Nicolas Hulot, the country’s new ecology minister, said: “We are announcing an end to the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.” Hulot added that the move was a “veritable revolution”.He said it would be a “tough” objective for carmakers but France’s industry was well equipped to make the switch. “Our [car]makers have enough ideas in the drawer to nurture and bring about this promise … which is also a public health issue.”
This is exactly what governments need to do to end the oil age and stop us destroying the world: send a credible signal to fossil fuel-intensive industries that their era is over, giving them time to come up with solutions. Though there are real questions as to whether France’s 2040 target is ambitious enough – both in terms of what needs to be done to decarbonise the economy, and because in France, electric cars will likely have taken over well before then. But hopefully, they’ll find they’re able to advance their deadline by five to ten years, depending on how well their car-makers rise to the challenge.
The rest of the EU is likely to rapidly follow suit on this. Norway has already set a 2025 target (though they will allow hybrids), and Germany is considering a 2030 target. And with major car manufacturers giving up on fossil fuels, governments might be behind the curve.
It does raise new problems: how to power all of those cars without burning fossil fuels in power plants. In France, their answer is probably to burn uranium instead (they seem quite happy to run the risk of poisoning themselves and their neighbours). Though at the rate solar and wind are going, it might be less of a problem than expected.
Meanwhile, there is the obvious question: where’s New Zealand’s target? Is our government also going to commit to ending the age of oil, and by doing so, spark the necessary infrastructure changes? Or are we going to leave it all up to the market again – and essentially commit to failure?