Will France become the New Global Leader on Climate Change?

Subtly pushing back against the US decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, President Macron of France made an announcement last week regarding an important Parliamentary decision, calling the decision an effort to “Make the Planet Great Again”: France will stop granting permits for fracking and fossil fuel extraction by 2040. New permits will cease and existing ones will no longer be renewed at that point.

2040 may seem like a long way off (it is), and since France engages in very little domestic oil drilling, the move may seem symbolic (it is, in a sense). We also don’t know what the landscape of global climate policy will look like at that time, and we aren’t sure how current climate models will align with reality two decades from now. But the gesture is significant, since it positions France as a respected leader on an issue that will shape the direction of the global economy during the years ahead. The move may also help France meet its goal of attracting talented climate scientists from around the world.

The announcement is part of an effort to vie for a central role on climate change, and also an attempt to steer the United States back toward the Paris Agreement.

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Auto Manufacturing and Climate Goals

In another move that will have greater practical ramifications, though it may be harder to implement, France has also announced a decision to end gasoline and diesel vehicle sales by 2040. Nicolas Hulot, the Ecology Minister, has called the move “revolutionary”, and has declared that this decision will help France reach its target emissions reductions under the Paris Agreement. France is already the leader in electric vehicle sales in Europe, though the overall percentage of electric to gasoline powered vehicles is not very high—3.6 percent of all new cars registered in Western Europe in 2016 were powered by electricity instead of combustion engines.

It remains to be seen if these moves will inspire a competitive drive in some of the countries—like the US—that rank among the highest polluters on the planet. Will we take heed and follow the French example? Even if the US continues to opt out of the Paris Accord, consumer and public pressure can still push the decisions of auto manufacturers (like Volvo, which recently announced an intent to sell exclusively hybrid and electric vehicles by 2019) in a positive direction.

To learn more about these developments—and to find out what you can do to advance positive climate policy and manage your own carbon output—contact our office.