On Tuesday, France passed a landmark bill banning fossil fuel extraction following a vote in the French National Assembly. Starting immediately, no new permits will be awarded to extract fossil fuels, while existing licenses will not be renewed past 2040. At this point, oil production in France and its territories will come to an end.
Admittedly, the act is largely symbolic. France is hardly one of the world's major oil-producing nations – as much as 99 percent of the country's oil is imported. This means that, in reality, the bill will only affect a very small portion of fossil fuels that are extracted domestically and in the country's overseas territories. France extracts some 815,000 tonnes of oil a year. To put that into perspective, Saudi Arabia can produce the same amount within a few hours.
But it is still an important step in the fight against climate change. The bill is a historic first, making France the first country in the world to legally commit itself to a complete ban of oil and gas extraction with the hope that other countries will follow their example. (Costa Rica has issued a temporary ban on oil development but, if not renewed, this will expire in 2021.)
It's also some good news to end the year on. In 2017, carbon dioxide emissions rose after three years of stability, scientists predicted we have a 5 percent chance of meeting our Paris Climate goals, and, of course, there's the fact that the biggest carbon emitter in history walked away from the Paris Climate Agreement. In French President Emmanuel Macron's own words, it's time to "Make Our Planet Great Again".
At 39, Macron became the youngest politician to win the French presidency, in the May 2017 election. The centrist president has been very vocal about his ambitions to make France a world leader in the drive towards cleaner, sustainable energy, especially in the wake of the US' about-turn in the opposite direction.
Since Macron took office, France has committed to shutting down all coal power plants by 2023, announced their decision to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040, and offered US climate scientists $70 million worth of grants.
Last July, shortly after the US announced its withdrawal from the climate agreement, France launched their Make Our Planet Great Again climate plan – a two fingers up at the Trump administration. On the campaign's homepage, it promises that "With this plan, France is speeding up its commitment to achieve energy and climate transition on its own territory, within the European Union and at the international level.”
According to the Guardian, Delphine Batho, a member of the French Socialist Party, has said she hopes the ban will be "contagious" and inspire bigger producers of oil to do the same.