14 Jan 2020, 14:27
Benjamin Wehrmann

NRW state premier calls for 'week of coal exit decisions'

The state premier of Germany's most populous federal state North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Armin Laschet, has called for a "week of decisions" regarding the country's planned coal phase-out, Birgit Marschall and Kristina Dunz report for the newspaper Rheinische Post. Ahead of a meeting between chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of Germany's coal mining states on Wednesday, Laschet said the federal states need guarantees that financial support will be granted to facilitate the structural shift away from coal "over the long run, legally binding and regardless of future election dates." The state premier said the federal government has to "provide the regions with planning security for mastering the structural economic change."
Laschet's colleagues from eastern German mining states had called for an interstate agreement between the federal government and the states that would give the states legal certainty that the 40 billion euros earmarked for structural support from the federal budget will be disbursed. According to the article, finance minister Olaf Scholz is opposed to an interstate treaty, as this would already oblige the finance ministry now to set aside the money that is set to be distributed until 2038, the year in which the coal exit is supposed to be completed at the very latest.
In a separate article by the news agency dpa carried by the website Focus Online, the state premier of eastern Saxony-Anhalt, Reiner Haseloff, criticised a possible agreement between the economy ministry (BMWi) and coal plant operators to pay billions in compensation for shutting down their plants. "We need this money to create new jobs," Haseloff said, arguing that the funds could be used for investments in hydrogen production, e-mobility or artificial intelligence. "Using large sums to compensate energy companies that close their plants earlier really means squandering this money."

Germany's coal exit commission agreed on phasing out the fossil fuel in January 2019 and the government has vowed to adopt the commission's proposals as closely as possible. However, the phase-out's legal implementation is taking longer than anticipated by the government, with critics saying the entire agreement could be hanging in the balance again. According to media reports, a cabinet decision on the coal exit could take place on 22 January.

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