Germany drops coal levy but will close most polluting plants

coal levy

Creative Commons: 2012

Germany has cast a shadow on its reputation as a climate leader by today deciding to abandon its ‘coal levy’ in favour of a less ambitious plan.

The original proposal – to put a price on coal plant emissions above a certain level – would have put Germany on track to its 40 per cent by 2020 emissions reduction target and clearly signalled that the country was ready to abandon its unhealthy addiction to coal.

But the government has given in to unfounded claims from the mining sector over the impact on jobs, and accepted their less ambitious proposal to turn off the dirtiest, brown coal-burning plants with a capacity of 2.7 GW – although they will be kept on standby.

Christoph Bals, Policy Director, Germanwatch said:

The coal lobby successfully killed a policy instrument that would have reduced the use of coal in an effective and cost-efficient way. This makes it now much more difficult for Germany to fully achieve its unilateral target of reducing emissions by 40 percent until 2020. However, the coal lobby had to agree to the shutting down of a number of old coal power plants.

The new plan will be less effective at cutting emissions than the coal levy, will cost the public several times more, put Germany’s climate targets at risk and undermines Merkel’s widely hailed position as a climate leader.

Despite its many flaws, this latest move represents the first time that the German government, utilities and trade unions have agreed to shut down brown coal power plants to reduce carbon emissions.

Patrick Graichen, Director of Agora Energiewende said:

The joint agreement by the German government and the coal industry to shut down some coal fired power plants in order to achieve Germany´s climate targets is significant. It is the first concrete step of a German coal phase-out – something noone would have expected a year ago. It is also a strong signal that Germany is still seeing itself a frontrunner in climate ambition.


With utilities already shedding German lignite plants, this is another blow for an industry that is in the doldrums worldwide, and another sign that a renewable energy-powered future is on its way.

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