France will outlaw the sale of all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, its new environment minister, Nicolas Hulot, has announced.
It will also ban any “new project to use petrol, gas or coal”, as well as shale oil, by that date.
The radical measures were unveiled at a press conference as part of French president Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to “make the planet great again”.
Mr Hulot, a former star wildlife TV presenter, announced “the end of the sale of petrol or vehicles between now and 2040″ and a pledge to make France carbon neutral by 2050. “The carbon neutral objective will force us to make the necessary investments,” he added.
The French will in the meantime be offered financial incentives to scrap their polluting vehicles for clean alternatives, he said. Concretely, “the government will offer each French person a bonus to replace their diesel car dating before 1997 or petrol from before 2001 by a new or second-hand vehicle,” he said.
The move was, he said, a “veritable revolution”, adding that reaching the target would be “tough”, particularly for carmakers, but said that France’s car industry was well equipped to make the switch.
Peugeot, Citroen and Renault ranked first, second and third on a 2016 list of large car manufacturers with the lowest carbon emissions, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said.
CEO Hakan Samuelsson said the move was dictated by customer demand. It means that in two years, all new Volvo vehicles will have some form of electric propulsion.
“The solutions are there, our own makers have in their boxes the means to fulfill this promise,” said Mr Hulot, calling it a “public health” issue.
Paris, Lyon, Grenoble and other French cities have a chronic smog problem.
France is by no means the only country aiming to ban combustion-powered cars in some form. Germany wants to do away with 100 per cent combustion-powered vehicles by 2030, as does India. The Netherlands and Norway wish to do so by 2025.
Diesel and gasoline vehicles represented about 95.2 percent of French new car fleets in the first half of year, while electric vehicles hold 1.2 percent of the market. Hybrid cars make up about 3.5 percent.
Mr Hulot said that even if France lagged countries such as Sweden and Costa Rica on this front, it would nevertheless embrace that “spirit” and look to end the sale of diesel and petrol cars by 2040.
Among the key policy proposals is the plan to end the delivery of hydrocarbon licences in France, with legislation to that effect due later this year.
The minister also said that France will stop producing power from coal-power stations – currently five per cent of the total – by 2022. The country also wants to reduce the proportion of its power from nuclear to 50 percent by 2025, from the current 75 per cent.
France will also take measures to restrict the use of palm oil in the production of biofuels with the aim of reducing indirect deforestation.
Mr Macron promised to take a lead in fighting climate change after US president president Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 Paris climate accords. Aping the US president’s campaign slogan to “make America great again”, Mr Macron promised to “make the planet great again” and invited US climate scientists to flock to France.
Asked about Mr Trump’s withdrawal, Mr Hulot said France intended to pursue “climate diplomacy” by supporting non-governmental organisations. “I don’t confuse the brutal attitude of the Trump administration with the US state of mind,” he said.
Environmental campaign group Greenpeace said that although the French government had carried out the right analysis of the situation, it added: “We are left wanting, on how these objectives will be achieved.”
World Wildlife France was more upbeat, with its chief Pascal Canfin telling France Info radio: “We have every interest in being among the leaders.
“The sooner we invest, the sooner we will have the right technology and the better we will be positioned on the industrial and job fronts.”
On Thursday, Mr Macron insisted that climate change action need to go beyond the 2015 Paris agreement.
“The Paris agreement is… a step in the right direction but it is not enough and we need to continue to advance and show, in terms of concrete plans and financing, our ability to go beyond it,” said the French president.
He made the comments in a joint press call with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, who said that, for his part, the World Bank firmly backed the COP21 Paris climate change agreement