Emmanuel Macron, the new president of France and not yet 40 years old, is taking the first steps toward his stated goal of advancing his country’s commitment to the Paris climate change accords. Nicholas Hulot, Macron’s Ecological Transitions minister, told the French press this week that his country will impose a moratorium on new oil and gas exploration licenses. “There will be no new exploration licenses for hydrocarbons, we will pass the law this autumn,” Hulot said.
Macron was seen last week celebrating with Arnold Schwartzenegger, former governor of California, as the two trolled Donald Trump with the “Make The Planet Great Again” slogan, echoing a Tweet Macron posted on June 1. “It was adroitly done,” said Thomas Gomart, the director of the French Institute for International Relations about Macron’s Tweet. “It showed a self-confidence, even a form of insolence. … In terms of foreign relations, the early stages of Macron’s presidency have undeniably been a success.”
The France24 news website reports the new oil and gas exploration ban is about preventing future oil and gas development, not curtailing current operations, saying, “The measure would essentially kill development of shale oil and gas in mainland France and in the country’s overseas territories, but does nothing to curb ongoing exploration or extraction projects involving conventional oil and gas.”
The announcement was greeted with disappointment by French climate and environmental activists, who feel the measure does not go far enough. “There are at least 55 exploration licenses that were previously approved and will likely be extended, and 132 extraction permits awaiting approval,” said Juliette Renaud, a fossil fuel industry expert with Friends of the Earth. “If we continue to exploit conventional hydrocarbons, it will be impossible to keep global temperatures from rising above 2°C.”
Hulot’s response is the French government could face significant financial penalties if it tried to stop current oil and gas operations. France’s oil and gas industry is modest compared to operations in other countries. Total production amounts to just 15,000 barrels per day from operations that cover about 1,500 square miles of the nation. Nevertheless, the announcement is seen as a signal to other European countries that the days of unfettered oil and gas exploration are drawing to a close. It will encourage other governments to follow France’s lead.
Interestingly, Make The Planet Great Again is very similar to the words on a billboard last year in Montenegro, a Balkan country closely allied with Russia — “Make The World Great Again — Together.” It featured pictures of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Some have questioned whether that billboard ever actually existed, but the report has been verified by Snopes.com.
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