German lawmakers approve plan to phase out use of coal

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s lower house of parliament voted yesterday to finalise the country’s long-awaited phase-out of coal as an energy source, backing a plan that environmental groups said is not ambitious enough and free marketeers criticise as a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Two bills envision shutting down the last coal-fired power plant by 2038 and spending some EUR40 billion to help affected regions cope with the transition.

The plan is part of Germany’s ‘energy transition’ – an effort to wean Europe’s biggest economy off planet-warming fossil fuels and generate all of the country’s considerable energy from renewable sources. Achieving that goal is made harder than in comparable countries such as France and Britain because of Germany’s existing commitment to also phase out nuclear power by the end of 2022.

Greenpeace and other environmental groups staged vocal protests against the government’s plan, arguing that it will not reduce Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to meet the targets set out in the Paris climate accord.

“Germany, the country that burns the greatest amount of lignite coal worldwide, will burden the next generation with 18 more years of carbon dioxide,” Greenpeace Germany’s executive director Martin Kaiser told The Associated Press.

Kaiser, who was part of a government-appointed expert commission, accused Chancellor Angela Merkel of making a “historic mistake”, saying an end date for coal of 2030 would have sent a strong signal for European and global climate policy.

An uniper coal-fired power plant and BP refinery steam beside a wind generator in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. PHOTO: AP