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25 Aug 2021, 13:17
Benjamin Wehrmann

Almost all German parties open for ending coal well before 2038

Clean Energy Wire

Nearly all parties expecting to gain seats in Germany's parliament are open to completing the country's coal exit well before the official 2038 end date. At a debate event hosted by civil society group Klima-Allianz (Climate Alliance), senior politicians of all parties in parliament except the far-right AfD signalled they would consider a much earlier phase-out if conditions were right or even actively work towards achieving it. "I campaign for an exit in 2030," said the Green Party's chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock and reiterated that her party would only enter into a coalition government that aims for reaching the Paris Agreement's target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. "There will be no compromises," Baerbock said, adding that the Greens would introduce a programme that outlines how to achieve this goal within the first 100 days of government. The Social Democrats' (SPD) top candidate Olaf Scholz also said he would prefer ending coal before the very last year envisaged in the Coal Exit Law. "I want to make it happen," Scholz said, qualifying a statement made in front of coal workers a few days earlier, where he stated that the exit law should be fully implemented. "We have an agreement to leave coal and also an end date – but we also have regular evaluations that allow an earlier phase-out, so 2038 just is the last possible year," Scholz said. He added that the end of coal depended above all on a fast roll-out of renewable power installations, which would be an absolute priority for him, should he lead the next government.

Speaking for the conservative CDU/CSU alliance, energy politician Andreas Jung said emissions allowance prices in the European system ETS ultimately would decide how long coal power will be used. "My personal opinion is that we will leave coal before 2034," he said, adding he is confident that renewable power expansion would be taking off fast within the next years. "We have binding climate targets that must not be watered down," Jung added. Volker Wissing, presidium member of the pro-business party FDP, said: "The aim has to be to end coal early – and we can do it." However, he also said the exit would hinge on adequate renewable power expansion and warned that this should not result in industry and households ending up paying more for energy than they already do. The leader of the Left Party, Janine Wissler, said her party also favoured an end of coal-fired power production in 2030, arguing that renewables expansion has to be "enforced" to ensure the conditions for a phase-out are met. Wissler advocated a decentralised expansion strategy coupled with storage capacity for renewables that reduces grid connection costs but argued that the CDU/CSU alliance and the FDP are often hindering construction by supporting local interest groups that protest against new projects.

Germany's government last year agreed on ending coal no later than 2038 but left the door open for an earlier phase-out in 2035, if power supply security is guaranteed. But while the government hoped to settle the issue with its Coal Exit Law, no real consensus on the exact exit schedule could be found. Worsening climate forecasts, deadly floods in western Europe, tighter EU climate targets and a steep rise in ETS prices that increasingly make coal economically unviable have fuelled calls for an earlier exit and brought the issue back into the limelight just weeks before the election.

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