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06 Jul 2020, 12:23
David Reay

Government “blackmailed” over coal-power phaseout bill – media reactions

Spiegel / Süddeutsche Zeitung / DW / NDR

Following the German parliament’s vote on Friday in favour of a law ending all coal power production by 2038, the country’s media has been reacting to the controversial bill. As well as an end to coal power, the “historic” coal exit law will see a roughly 4.3 billion euro compensation package for lignite companies, a 40-billion-euro support programme for coal-mining regions and a renewed focus on the transition to a renewables-only power system, raising heckles and cheers among commentators.

Gerald Traufetter writes in Der Spiegel that the government has been forced, in effect, to buy off complaints from the coal industry and coal-producing regions, at a huge cost to both taxpayers and the environment. The eastern coal-producing regions have “blackmailed the federal government”, he says.
Philipp Bovermann agrees. Writing in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, he says the coal industry should not be allowed to escape the consequences of its decades-long profiteering “with a golden handshake just as it reaches retirement age”. This is an “obscene reversal of the polluter pays principle.”
But while the climate-protection aspects of the new law could undoubtedly have been stronger, the government should be congratulated for getting a law passed at all, says Jens Thurau on the DW website. It has endured two years of testing debate on the subject, as well as the coronavirus crisis, on the way to a compromise, and the Bundestag’s vote “marks another small step along the long road” to the energy transition.
A “little pat on the back” is deserved as a major conflict has finally been resolved, writes Angela Ulrich on the NDR website. But wasn’t the “death knell for lignite ringing anyway”? Dirty coal is becoming so expensive that it is no longer worthwhile, so why “gild” the inevitable exit for coal producers to such an extent, she asks? Far better if the money bought “more electricity from wind and sun, better house insulation, more buses and trains, and a different kind of agriculture”, she says.

In a vote that has been hailed as "historic", Germany's parliament adopted a law that will ensure the phase-out of coal power by no later than 2038. The decision followed two years of intense debate about the country's climate action ambition and the changes needed to meet them aimed at reconciling interests in a broad compromise but that ended in discord.

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