France rolled out ambitious plans to reduce its carbon footprint on Thursday. The country aims to end sales of gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040 and become carbon neutral 10 years later, environmental minister Nicolas Hulot said at a news conference.
“One of the symbolic acts of the plan is that France, which previously had made the promise to divide its greenhouse gas emissions by four by 2050, has decided to become carbon neutral by 2050 following the U.S. decision,” Hulot said. “We want to demonstrate that fighting against climate change can lead to an improvement of French people’s daily lives.”
France will also halt all coal-fired energy production by 2022, he said, slash the share of nuclear power from 75 to 50 percent in the next eight years and stop importing palm oil and soy beans that are grown unsustainably.
The announcement came one day after Volvo Cars said it would build only hybrid and electric cars by 2019. The Chinese-owned Swedish automaker’s commitment may be the boldest yet to a technology that currently powers a small sliver of the car market, but it’s far from the only notable investment by a traditional car manufacturer.
On the heels of its costly diesel emissions-cheating scandal in the United States, Germany’s Volkswagen pledged to build 1 million electric cars per year by 2020. BMW reportedly plans to launch an all-electric 3-Series sedan in September in a direct challenge to Tesla’s long-awaited line of affordably priced cars, called Model 3. In January, Ford Motor Co. said it would add hybrid versions of its most iconic offerings by 2020, including the F-150 pickup truck and the Mustang sports car.
In fact, the market for electric cars is growing faster than previously thought, as the lithium-ion batteries that power them have become cheaper and more accessible. Electric vehicles are expected to make up 54 percent of the worldwide new car sales by 2040, according to a forecast released Thursday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That’s up from 35 percent projected last year by the data firm in its annual outlook, a serious boost for advocates who say the technology is critical to lowering urban pollution and slowing the rate of climate change.
At that point, Europe will be by far the biggest market for electric vehicles, with 67 percent, compared to 58 percent in the U.S. and 51 percent in China, the report found.