Jun 06, 2019 08:29 AM EDT
Germany, one of the world's biggest consumers of coal, will shut down all 84 of its coal-fired power plants over the next 19 years to meet its international commitments in the fight against climate change, a government commission said Saturday.
The announcement marked a significant shift for Europe's largest country - a nation that had long been a leader on cutting CO2 emissions before turning into a laggard in recent years and badly missing its reduction targets. Coal plants account for 40 percent of Germany's electricity, itself a reduction from recent years when coal dominated power production.
"This is an historic accomplishment," said Ronald Pofalla, chairman of the 28-member government commission, at a news conference in Berlin following a marathon 21-hour negotiating session that concluded at 6 am Saturday. The breakthrough ended seven months of arguing. "It was anything but a sure thing. But we did it," Pofalla said. "There won't be any more coal-burning plants in Germany by 2038."
The plan includes some 45 billion dollars in spending to mitigate the pain in coal regions. The commission's recommendations are expected to be adopted by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government.
"It's a big moment for climate policy in Germany that could make the country a leader once again in fighting climate change," said Claudia Kemfert, professor for energy economics at the DIW Berlin, the German Institute for Economic Research. "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."
Twelve of the country's 19 nuclear plants have been shuttered so far. The plan to eliminate coal-burning plants as well as nuclear means that Germany will be counting on renewable energy to provide 65 percent to 80 percent of the country's power by 2040. Last year, renewables overtook coal as the leading source and now account for 41 percent of the country's electricity.
"It's good that Germany now has a clear road map for the phase-out of coal and we're on the path to becoming carbon-free," said Martin Kaiser, executive director of Greenpeace Germany and a member of the commission.
The initial targets are considerable, calling for a quarter of the country's coal-burning plants with a capacity of 12.5 gigawatts to be shut down by 2022. That means about 24 plants will be shut within the first three years. By 2030, Germany should have about eight coal-burning plants remaining, producing 17 gigawatts of electricity, the commission said.
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