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Exchange public aid for accelerated decarbonization: the recipe works with manufacturers, assured Wednesday the government which met in Bercy the leaders of the 50 sites most harmful to the climate. "The good news is that it is possible," welcomed the Minister of Industry Roland Lescure in front of the press during this meeting of stage gathering the representatives of the industrial sites the most emitters of greenhouse gases: cement factories, steel mills, refineries or sugar mills... Together, these companies account for 11% of France's emissions, and nearly 60% of industrial emissions.

The government has undertaken to negotiate decarbonization trajectories with each of them, proposing last year to double the pace of their efforts in exchange for a doubling of public aid, which would bring the envelope to 10 billion euros over the period 2022-2027. "The first roadmaps (46 out of 50) on which we have exchanged announce a reduction in emissions of 44% in 2030 and 80% in 2050, so we're almost there," triumphed Roland Lescure, while admitting before the meeting that there was "still work". With these roadmaps, the State wants to mobilize industry towards a goal of carbon neutrality in 2050. The step is high, because it implies an effort between now and 2030 that is equivalent to that made over the last 30 years.

"Massive challenge"

The government also wants to be able to estimate and plan the "disruptive" infrastructures and technologies that will be necessary for this decarbonization: future hydrogen "hubs", higher-power electrical connections, biomass supplies, or even, as a big novelty, "carboducts", these pipes that will make it possible to transport the CO2 from residual emissions to geological storage wells. It also intends to adapt the country's energy choices, said Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Minister of Energy Transition: "when we stack the number of megawatt hours or biomass that will have to be produced, we realize that we have an absolutely massive challenge," she said.

Among the sites requested by the State are, for example, Arcelor Mittal in Dunkirk and Fos-sur-Mer, the cement factories Vicat, Lafarge, Calcia, the chemical factories of the Grand Est, the fertilizer manufacturers Yara or Borealis, the glass factory of Arques, the refineries Esso-ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies in Normandy, Air Liquide in PACA, the sugar producers Tereos and Cristal Union... Decarbonizing these sites would have symbolic value. It would also be effective because it would be equivalent in terms of CO2 avoided to the energy renovation of 10 million homes or the conversion of 10 million thermal cars to electric, said Roland Lescure. Emmanuel Macron will take stock of this work in June.

55 winning projects

The promised aid comes under the France 2030 plan, in the form of calls for projects, the most effective of which will be supported. As of now, 55 winning projects have been selected for €225 million in aid, and two new calls for projects have been launched for €125 million each. At Bercy, Xavier Astolfi, CEO of Cristal Union, a company best known for its pink packet sugar brand "Daddy Sucre", defended the project to convert the boiler at its Arcis-sur-Aube plant, near Troyes, to biomass by burning beet pulp using a new process.

The pulp is currently recycled in the form of pellets for animal feed. Using it as a replacement for fossil fuel would save 100,000 tons of CO2 per year, and this would be transposable "to the entire sugar industry", he said. Why didn't we do it before? "This represents three years of investment capacity of the group" and amounts to "hundreds of millions of euros", said to AFP the president of Cristal Union, Olivier de Bohan, waiting for public aid: "We can not be alone, we must be accompanied".

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