France has been named Fossil of the Day at the 23rd United Nations climate change talks — known as COP23 — in Bonn, Germany after backtracking on promises to reduce its reliance on nuclear energy.

French president Emmanuel Macron’s government announced earlier this week that it would not honour the 2025 nuclear energy target of 50 percent in the electricity mix, down from 75 percent current.

It’s thought the government will now be working towards a 2030 to 2035 time frame to reduce dependency on nuclear energy.

The Fossil of the Day award is presented by the Climate Action Network to countries who have reduced or prevented progress in the negotiations or in the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

In a statement the Climate Action Networt said yesterday:

This target was part of a law for energy transition, passed ahead of COP21 and after three years of inclusive dialogue with French civil society. Your newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron made the promise to respect and implement the energy transition as such.

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By GlobalData

Nicolas Hulot, French ecology minister, said it would be “difficult” to achieve the target set by the energy transition law passed in 2015.

France needs more time to reduce greenhouse gas production.

Hulot said:

It will be difficult to meet the goal of reducing the share of nuclear power in France to 50% by 2025, unless we increase electricity production using fossil fuels.

Too rapid a reduction of nuclear energy supply would force the country to fall back on old fashioned coal-fired power stations to meet energy needs, therefore increasing green house gas production, according to a report by the RTE, France’s electricity transmission network, a subsidiary of EDF who own all of France’s nuclear stations.

In the US, when nuclear power plants close, natural gas has been the preferred replacement fuel, not renewables.

To reduce the nuclear mix by 25 percent, 18 of the 58 nuclear reactors in France would have to close.

To replace the energy generated by these 18 nuclear plants some 25,000 wind turbines would need to be built across the country. France built just 6,000 wind turbines between 2006 and 2016.

Climate activist group Greenpeace has criticised France’s decision, rejecting claims the country will have to resort to fossil fuel to make up for lost nuclear energy.

Alix Mazounie, a nuclear campaigner from Greenpeace, told Verdict:

By delaying this deadline, Hulot is going to slowdown the growth of renewable energy as there is not enough space on the grid for both nuclear and renewables… The German industry had a similar experience. They acknowledge now that they could not have developed their renewables without diminishing the nuclear side.

It’s not true that we can’t shut down the four coal-fired plants AND the nuclear power plants AND stay in line with our Greenhouse Gas targets. It is feasible to do all 3.

Mazounie also slammed the state of France’s nuclear power plants. She said:

The old and rusty power plants are increasingly dysfunctional. 21 of 58 reactors are offline due to extensive repairs and technical difficulties. The EDF and the state never talk about this. So in the peak of winter, we don’t rely on nuclear power to save the day, we rely on imported power from coal in Germany. The nuclear system is part of the problem not the solution.

Hulot has it will take some months of examining different scenarios to establish a more accurate, realistic final date.