Issue 1/2019

Blueprint in place for German coal phase-out

Tim Altegör, 22 Feb 19
Germany should exit coal by 2038 at the latest, says a government task force. In contrast to industry, trade unions and many environmentalists, governing party CDU is still not convinced.

The “Commission on Growth, Structural Change and Employment” – the task force appointed to devise a plan for Germany’s coal phase-out and the future of its coal-mining regions – delivered its final report in January. Under the proposals outlined in the document, the country’s last coal-fired power plant is to be disconnected from the grid by 2038 at the latest. The earliest date contemplated for the phase-out is 2035.

In the years up to 2022, at least 12.5 gigawatts (GW) of coal capacity are to be retired, allowing the energy sector to cut its emissions by 45 per-cent compared to 1990 levels. Carbon certificates in the amount of these savings are to be withdrawn from the EU emissions trading scheme. To support the structural transition in the mining regions, the affected federal states will receive EUR 2 billion per year for 20 years.

The commission included representatives from industry, labour unions, environmental bodies and research. The report was applauded by environmentalists for departing from “years of stagnation in German climate policy”. However they insisted that a phase-outmust be completed “long before 2035”. As thinktank Agora Energiewende stated, the current plan would mean that a 40 percent reduction in Germany’s overall emissions can only be achieved in 2025 – five years later than planned.

Merkel is in

Another objection voiced by environmentalists is the roadmap’s incompatibility with the Paris climate targets. Christoph Bautz, managing director of campaign network Campact, warned that the report will not bring about “the hoped-for peace, but fuel the conflict over coal further,” and vowed that “the climate movement will continue to hold the Federal Government to account.”

The government now faces the task of translating the commission’s recommendations into law. This could prove to be a formidable task in itself, as the report was immediately challenged by several members of the parliamentary group of the governing CDU party, including the group’s leader Ralph Brinkhaus and his deputy Carsten Linnemann. Speaking to news agency dpa, Joachim Pfeiffer, economic policy spokesperson for the CDU parliamentary group, said the plans threaten competitiveness, jobs and security of energy supply.

Meanwhile, the chair of the coalition partner SPD, Andrea Nahles, described the proposals as “a very good foundation”. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel has also endorsed the phase-out plan. Shortly before the report was concluded, Merkel met with the prime ministers of the federal states to ensure a consensus was reached.


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