Concern over earlier coal exit grows in Germany’s biggest mining region
The German government’s stated goal of moving the country’s coal exit deadline forward from 2038 to 2030 has sparked concern in the Rhenish lignite mining region in western Germany, an area stretching between Cologne and Aachen, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports. The Rhineland is the largest brown coal (lignite) mining area in Europe, with some 9,000 jobs still directly linked mining plus a few thousand employed by service providers and suppliers. In a critical position paper to the federal and state governments, municipalities in the area and the chambers of industry and commerce expressed their worries about the impact of an earlier coal exit. The federal government has agreed to provide 14.8 billion euros to the Rhenish region to help the area transition away from coal and promote structural change. The paper’s signatories warn, however, that the positive effects of the funding could come too late, "when jobs have already been lost" and when "the young and educated people have started to leave the region.” The situation is already complicated enough with the 2038 end date of 2038, they add. "If the exit were brought forward again, we would be very concerned about the future of our region." The state of North Rhine-Westphalia has already distributed some 4.5 billion euros, primarily for infrastructure development. The municipalities, however, complain that companies that could create new jobs hardly have any access to funding due to the federal government’s strict guidelines and that any positive effects of structural change are not yet visible.
Germany’s Institute for Economic Research (ifo Institute) recently warned that the planned economic transformation of mining regions could fail if subsidies are not better targeted. The federal government has pledged up to 40 billion euros to support structural change in the three remaining areas affected by the closure of lignite mining from 2020 to 2038.