France to ban sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040
The proposed ban on petrol and diesel cars was the headline of an ambitious environmental plan presented on Thursday by France's new government to wean the world's sixth largest economy off fossil fuels.
France's Ecology Minister, Nicolas Hulot, called ending the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles a "veritable revolution," but acknowledged that the transition would be "tough" for carmakers and low-income households.
The government's objective would be "obviously tough," Hulot admitted. However, he also stressed that he had "a clear conscience ... that our manufacturers have the wherewithal to sustain and embody this promise, which like all the climate agenda is also part of a public health agenda."
Hulot, , a veteran environmental campaigner and TV presenter, added that lower income household would be handed grants to help them replace the older cars with cleaner models, although the plan did not provide a proposed sum.
France's leading car brands, Peugeot-Citroen and Renault, welcomed the government's pledge, saying it fit with their goals of providing hybrid and electric versions of 80 percent of their car models by 2023. However, the maker of Peugeot and Citroen cars, PSA Group, confirmed that they would continue to sell cars overseas after the ban comes into effect.
France's announcement came a day after Swedish carmaker Volvo said it will completely phase out petrol-only cars by 2019.
Car groups and green lobbies on board though with a degree of skepticism
The environmental group Greenpeace welcomed the announcement, albeit with a degree of caution. Cyrille Cormier of Greenpeace France urged the government to set concrete measures and a clearer timeframe. "We still do not know how we will achieve these objectives and respect these ambitious promises," he said.
Meanwhile, the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) argued that electric and hybrid models weren't the only viable options for industry's future, insisting that carmakers should continue to invest in upgrading gasoline and diesel technology.
"Improving the internal combustion engine and clean diesel technology will continue to play an important role in reducing CO2 emissions," the ACEA said in a statement.
Larger green ambitions
The environmental roadmap put forward by Hulot seeks to make France carbon neutral by 2050.
The most immediate policy will see a new legislation banning any new oil or gas extraction put before the French parliament in September.
"Our ambition is also to affirm that fossil fuels belong in the 19th and 20th centuries," the ecology minister wrote in the foreword to his plan.
If successful, the plan will also see France halt the production of coal-powered energy, currently 5 percent of the total, by 2022 and reduce the proportion of power from nuclear energy from 75 percent to 50 percent by 2025.
France's news president, Emmanuel Macron, made the transition towards a greener economy a key part of his election manifesto. Since coming into power, he has reaffirmed France's commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and slammed US President Donald Trump for pulling the US out of the deal to tackle climate change.