France is doubling down on its plans to take coal out of the energy market.
Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, is pushing forward his country’s pledge to shut down all coal plants within two years. Initially introduced by Macron’s predecessor, Francois Hollande, the plan was aimed at taking coal out of the European nation’s power mix by 2023 — now revised to 2021.
As only one percent of the country’s energy is produced from coal, the new administration’s announcement is seen as largely symbolic. Still, the message it sends is clear: with an increasingly environmentally hostile US, France wants to take the lead against climate change.
From little to none
“We’ve also decided to make France a model in the fight against climate change”, Mr Macron said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“We should stop opposing on one side productivity, on the other side climate change issues,” he added, saying the commitment brings France “a huge advantage in terms of attractiveness and competitiveness”.
Many other nations are also taking steps to phase out coal. China, currently the world’s biggest greenhouse emitter, canceled work on 104 coal plant construction sites last year alone, and a body of national governments have joined in a common pledge to completely eliminate the fossil fuel from their energy mix by 2030. The EU as a whole also has doubled down on its efforts to get rid of coal.
There’s also solid economic reasoning behind this drive. The prices of renewable energy have been steadily dropping these past few years and, for many communities, coal is just not cost-effective anymore. That’s especially true for wealthier nations, which could afford to subsidize parts of the cost associated with renewable energy. And, as technologies improve and efficiency rises, renewable energy will become more affordable than fossil fuels across the board.
So, whichever way you look at it, going green makes perfect sense.
While France stands poised to lead the way there, addressing climate change will take more than the actions of a single nation or continent. In this regard, the US sticks out like a sore thumb. As Mr Macron drives France ever farther from coal, the Trump administration is committed to going in the opposite direction, making the revival of the coal industry a central campaign promise. Since taking office, he has reversed a series of landmark environmental policies set out by his predecessor Barack Obama and pulled the US out of the Paris Climate agreement.
In regards to climate action, the US is more isolated than ever before. As if to answer France’s symbolic pledge in kind, President Trump had to cancel his attendance at the summit in Switzerland following a government shutdown.