German Greens call for end to coal power in 20 years

German Greens call for end to coal power in 20 years

Frankfurt (AFP) - Germany's opposition Green party unveiled Monday a 10-point plan to end electricity generation from coal within 20 years, a key plank of its campaign heading into next year's general elections.

“We aim to introduce the end of the coal era in Germany, irreversibly and reliably in the coming parliamentary term,” running to 2021, Green lawmakers wrote in the proposal, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

As the smallest party represented in parliament, the Greens have been mooted as a potential kingmaker to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives after the general election expected in September or October 2017.

Coal currently accounts for 40 percent of the energy mix in Europe’s top economy and has been the focus of determined protests by environmental activists in recent years.

Germany has not moved decisively away from coal even as it has trumpeted its “Energiewende” (energy transition) policy of ditching nuclear — a core Green demand finally accepted by Merkel in 2011 after the Fukushima disaster — and subsidising renewables.

Sticking with coal has kept CO2 emissions high even as Germany took a leading role in pushing for the Paris climate accords last year.

Merkel’s right-left government has been reluctant to move against coal for fear of putting tens of thousands of miners in the country’s remaining brown coal pits out of work.

Now Green MPs have suggested a moratorium on new open-cast mines, closing the most polluting coal plants, and setting a “carbon dioxide budget” for each remaining coal power plant — with the furnaces extinguished once the budget was used up.

Limits on airborne pollutants should be reduced, they say, while coal plant operators should pay to offset environmental damage.

The Greens insisted their plan would not push up costs, and that efficiency measures could drive the price of renewable energy down in future.

“Inflexible coal power plants don’t fit into the new world of electricity,” they wrote. “In Germany, the move away from using coal began many years ago.”

As for the miners, the Greens say, their numbers are already contracting sharply — meaning new jobs will have to be found for them whatever is done about coal plants.

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