“Fossil of the Day” is an ironic prize awarded by the Climate Action Network. Every day at the COP it is presented to a country that is blocking progress in the negotiations or the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Yesterday’s award went to France for a decision just announced by Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot. Hulot announced that France’s plans to drop the share of nuclear energy in its energy mix will need to be postponed. This isn’t a good sign for France’s ability to meet its energy transition targets and move towards 100% renewables. And this isn’t good news for our fight against fossil fuels.
This award will hurt for a President like Macron who seeks to embody the opposite of Donald Trump. Macron criticised Trump for pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement, and proposed an alternative approach… “Making the Planet Great Again”. He even invited climate scientists from around the world to settle in Paris to make France a driving force for climate action.
This award is another setback for Nicolas Hulot, too. Despite showing a willingness to pursue fossil fuel and nuclear phase-out, Hulot has lost many recent battles to the fossil fuel lobby.
Hulot justified his taking a step back on the closure of nuclear reactors by saying that he couldn’t open the door to coal as a replacement. It’s a refrain used everywhere, by all the ministers and leaders when they give up showing ambition. But it’s a refrain which is systematically wrong. It is possible to switch to 100% renewable energy by 2050 without additional costs. Reports by Energy agence ADEME’s and the ‘Negawatts’ think tank demonstrate this.
Hulot’s backwards step on nuclear makes the goal of achieving 32% renewable by 2023 unachievable. Indeed, we won’t achieve a 100% renewable energy mix if we do not give up fossil fuels as well the nuclear.
To give up on phasing out one fossil fuel (nuclear) to enable phase-out out of others, is not a viable option. By giving up on one front, one ends up giving up on the other. The same day that Hulot announced the French retreat on nuclear, the French Senate dismantled “Hulot’s law” even further. The initial ambition of Hulot’s law had been to put an end to the extraction of hydrocarbons throughout the French territory.
A change of approach is urgently needed. These setbacks, which are not symbolic, all send the same messages to the industry and investors: it’s still business as usual. Despite the Paris Agreement, we can still drill, dig, burn, melt, split, build new plants, pipelines and cogeneration systems.
The 12th of December summit, organized by Emmanuel Macron as an answer to Donald Trump on finance and climate issues, is now clearly under threat. Will it be a platform for ambitious, genuine climate action? Or will it be a giant greenwashing platform… painting nuclear power as a green option, whilst not offending the major players in the fossil industry?
There’s only one way forward: and that means not a penny more for the energies of the past. Civil society and grassroots campaigners in France are now beginning to mobilize for Macron summit on the 12th of December. We will say it together: Not a penny more.