Germany has agreed to end its reliance on polluting coal power stations by 2038, in a long-awaited decision that will have major ramifications for Europe’s attempts to meet its Paris climate change targets. The country is a major contributor to coal-burning fossil fuels and nearly 40% of the power it generates comes from the dirtiest of fossil fuels. Compared to the UK, this number is exceedingly high. The UK has only 5% of the contribution in the power generation from fossil fuels.
After overnight talks, the German coal exit commission of 28 members from industry, politicians, and NGOs. The new coalition of Social Democratic Party (SPD), Greens, and liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) agreed to abide by a coalition treaty that brings forward the country’s coal phase-out date from 2038 to 2030. The parties plan to increase Germany’s renewables target for 2030 from 65% to 80%. Additionally, the plans are based on power demand rising to a range of 680-750 TWh/year in 2030. The treaty now needs to be approved by party conferences.
Olaf Scholz has taken over as the new Chancellor. Green Party co-leader Robert Habeck is set to become the new economy, energy and climate minister with the Greens also set to take the foreign and environment ministries. In a press conference, he confirmed the 2030 coal exit date and announced plans to set a €60/mt floor price for CO2. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a member of the commission and an adviser to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said: “This is an important step on the road to the post-fossil age – a step that also opens up new perspectives for the affected regions through innovation-driven structural change.” But he said it had been difficult to reach a consensus on how quickly to phase out coal.
The commission also emphasised that gas would become Germany’s backup power of choice, rather than coal, which would make it more like the UK energy system. Germany’s nuclear exit in 2022 and ongoing coal phase-out plans are set to increase Europe’s biggest economy’s reliance on gas and renewables. Reports have also indicated that the treaty would include a 2040 target date to phase out gas which slipped to 2045 as set out by the climate law.