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Emmanuel Macron in New Orleans: French leader makes climate change, language a priority during trip

Kezia Setyawan
French President Emmanuel Macron walks through the French Quarter on Dec. 2, 2022, during a visit to the U.S. Macron's visit was the first time a French president has come to Louisiana since 1976.

For the first time since 1976, the French President visited the European nation’s former colony Louisiana for a day with an agenda that focused primarily on energy transition and Francophone preservation in the Pelican State.

Emmanuel Macron’s first stop in New Orleans was Jackson Square, where he was met with hundreds of spectators lined up behind barricades to see him and live music playing through the nearby streets. He was joined by Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, who gave Macron and France’s First Lady, Brigitte Macron, a tour of the French Quarter.

“It’s a really special day for the city and one that the French President has been waiting for,” Cantrell said to the press. “President Macron has indicated that his visit to New Orleans was the highlight of his visit to the United States.”

Carly Berlin
French President Emmanuel Macron walks through the French Quarter on Dec. 2, 2022, during a visit to the U.S. Macron's visit was the first time a French president has come to Louisiana since 1976.

She added that the meeting between Macron and Louisiana officials is crucial so the state and France can share ideas and plans for combating climate change and developing resiliency strategies.

After a festive walk through the French Quarter, Macron met with Gov. John Bel Edwards to oversee the signing of a climate change agreement between France and Louisiana, at a ceremony that was closed to reporters.

The memorandum of understanding creates a new position for a Louisiana-based French technical expert on the transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to a lower carbon economy. It also seeks a broader goal to foster collaboration between government agencies, academic institutions and private industry in France and Louisiana “as it relates to the energy sector, clean energy, renewable energy, the energy transition, and climate change mitigation and adaptation,” according to a press release.

“We’re looking for low-carbon and no-carbon energy as we make this transition so that Louisiana can be an energy leader over the next hundred years – as we have over the previous hundred,” Edwards told reporters after the ceremony. “That’s something we have in common with France.”

Macron was said to have met with various energy company officials, but those meetings were also closed off to the press and therefore it wasn’t immediately clear who specifically the French president met with.

Carly Berlin
People line up in Jackson Square before French President Emmanuel Macron's arrival to the French Quarter on Dec. 2, 2022. Macron's visit was the first time a French president has come to Louisiana since 1976.

Before leaving New Orleans, Macron traveled to the New Orleans Museum of Art to meet with stakeholders of Louisiana’s French-speaking culture, which comprised academia, Indigenous tribes and representatives of the bayou parishes.

It was there that he highlighted — fittingly, in French — the creation of a fund that would expand French language programs in a state where French dialects are still preserved in many communities.

The scholarship would fund French immersion programs across the country, and Macron specified that scholarships would be available for New Orleans students, though information wasn’t given at the event on how much the fund would give out to students and when it would be available.

Preserving and expanding French language education outside of France has also been top of mind for Macron.

“French belongs to everybody — it belongs to the world,” Macron said during the event.

Macron’s trip to Louisiana wraps up his visit to the U.S., which began Tuesday evening in Washington, where he met with President Joe Biden and other federal officials to discuss issues such as the war in Ukraine and climate change.

Carly Berlin is the New Orleans Reporter for WWNO and WRKF. She focuses on housing, transportation, and city government. Previously, she was the Gulf Coast Correspondent for Southerly, where her work focused on disaster recovery across south Louisiana during two record-breaking hurricane seasons. Much of that reporting centered on the aftermath of Hurricanes Laura and Delta in Lake Charles, and was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center.
Kezia Setyawan is a coastal reporter for WWNO and WRKF and is based out of Houma.

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