France's president has pushed forward the country's plan to shut down all of its coal-fired power plants by two years. President Emmanuel Macron now plans for France to be coal-free by 2021.
“We've also decided to make France a model in the fight against climate change,” said President Macron at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
A plan introduced by Macron's predecessor, Francois Hollande, originally set 2023 as the year for coal-fired power plants to end production in the country. Only one percent of France's power is generated by coal, so Macron's choice to move this date up is largely symbolic of the new leadership position that France is taking in combating climate change.
Macron also mentioned that the renewed pledge would be a “huge advantage in terms of attractiveness and competitiveness.” Coal plants are more than an environmental burden; they also take a toll on the economy, and a move toward clean energy can help improve a nation's bottom line.
Phasing out investment in coal is an angle that many nations are taking in transitioning to a cleaner world. China, the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter, canceled the building of 104 new coal plants last year. An international alliance of world governments is banding together to eradicate coal by 2030. The European Union also has accelerated its plans to erase coal from the continent's power generators.
The steadily dropping prices of renewable energy will help to make coal less attractive to nations. Wealthier nations are able to subsidize costs associated with renewable energy, already making them more cost-effective than new fossil-fuel burning plants. As technology and efficiency improve, soon renewable energy will surpass fossil fuels across the board in terms of affordability.
France is certainly leading the way, but it is going to take much more than a single country or even continent to turn the tables on climate change. Much more needs to be done to ensure the efforts already being made are not too little, too late.