Leaked: Germany’s planned coal commission shows little interest for the climate

For weeks, the setting up of the coal commission has led to hard-fought battles, revealing how extremely sensitive the issue is in Germany. [Claire Stam]

While Berlin has postponed for a third time the launch of the highly anticipated coal commission, a leaked document obtained by EURACTIV.com shows that the roadmap focuses more on the restructuring coal-dependent German regions than on reducing CO2.

After the latest postponement, the government is now expected to appoint the coal exit commission on Wednesday (6 June).

According to the two-page document, the commission has defined six fields of action, the first of which is “to create a concrete perspective for new, future-proof jobs in the affected regions in cooperation between the federal government, the federal states, local authorities and economic actors”.

“The policy of the federal government aims at reaching full employment and establishing equal living conditions throughout Germany,” it adds.

According to Berlin-based Clean Energy Wire, about 20,000 people were directly employed in 2016 in Germany’s lignite industry and almost 12,000 in the hard coal industry.

This compares to the 160,000 people employed in the wind power industry in Germany in the same year, while the entire renewable energy generation sector provided jobs for roughly 340,000 people, or half the German energy sector’s workforce, the organisation stressed.

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Setting a date for a coal phase-out

The commission is to be named “Special Commission on Growth, Structural Economic Change and Employment” but is commonly referred to as the coal commission.

It recommends the development of a “mix of instruments” dedicated to the economic development and restructuring of the regions in Germany still depending on the coal industry. These are the Ruhr region in the west and Lusatia in the east.

The fifth point tackles the highly sensitive coal phase-out issue as well as the end of the fossil-based electricity production. The document says the commission will have to come up with a date together with the “necessary legal, economic, social, renaturation and structural political measures”. 

That means they will be in charge of working out conversion plans for employees, as well as quantifying the necessary investments and designing the terms and conditions of a yet to be created dedicated fund.

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Deadlines

The commission is to present at the end of October its social and economic policy recommendations for the affected coal regions.

It will also have to present recommendations for closing the gap on Germany’s 2020 climate target “as far as possible” before COP24, which starts in Katowice, Poland, on 3 December.

Germany is currently heading for a 30% emission reduction by 2020 instead of the planned 40%. 

At the end of 2018, the commission is also expected to release a final report for the government, which is to include an end date for coal in Germany.

Clashes expected

For weeks, the setting up of the coal commission has led to hard-fought battles, revealing how extremely sensitive the issue is in Germany.

The commission is to nominate 23 members, from policymakers and industry representatives to labour unions and environmental NGOs. Some of these members have expressed extremely divergent views in the past. 

According to unconfirmed German media reports, the coal commission will be led by: Stanislaw Tillich (former state premier of lignite mining state Saxony, CDU), Matthias Platzeck (former state premier of lignite mining state Brandenburg, SPD), Barbara Praetorius (climate economist, former deputy director at think tank Agora Energiewende) and Ronald Pofalla (CDU), former chief of the chancellery, now on the management board for infrastructure at Deutsche Bahn.

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Full paper available below:

coal commission paper

Background

The idea of launching a commission to manage the phase-out of coal by reaching a broad consensus was first introduced in the Climate Action Plan 2050 in November 2016 and was integrated in the coalition agreement sealed between the CDU, CSU and SPD.

The plan says Germany is to become extensively greenhouse gas-neutral by 2050. The country is also expected to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

It also lays down 2030 targets for individual sectors, describes the necessary development pathways for them, lists initial measures for implementation and establishes a process for monitoring and updating policies and measures.

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