You won’t be able to drive a car that runs on gasoline or diesel in France beyond the year 2040, according to the country’s new environmental minister, Nicolas Hulot.
The decision will accelerate France’s transition to a carbon-neutral society by 2050, and it continues president Emmanuel Macron’s elevation of environmental initiatives since he took office earlier this year.
During a press conference, Hulot also said that France will stop using coal to produce electricity by 2022, more than $4.5 billion will be spent to improve energy efficiency, nuclear power will be scaled back, and that imports of products that drive deforestation like palm oil will be ended.
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"We want to demonstrate that fighting against climate change can lead to an improvement of French people's daily lives," he said.
Announcing the car ban more than two decades ahead of schedule is meant to give automakers enough time to adapt and consumers enough time to prepare.
Even still, the decision is ambitious.
The overwhelming majority of cars built today depend on fossil fuels.
But that’s beginning to change as automakers improve technologies, prices for electric vehicles come down, and countries around the world push for greater sustainability measures.
Volvo, for instance, just announced that it will only build cars with electric engines by 2019.
Further, an even vaster majority of the cars in operation today are fossil fuel-powered. Getting these cars off the road for good will be challenging, but the French government said that it is prepared to provide subsidies to poorer households as they make the switch to electric vehicles.
Going after cars could make a huge impact in the fight against climate change. After all, the transportation sector accounts for 14% of global emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Other countries are going after cars as well.
The US, which is largest market for cars in the world, has enacted escalating emissions standards for cars. In China, the government is investing heavily in electric vehicle infrastructure. Germany and India want all new cars to be electric by 2030, and the Netherlands and Norway want to hit that target by 2025.
France has banned cars in the past — but only temporarily to deal with air pollution.
With so much pressure at the national level to get rid of car emissions, automakers might see electric vehicles as the only viable path forward.
And if that happens, France probably won’t be dealing with much air pollution anymore.