On Friday, members of the German Bundestag approved a pair of laws confirming Germany’s gradual departure from coal energy. The first approved law provides for support of 40 billion euros (more than a trillion crowns) for regions where brown coal is still being mined, but mining is to be curtailed. The second law sets a timetable for the gradual decline of coal energy until 2038. The Federal Council, in which the representatives of the federal states sit, will also vote on both standards on Friday.
The first law approved provides for state aid totaling € 40 billion to be received by the coal regions of North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony and Brandenburg in transforming the local economy and building infrastructure. Coal-fired power plant operators will be compensated with billions of euros for the premature closure of their facilities. Assistance to employees is also planned.
The second of the laws sets a timetable for the gradual decline of coal energy, which is harmful to the climate, by 2038. In 2026, 2029 and 2032, the government is to reconsider the effects of coal withdrawal and also to examine whether coal electricity production could be stopped. already in 2035.
One year and a half ago, a special commission, consisting of representatives of the government and non-governmental organizations and experts, proposed the end of energy production from coal combustion by 2038. In doing so, it took into account the fulfillment of climate goals.
The production of electricity from coal will be terminated in accordance with the law by 2038 at the latest, from an economic point of view rationally and socially tolerable, the Minister of Economy Peter Altmaier assured the deputy. “The fossil age in Germany is coming to an end with this decision,” he said. According to him, Germany is the only industrial country of this size that will move away from nuclear energy by 2022 and also from coal by 2038.
The opposition disagrees
However, there was sharp criticism from the opposition. Greens leader Annalena Baerbock said the shift away from coal was coming too late and that the government had not adhered to the concept put forward by the commission at crucial points. According to Baerbock, a diversion from coal is possible and necessary until 2030.
For environmental activists, the shift away from coal is slow and they also criticize the compensation of energy companies. The head of the German branch of the environmental organization Greenpeace, Martin Kaiser, described the move of the coalition of conservatives and social democrats as a historical mistake. “Coal Chancellor” Angela Merkel is losing her credibility at the beginning of the German EU presidency, whose priorities are to include climate protection, with this “harmful law”.
Dozens of Greenpeace activists climbed to the roof of the Reichstag building on Friday to protest against the government’s plan. Under the historical inscription “German people” they hung a banner with the slogan “The future without coal energy”.
Energy in Germany is responsible for almost 40 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is the most important greenhouse gas for climate change. Berlin wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent from 1990 levels by 2030.
Coal has traditionally had a high share of energy production in Germany. Europe’s largest economy has extensive lignite reserves. Gradually, however, the share is declining. Last year, 18.8 percent of German electricity came from burning domestic brown coal and 9.4 percent from imported hard coal, the DPA agency wrote.