PARIS (Reuters) - France plans to pass legislation this year to phase out all oil and gas exploration and production on its mainland and overseas territories by 2040, becoming the first country to do so, according to a draft bill presented on Wednesday.
President Emmanuel Macron wants to make France carbon neutral by 2050 and plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions by leaving fossil fuels, blamed for contributing to global warming, in the ground.
Under the draft presented to cabinet, France will no longer issue exploration permits. The extension of current concessions will be gradually limited until they are phased out by 2040 - when France plans to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.
The decision is, however, largely symbolic because France produces only about 6 million barrels of hydrocarbons a year, representing about 1 percent of its consumption.
France will continue to import and refine oil.
Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot said after the cabinet meeting that the decision shows France’s commitment to climate change goals and will enable it to convince others to follow.
“The law will halt the exploitation of hydrocarbons in our territory; existing concessions cannot be renewed beyond 2040,” the draft bill states.
No shale gas permit has been issued in France and it will be impossible to do so after the law is passed.
The law could affect companies such as France's Total TOTF.PA, which although it has discontinued oil exploration in mainland France, has permits to explore in overseas territories such as offshore Guyane Maritime in French Guiana.
Total declined to comment immediately.
Hydrocarbon production in mainland France takes place mostly in the Paris Basin and Aquitaine Basin, where Vermilion Energy VET.TO operates several permits.
The companies were not immediately available to comment.
Macron is pressing ahead with implementing the landmark accord reached by nearly 200 nations in the French capital in 2015 to fight climate change after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal.
As part of the measures, France plans to stop generating electricity from coal by 2022 and reduce to 50 percent from more than 75 percent the share of nuclear in its power generation, while favoring increased renewable energy.
Reporting by Bate Felix and Benjamin Mallet; Editing by Richard Lough and Dale Hudson
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