to carry out joint strikes with France and the U.K. on Syrian military targets following a deadly chemical attack on civilians earlier this month.
“This action was one of the best evidence of strong multilateralism,” Macron said Wednesday, promising to continue working together towards humanitarian solutions to the crisis.