German commission calls for coal ban by 2038
A German government-appointed commission, after seven months of negotiations, has proposed the phase-out of all 84 of its coal-fired power plants by 2038.
The commission’s recommendations are expected to be adopted by the federal administration but must also be reviewed by Germany’s 16 regions.
An agreement was reached on the environmentally ruinous fossil fuel after 21 hours of talks with only one opposing vote in the 28-member body.
“This is a historic accomplishment,” said Ronald Pofalla, the chairman of the commission. “It was anything but a sure thing. But we did it. There won’t be any more coal-burning plants in Germany by 2038.”
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz welcomed the agreement, saying it was important to keep power prices stable while creating alternative jobs for coal miners.
“If we all work hard and don’t lose sight of the joint goal, then we can further develop Germany into a role model in energy politics,” the minister told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Germany, one of the world’s largest consumers of coal, plans to close all its nuclear power plants over the next three years as a result of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Twelve of Germany’s 19 nuclear plants have been closed so far.
Germany generates nearly 40 per cent of its electricity from coal, significantly higher than most other European countries, and has failed to meet targets agreed at the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Financial agreements and the date of the phaseout were the major obstacles for the commission with energy companies insisting on compensation to prevent rising electricity prices.
Germany’s coal-producing areas demanded financial commitments to cope with the transition, including relief for stakeholders and subsidies for consumers.
The plan included some US$45 billion in spending to mitigate the impact in coal regions.
By 2023, energy producers, like RWE and Uniper, will reportedly be asked to close down about 12 gigawatts of capacity.
Claudia Kemfert, an energy economist at DIW Berlin or Institute for Economic Research, said: “It’s a big moment for climate policy in Germany that could make the country a leader once again in fighting climate change.
“It’s also an important signal for the world that Germany is again getting serious about climate change: a very big industrial nation that depends so much on coal is switching it off.”
Coal accounts for a large proportion of German air pollution. Picture credit: Wikimedia