France to ban licences for oil and gas exploration

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France is to stop granting new licences for oil and gas exploration on the mainland and in overseas territories, Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot said Friday. Mining codes will be modified, while current exploration projects already underway would continue.

“There will be no new exploration licences for hydrocarbons, we will pass the law this autumn,” Mr Hulot told the news channel BFMTV.

He added that abruptly ending previously approved licences would lead to the government getting embroiled in costly lawsuits. “France’s budget can do without that, believe me,” he said.

According to official figures, France has 64 active oil and gas fields covering an area around 4,000 square kilometres.

Mr Hulot added that he aimed to combat air pollution by bringing petrol and diesel prices in line.

He acknowledged that the issue is not easy to solve. “I am aware that people in rural areas often don’t have access to public transport and are forced to buy vehicles that emit pollution,” he said.

He also said a new four-year scheme would be implemented on 1st January 2018 to address the issue of wolves, considered a scourge by farmers.

He is seeking the compromise despite his own naturalist bent. “Should my own position take precedent over public debate? It’s a subject for national debate, and I don’t think we should ignore it,” he said.

President Emmanuel Macron said during his election campaign in February that he was opposed to exploration for gas and shale gas in mainland France.

Macron even said he would like to see the exploitation of oil and gas halted altogether in France’s overseas territories, especially in French Guiana on the northeastern coast of South America.