Germany announces plan to exit coal by end of 2038

A government commission announced a landmark plan on Saturday for Germany’s energy sector to stop burning coal by the end of 2038.

The coal commission met in Berlin for 21 hours starting Friday morning to hammer out an agreement including a date for the phase-out of coal-fired energy production as well as billions in aid to compensate power companies and assist local governments.

The commission can only make suggestions. Implementation will be a matter for the governments of the individual states and the German federal government in Berlin.

Germany is keen to stop burning coal to meet environmental targets. The industrialized country and world’s fourth-largest economy is also set to phase out nuclear power by the end of 2022.

The decision marked a “historic day” for Germany, according to the head of the coal commission Ronal Pofalla. “It’s done,” Pofalla said after the commission ended its marathon session.

The move was met with enthusiasm from energy sector, but scepticism from environmental groups.

“From Greenpeace’s point of view, it’s unacceptable to get out of coal only by the year 2038,” Martin Kaiser, the head of the organization in Germany said, but welcomed the fact that the country was waking up “after years of being in a coma in environmental politics.”

The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) called for additional measures such as effective levies on carbon dioxide to ensure an adequate reduction of carbon emissions.

Members of the energy sector welcomed the security provided to energy firms under the commission’s planned exit from coal. Michael Vassiliadis, head of the mining company IG BCE, said the arrangement meant that “no employees will find their heads on the chopping block.”

Thousands of workers still work in coal-dependent jobs in central Germany.

According to the Federal Statistics Office, Germany generated 37 per cent of its electricity from coal in 2017, the most recent year for which figures are available.

The negotiations covered a lot of ground in resolving key issues. Among the sticking points up until now was agreeing the timeline of the phase-out, and financial considerations. The energy companies wanted a pledge of compensation to hedge against rising electricity prices.

Coal-producing regions like North Rhine-Westphalia, Brandenburg, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt wanted binding commitments for financial support dealing with structural change as the coal industry shuts down in the coming years.

Meanwhile a new poll published on Friday showed the population in favour of a rapid end to the use of the fossil fuel.

As many as 73 per cent of the 1,285 people surveyed for national public broadcaster ZDF backed phasing coal out as rapidly as possible, saying it was important or very important.

A rapid shutdown of the coal-fired power stations was less important, 18 per cent said, while 7 per cent said it was unimportant.

The poll, based on electoral rolls and conducted by the Wahlen research group in Mannheim, was taken between Tuesday and Thursday this week.

Critics have argued that the plans will be ineffective and expensive as the government will in effect be buying up an entire energy sector in order to shut it down.

Source: dpa

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