07 Jun 2015, 00:00
Sven Egenter

Merkel voices optimism about cutting German emissions from coal

Chancellor Angela Merkel has voiced optimism that Germany can find a way to cut emissions from coal-fired power plants. Merkel, who seeks to convince other leaders of major industrialised countries to commit to ambitious climate action at the G7 summit in Bavaria, reiterated her government's committment to its climate targets in her weekly podcast.

Merkel has faced criticism that her government has failed so far to agree on how to reduce emissions from the electricity sector in order to reach the climate targets by 2020. The Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has proposed a "climate levy" on old coal-fired power plants to make up for the shortfall. Opposition to the proposal comes from energy companies, politicians from Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), some industry lobbies, and trade unions, who all claim it would force power stations to close down, sparking considerable job losses. 

Like Merkel, energy minister Sigmar Gabriel, as well as the head of the miner's union, Michael Vassiliadis, have voiced cautious optimism after talks last week in Berlin.

In her weekly podcast, Merkel answered a question about the issue.

Interviewer: Germany is seen as a pioneer in renewable energies. Electricity from coal doesn’t really fit this image, especially because it also puts the national emission targets at risk. The industry and the jobs seem here at odds with climate action. Who has to lose out here?

Angela Merkel: “Ideally no-one. We want to reach our climate goals. We have very ambitious targets: 40 percent (reduction) by 2020 compared to 1990. And here we have not reached the target yet. However, you cannot make power generation from coal the lone culprit, but you have to look at the whole: What can the heating sector offer? What can the transport sector offer? What can we achieve by retrofitting buildings? It’s very unfortunate that up until now we have not been able to reach an agreement with the majority of the federal states in order to offer tax incentives. To exit nuclear power is very ambitious. We are by now in a position that renewable energies are the strongest pillar of our energy supply. That’s an enormous progress, which I would not have thought possible 10 years ago. And now we have to see that we are slowly reducing emissions from coal, too. But not in a way that endangers thousands of jobs. And therefore we are now talking about a possible solution. And I am rather optimistic that we will find one.”

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