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article imageGermany on brink of making decision on how to phase out coal

By Karen Graham     Jan 25, 2019 in World
Berlin - Germany’s coal exit commission is holding what could be a decisive meeting today. In crucial last-minute talks, the commission must agree on a timetable to phase out the climate-damaging fossil fuel for electricity production within around two decades.
Environmentalists and coal miner unions held competing protests outside the government building where the commission is meeting. The task force is trying to work out an end date for coal and agree on the order in which plants are shut down, following earlier agreements to that would compensate affected companies and mining regions.
The majority of the German public favors phasing out coal burning, but the big question being discussed today is how this will be done. There are various options on the table - from a quick closure of some power plants to a series of shutdowns that start slow and speed up toward a final exit date, reports CTV News Canada.
Europe's biggest economy appointed a 28-person panel last year to ensure that all interests were represented in the final decision to comply with its international climate pledges and have a smooth "'energy transition" that involves replacing fossil fuels with renewable sources such as solar and wind power.
While Germany is exiting the mining of black coal with the closure of the Prosper-Haniel mine pictur...
While Germany is exiting the mining of black coal with the closure of the Prosper-Haniel mine pictured here, it continues to mine brown coal and the fossil fuel still accounts for nearly 40 percent of the nation's energy production
Patrik STOLLARZ, AFP/File
Politically sensitive decision
Over 20,000 jobs in Germany are directly tied to the coal industry, with many more having indirect ties. The four states where coal is mined are also located in economically depressed regions. Two of the states - Brandenburg and Saxony are holding elections this year.
In those two states, the far-right Alternative for Germany party has been leading in the polls. This group contends that the coal mines should be kept open as long as there's coal. However, environmentalists have been active in voicing their opposition to this,
So the German government is very much aware of the political implications of the decision of the panel - all the while attempting to walk a fine line to avoid the yellow vest-style protests seen in France over a fuel tax increase meant to wean the public off fossil fuels.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, Chancellor Angela Merkle used the coal phase-out for making her case for a new natural gas pipeline from Russia. She has suggested all along that Germany will need to temporarily rely on natural gas during the transition to renewables.
US President Donald Trump accused Germany last year of being "totally dependent" on and a ...
US President Donald Trump accused Germany last year of being "totally dependent" on and a "captive" of Moscow because of the natural gas supply
TOBIAS SCHWARZ, AFP/File
How much will the phase-out cost?
Eric Schweitzer, head of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, told business daily Handelsblatt that, "all in all, the cost of Germany's coal exit could reach up to 170 billion euros ($193 billion)."
In response, environmental groups say the cost of doing nothing to stop global warming will cost even more. Martin Kaiser, who represents Greenpeace on Germany's coal panel said: "The climate crisis is already a massive threat to many people, causing an explosion of costs due to failed harvests, wildfires, torrential rains, and other extreme weather events. "Protecting the climate will have a positive effect on the economy."
So all eyes are on the meeting today. If the task force fails to reach a consensus, a further meeting is scheduled for Feb. 1. Chancellor Angela Merkel has already scheduled a meeting with governors from coal mining states next Thursday.
More about Germany, coal phase out, Clean energy, Natural gas, political sensitivity
 
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