Climate Weekly: Decision time for German coal

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Chimney of the RWE coal-fired power plant in Grevenbroich, Germany (Pic: Flickr/Patrick Pekal)


Europe’s biggest economy is on the brink of a momentous decision: how fast to phase out coal burning.

Germany’s coal commission has been wrangling over the environmental, social and economic considerations for more than six months. It is set to thrash out the last details today, ahead of its official final meeting on 1 February.

A draft report leaked this week had assurances for consumers, workers and companies that they would be financially protected in the transition. Utility RWE’s shares jumped.

Yet it remained unclear what, precisely, they were to be protected from. The timetable for plant closures was littered with empty square brackets, indicating no agreement.

In light of the yellow vest protests in France, decision-makers are more conscious than ever of the need for climate policies to win social acceptance. Will that care undermine climate ambition or enable it?

AOC ally

At the annual CEO-fest in Davos, Spain’s prime minister had a positive spin on the shift to a clean economy, saying it would create, not destroy jobs.

In a nod to the concept promoted by congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the US, Pedro Sanchez argued “the Green New Deal should not instil fear”. His government is working on a sweeping climate law.

Across the pond, debate raged over AOC’s interpretation of climate science. As Axios reported, scientists endorse the urgency of her rhetoric, but quibble with the particulars. Cue campaigners accusing scientists of excessive caution.

Climate conversations

Stop asking climate scientists how we feel – Eric Guilyardi and Valérie Masson-Delmotte

Bolsonaro’s Davos speech promised anguish in indigenous lands – Dinamam Tuxá

Back at the World Economic Forum, German chancellor Angela Merkel used the coal phase-out to buoy the case for a new gas pipeline from Russia. Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro declared the country’s natural resources open for business and IEA chief Fatih Birol poured cold water on the electric vehicle revolution.

Best of the rest

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