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Macron promises to relieve energy transition pain

A demonstrator wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher fuel prices, holds a French flag as he blocks the access to the Total biodiesel refinery at La Mede near Fos-sur-Mer, France, November 22, 2018.
A demonstrator wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher fuel prices, holds a French flag as he blocks the access to the Total biodiesel refinery at La Mede near Fos-sur-Mer, France, November 22, 2018. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

French President Emmanuel Macron is to unveil new measures next Tuesday to make his energy transition plans more "acceptable" to the public. Tens of thousands of yellow vest protesters have blocked roads and fuel depots throughout this week in anger over rising fuel prices, and plan to bring the capital to a standstill on Saturday.

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"We have heard the message of our citizens. They want us to go further," advisers to President Macron told the press late Thursday.

The announcement comes after yellow vest, or gilets jaune protesters, angry over rising fuel taxes and a general decline in living standards vowed to stage a nationwide demonstration on Saturday, including in the heart of Paris, on the Champs de Mars at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

"To ensure that the energy transition, which is necessary, does not leave anyone behind (....) we must mobilize all of our resources to make it acceptable," they added.

In concrete terms, the president is expected to unveil new social mesures, and engage in dialogue with the protesters.

They were galvanised by a rant on Facebook by 51-year-old Jacline Mouraud. In a video, which went viral, she ridiculed the French leader and listed a series of grievances including high fuel taxes, which have been hiked as part of Macron’s proposed “green revolution,” targeting diesel vehicles.

"The energy transition will be done with citizens. There will be money, debate and a method," the Elysee presidential palace summarised.

Nicolas Hulot is back

Meanwhile, former Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot has spoken out for the first time since his shock resignation in August, saying he had seen the revolt coming.

"The gilets jaunes protest movement was inevitable," he told France 2 television Monday night.

"I fought hard, particularly during the weeks leading up to my departure for the government to drastically change its method in the way to ensure the energy transition is socially fair (...). I was never heard," he said.

Since the protests began on Saturday 17 November, two people have been killed and some 500 injured. Despite, this, recent polls suggest that 82% of the population are in favour of the government scrapping its carbon tax.

"The energy transition exists in the public domain. That is at least one positive thing to come out of the gilets jaunes protests. They are not against the energy transition, they want it to be more acceptable," concludes the Elysée.

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