Germany lawmakers of the lower house of parliament on Friday voted to finalise the country’s long-awaited phase-out of coal as an energy source by 2038.
Two bills, which are expected to get approval from the upper house later Friday, to shut down the last coal-fired power plant and spending some 40 billion euros ($45 billion) to help affected regions cope with the transition.
According to Germany’s ‘energy transition’ plan - an effort to stop Europe’s biggest economy off planet-warming fossil fuels and generate all of the country’s considerable energy from renewable sources.
As Germany has an existing commitment to also phase out nuclear power by the end of 2022, it’s harder in achieving that goal than in comparable countries such as France and Britain.
Greenpeace and other environmental groups have staged protests against the government’s plan, arguing that it won’t reduce Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to meet the targets set out in the Paris climate accord.
“Germany, the country that burns the greatest amount of lignite coal worldwide, will burden the next generation with 18 more years of carbon dioxide,” said Martin Kaiser, executive director, Greenpeace Germany.
Kaiser, who was part of a government-appointed expert commission, accused Chancellor Angela Merkel of making a “historic mistake.”
The end date for coal of 2030 would have sent a strong signal for European and global climate policy, he said.
Environmentalists have also criticised the large sums being offered to coal companies to shut down their plants, a complaint shared by libertarians such as Germany’s opposition Free Democratic Party.
Katja Suding, a FDP lawmaker, said the government should have opted to expand existing emissions trading systems that put a price on carbon, thereby encouraging operators to shut down unprofitable coal plants.
However, Germany’s main miners’ union, Michael Vassiliadis, welcomed the decision, calling it a “historic milestone.”
He urged the government to focus next on an expansion of renewable energy generation and the use of hydrogen as a clean alternative for storing and transporting energy in the future.