By Kirsten Grieshaber
27 January 2019
BERLIN (AP) – In a pioneering move, a German government-appointed panel has recommended that Germany stop burning coal to generate electricity by 2038 at the latest, as part of efforts to curb climate change.
The Coal Commission reached a deal early Saturday following months of wrangling that were closely watched by other coal-dependent countries.
“We made it,” Ronald Pofalla, the head of the commission, told reporters in Berlin. “This is a historic effort.”
Germany gets more than a third of its electricity from burning coal, generating large amounts of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
The 28-member panel, representing mining regions, utility companies, scientists and environmentalists, suggests a review in 2032 could bring forward the coal deadline to 2035.
The plan foresees billions in federal funding to help affected regions cope with the economic impact, and to shield industry and consumers from higher electricity prices. The energy transition will also need a huge overhaul and modernization of the country’s power grid, the commission’s members said.
The decision still needs government approval.
“The whole world is watching how Germany — a nation based on industry and engineering, the fourth largest economy on our planet — is taking the historic decision of phasing out coal,” said Johan Rockstroem, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research. “This could cascade globally, locking in the fastest energy transition in history.” […]
The reduction in coal will have to be compensated by an increase in renewable power sources and — at least in the interim — from burning more natural gas, which emits about half the amount of greenhouse gases as coal.
Greenpeace, which wants all coal plants shut down by 2030, welcomed that “Germany finally has a timetable how the country can become coal-free” but said the measures were not ambitious and fast enough.
“The speed is wrong,” said Martin Kaiser, the head of Greenpeace. “Exiting coal by the year 2038 only is inacceptable.” […]
An opinion poll released by public broadcaster ZDF found that 73 percent of Germans agree a quick exit from coal is very important. The telephone poll of 1,285 people, conducted Jan. 22-24, had a margin of error of about three percentage points. [more]
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