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France May Say ‘Au Revoir’ to Fossil-Fueled Vehicles

It’s a bid to dramatically reduce the country’s carbon emissions

Paris may still be congested in 2040, but fossil fuel congestion will fall with a new ban on gas- and diesel-burning vehicles. (Nelson Minar - Flickr/Creative Commons)
smithsonian.com

French motorists are known for their laissez-faire driving and scenic roads. But in 20 years or so, driving in France will lack something that’s all too familiar: fossil fuels. As Jack Ewing reports for the New York Times, France plans to stop selling gas and diesel vehicles by 2040.

The French environment minister announced the plan as part of a strategy to tackle global warming, reports Ewing—and the country will also stop allowing oil and gas exploration and phase out coal-powered electricity production. As The Guardian’s Angelique Chrisafis and Adam Vaughan report, all three moves are expected to dramatically reduce France’s carbon output.

France has been vocal about the need to stem climate change, partnering with nations like India to develop new solar energy options and even pledging research dollars to American scientists willing to emigrate to work on climate projects. But it’s far from the first country to announce it’s ditching gas-powered vehicles. Norway plans to phase out fossil-fueled vehicles by 2025, and India will do the same by 2030. Meanwhile, Volvo recently announced that all of its new car models will be at least partially electric beginning in 2019.

France has recently made many moves in the name of the environment. The country recently nixed plastic tableware and has implemented strict regulations on how stores deal with food waste. Many such regulations have had a measurable impact: For example, when Paris held its first car-free day, banning cars in 30 percent of the city, it cut exhaust emissions by 40 percent.

There’s good reason to say non to gas-burning automobiles. Burning fossil fuels like gas and diesel emits carbon dioxide, which contributes to climate change by trapping heat in the atmosphere. Cars, trucks and other vehicles also emit black carbon and ozone-producing gases—pollutants that create smog, drive poor air quality and contribute to acid rain. According to the World Health Organization, nine in ten people worldwide breathe dangerous air daily, and that dirty air can fuel chronic illnesses and impact lung health.

Even when France does phase out gas and diesel cars, existing ones are expected to stay on the roads for years. But every vehicle counts—and by saying au revoir to fossil fuels, France might just show the rest of the world it’s possible.

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