France announced its goal on Thursday to ban the sale of diesel and gas vehicles by 2040 as part of its renewal to the country’s commitments of the Paris Climate Accord. About 95% of European cars use fossil fuels; diesel in particular is known to produce emissions that cause air pollution, which is a significant problem in Paris.
Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot stated that he realizes the goal is ambitious, but that French carmakers will be working with the economy to rev the revolution. The Associated Press reported that French car manufacturer PSA Group, which makes Peugeots and Citroëns, is on board with the mission of making 80% of its cars hybrid or electric by 2023. “Our [car]makers have enough ideas in the drawer to nurture and bring about this promise ... which is also a public health issue,” said Hulot. Reportedly, he also stated that low-income drivers will be eligible to receive financial assistance in replacing their gas vehicles with cleaner ones.
Hulot’s announcement included other goals as well, incorporating a 2022 stop to coal-powered plants in France, a 2025 reduction of half of total nuclear power generation, and a proposed ban on oil and gas drilling. These statements, while inspiring, were not accompanied with many details in Hulot’s speech, and it is clear that there will be many obstacles along the way.
Autoweek mentions some of the issues that will ensue if such France expects such fast development: “Cars using electricity and other alternative energy sources, such as hydrogen, will require far greater energy production and a vastly upgraded power grid -- all that electricity still has to come from somewhere -- and this ultimately brings us back to the issue of nuclear power plants. Coupled with the 2025 target for nuclear power, France will have to develop new means of generating electricity very rapidly, with solar power being the most likely option in the short term.” Additionally, the change to electric cars will put car batteries in major demand. Mining metals will be necessary to produce these batteries and that mining will cause environmental damage and likely not occur inside France.
Some are questioning if Hulot’s announcement was made with naivete, considering he was only appointed environment minister two months ago. Nevertheless, his enthusiasm and France’s subsequent commitment to the Paris agreement will hopefully spur other countries and cities around the world to follow suit in efforts to reduce fossil fuel emissions.