In a move that can only be deemed controversial, France has banned oil and gas extraction. Environmentalists are celebrating the win, which has solidified the European nation as a leader in sustainability.

Last Tuesday, the French National Assembly voted to immediately ban all new licenses for oil and gas exploration. As a result, all oil and gas extraction in mainland France and its territories will be prohibited by 2040. The Assembly also voted to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). The timing is interesting, considering just one week ago, a major US study provided the strongest evidence yet that fracking adversely affects human health.

Credit: Waking Times

France’s ecology minister, Nicolas Hulot, applauded the ban. He said it will “ensure consistency between our laws and climate commitments under the Paris agreement… to remain below the 2 degrees Celsius limit, we must leave the majority of fossil fuels underground.”

French President Emmanuel Macron also expressed his support, albeit on Twitter. He wrote:

Very proud that France has become the first country in the world today to ban any new oil exploration licences with immediate effect and all oil extraction by 2040.”

Macron also included the hashtag #MakeOurPlanetGreatAgain — taking a not-so-subtle jab at US President Donald Trump, who denies the very existence of climate change.

In less than a year, Trump has done nearly everything in his power to dismantle government programs which sought to preserve the environment and protect wildlife. He signed executive orders to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), withdrew the US from the Paris Climate Agreement, proposed steep budget cuts for the environment, revoked federal flood-risk standards that incorporated rising sea levels predicted by climate science, and dramatically down-sized two national monuments — among other changes (read more here). 

France, on the other hand, is a beacon of sustainability. Not only did the country make it illegal for supermarkets to purposefully waste food, it passed a law mandating all new roofs must have solar panels or a rooftop garden. President Macron has even offered American scientists grants to study climate change in France. 

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The recently-approved bans are not only historic, they are symbolic. Every year, the nation produces the equivalent of about 815,000 tonnes of oil. Furthermore, 99 percent of the country’s oil and gas is imported. To become self-sufficient, France — and other countries — must invest in green technologies which can support growing populaces without devastating the Earth.

Hulot acknowledged this imbalance during an interview with French newspaper Sud-Ouest. However, he also defended France, saying: “we are the first country to take these type of measures.” The actions “will create, I hope, a contagion effect.”

Just one week ago, the World Bank announced it will no longer offer financial support for gas and oil exploration after 2019. With France and Costa Rica proving it is possible to “go green” and the World Bank dropping support for gas and oil exploration, hopefully, it will only be a matter of time before every nation becomes a sustainable one.

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h/t Science Alert