France wants to ban sale of gas and diesel cars by 2040, end coal by 2022

The country’s ambitious plans to stem climate change will be a challenge. In an address on Thursday, France’s environment minister, Nicolas Hulot, said that the country would aim to phase out electricity from coal-fired plants by 2022 and end the sale of gas and diesel internal combustion cars by 2040.

This first goal should be relatively easy to attain. France relies heavily on nuclear energy—more than 70 percent of the country’s energy mix is nuclear—and coal-fired plants only contribute to around four percent of France’s electric production. Hulot also said that he hoped to reduce the amount of nuclear energy in the country’s energy mix down to 50 percent by 2025, although, according to Le Monde, the environment minister admitted he does “not have all the answers.”

In addition, Hulot noted a law would be proposed later this year to potentially end any new operating licenses for oil, gas, and coal mining.

The automotive goal is more of a stretch. Although details on how the French government would do this are scarce, Le Monde reports that part of the plan will involve offering money to qualifying households to replace their pre-1997 gasoline or pre-2001 diesel cars.

Hulot called the end of the sale of gas and diesel cars “a public health agenda” and mentioned Volvo’s recent commitment to only sell electric or hybrid vehicles by 2019. Engadget notes that the French government owns a considerable stake in PSA, owner of Peugeot and Citroen, as well as Renault. Regulators could potentially affect auto manufacturer operations through internal pressure. Hulot didn’t say whether plug-in hybrid electric vehicles would be factored into the ban or not. The minister admitted that achieving the goal would likely burden automakers.

Recent numbers from Germany reflect how daunting moving a country’s transportation sector away from fossil fuels can be. And an International Energy Agency report from June noted that, without government incentives, getting people to buy electric vehicles is especially challenging.

On the other hand, a report from Bloomberg Energy Finance released this week suggests that electric vehicles will outsell internal combustion vehicles in 20 years, due to falling battery prices. “The Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecast says adoption of emission-free vehicles will happen more quickly than previously estimated because the cost of building cars is falling so fast,” Bloomberg wrote. “The seismic shift will see cars with a plug account for a third of the global auto fleet by 2040 and displace about eight million barrels a day of oil production—more than the seven million barrels Saudi Arabia exports today.”

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