02 May 2024, 13:33
Julian Wettengel

2035 coal exit deal by G7 “historic success”, no need to change German legal end date – govt

Clean Energy Wire / dpa

German government representatives welcomed the agreement by the Group of Seven (G7) major economies to end coal power generation by 2035, and said EU emissions trading means that there is no reason to change the country's current legal end date of 2038. "Reaching an agreement with our G7 partners on a time horizon for the coal phase-out is a historic success for climate protection," said Anja Hajduk, state secretary in the economy ministry. The G7 members were thus leading the way when it comes to implementing the global agreement to transition away from fossil fuels, which was made at last year's UN climate change conference COP28 in Dubai. However, for Europe and Germany, the agreement effectively changes nothing, economy minister Robert Habeck said, pointing to the cap in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). A rising price for emissions allowances would force lignite out of the market by that time anyway, Habeck was quoted by  news agency dpa as saying. "We don't necessarily need to amend" the coal exit legislation in Germany, the minister added.

Germany has agreed to end coal power by 2038 at the latest – the date still enshrined in legislation. At the same time, market realities are set to end coal use much sooner: The EU ETS cap is set to reach zero by 2039, but emissions-intensive (and thus costly) coal electricity production will largely be forced out of the market already by around 2030, according to researchers. When the current coalition government took power in 2021, it said its aim was to bring the 2038 deadline forward to 2030, "ideally". It made a corresponding deal with the western lignite region in North Rhine-Westphalia. However, mining regions in the eastern parts of the country continue to oppose bringing the coal exit forward. Saxony's state premier Michael Kretschmer said that the G7 agreement "destroys trust" among the population in the affected regions, and that the 2035 date lacks any basis in German law and does not consider "economic capabilities".

At a meeting in Torino, Italy, on 29-30 April, G7 climate, energy and environment ministers agreed to "phase out existing unabated coal power generation in our energy systems during the first half of 2030s or in a timeline consistent with keeping a limit of 1.5°C temperature rise within reach, in line with countries’ net-zero pathways." Unabated coal power refers to electricity generated through burning coal without capturing and storing the CO2 emissions (carbon capture and storage – CCS). In Germany, CCS is not debated as an option for coal power plants.

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