France will end sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 as part of an ambitious plan to honor its commitment under the Paris Climate Accord, which aims to reduce greenhouse gases and stem the effects of climate change. While other countries have considered banning cars powered by an internal combustion engine to meet air quality climate change goals, France is the first nation in the European Union to set a time limit for phasing out gas and diesel entirely. The announcement comes on the heels of car manufacturer Volvo's pledge to only make fully electric or hybrid cars from 2019 onwards. It's also one of a series of measures as part of newly elected President Emmanuel Macron's plan to make the country carbon neutral by 2050.
Speaking at a press conference, Nicolas Hulot, the country’s new ecology minister, said, "“We are announcing an end to the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040," adding that the move was a “veritable revolution.” Hulot acknowledged that the target would pressure car manufacturers, but he insisted that French carmakers "have enough ideas in the drawer to nurture and bring about this promise ... which is also a public health issue.” The French government will provide a premium to poorer households, he added, so those families can swap out their polluting vehicles for more environmentally friendly alternatives.
Hulot, a veteran environmental campaigner, said the government wants to "maintain" the country's "leadership" in climate change initiatives. "We want to demonstrate that fighting against climate change can lead to an improvement of French people's daily lives," he said. In response, Pascal Canfin, the head of WWF France and a former Green politician who served under former President François Hollande, said the new policy "places France among the leaders of climate action in the world."
Nicholas Hulot, the country’s new ecology minister. (Credit: Source.)
According to Professor David Bailey, an automotive industry expert at Aston University, the "timescale" of France's plan is "sufficiently long term to be taken seriously." If enacted, he notes, "it would send a very clear signal to manufacturers and consumers of the direction of travel and may accelerate a transition to electric cars.”
France has taken bold steps in renewable energy in recent months. A sampling:
- In December 2016, the nation announced the opening of the world’s first fully-driveable road made out of solar panels, which is, as Second Nexusreported, "the beginning of a two-year test run to determine whether it can generate 280 MWh of electricity per year—enough to power streetlights for the entire village—while withstanding vehicle traffic of up to 2,000 vehicles per day."
- During a keynote address in November 2016, then-President Hollande announced that France will phase out coal plants by 2023. The country currently generates just four percent of its power from coal.
- Last month, the country announced it would stop granting licenses for oil and gas exploration. Lawmakers look to pass legislation this autumn.
President Macron has also distinguished himself in recent weeks for his vocal commitment to the Paris Climate Accord, and made headlines after he excoriated President Donald Trump for withdrawing from the landmark agreement. Trump's decision to exit from the agreement has drawn international condemnation from world leaders and environmentalists alike who predict it could damage U.S. international standing on environmental concerns.
“I do respect his decision, but I do think it is an actual mistake, both for the United States and for the planet,” Macron said in an English-language speech at the Élysée Palace following Trump's announcement. “I tell you firmly tonight: We will not renegotiate a less ambitious accord. There is no way… If we do nothing, our children will know a world of migrations, of wars, of shortage. A dangerous world.”
Macron also issued a call to American researchers and scientists, encouraging them to work with like-minded people abroad, assuring them that France will “put forward a concrete action plan to increase its attractiveness for researchers and companies in the ecological-transition sector and will take initiatives notably in Europe and Africa” on the subject of climate change. “Tonight the United States has turned its back on the world, but France will not turn its back on Americans,” he added.
“To all scientists, engineers, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision of the United States, I want to say that they will find in France a second homeland,” Macron said. “I call on them: Come and work here with us––to work together on concrete solutions for our climate, our environment. I can assure you, France will not give up the fight.”