One of the world’s largest consumers of coal, Germany, will shut down all 84 of its coal-fired power plants over the next 19 years.
The move will meet the country’s international commitments in the fight against climate change, a government commission said.
The announcement marked a significant shift for Europe’s largest country — a nation that had long been a leader on cutting CO2 emissions before turning into a laggard in recent years and badly missing its reduction targets. Coal plants account for 40 percent of Germany’s electricity.
“This is an historic accomplishment,” said Ronald Pofalla, chairman of the 28-member government commission, at a news conference in Berlin following a marathon 21-hour negotiating session that concluded at 6 a.m. Saturday, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. The breakthrough ended seven months of wrangling. “It was anything but a sure thing. But we did it,” Pofalla said. “There won’t be any more coal-burning plants in Germany by 2038.”
The plan includes some $45 billion in spending to mitigate the pain in coal regions. The commission’s recommendations are expected to be adopted by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government.
The decision to quit coal follows an earlier move by the German government to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011.
Twelve of the country’s 19 nuclear plants have been shuttered so far.
The plan to eliminate coal-burning plants as well as nuclear means Germany will be counting on renewable energy to provide 65 percent to 80 percent of the country’s power by 2040. Last year, renewables overtook coal as the leading source and now account for 41 percent of the country’s electricity.
The initial targets call for a quarter of the country’s coal-burning plants with a capacity of 12.5 gigawatts to shut down by 2022. That means about 24 plants will be shut within the first three years. By 2030, Germany should have about eight coal-burning plants remaining, producing 17 gigawatts of electricity, the commission said.