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Germany: State leader backs early coal phaseout

November 3, 2021

Hendrik Wüst, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, called coal "uneconomical." The state has the largest lignite, or "brown coal," field in Europe.

Garzweiler lignite field
The Garzweiler lignite field has been the target of numerous protests as several villages have been demolished to make way for itImage: picture alliance/dpa/D. Young

Hendrik Wüst, the premier of the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, said on Wednesday that he intended to halt all production of lignite by 2030, eight years earlier than planned.

Wüst said he would "do everything to ensure that this works."

Hendrik Wüst
Wüst is the former transport minister for the stateImage: Political-Moments/imago images

North Rhine-Westphalia, which was long home to most of Germany's traditional coal-mining areas, is still host to the largest lignite, or "brown coal," field in Europe.

Since almost all of the state's lignite is used to produce energy, this would require heavily investing in renewable energy to pick up the slack, Wüst said, as well as creating incentives to use alternative power sources.

Coal is 'uneconomic'

Wüst called lignite "increasingly uneconomic" and said that the state risked violating European Union regulations on emissions, as well as German government targets.

The 46-year-old Christian Democrat (CDU), became the leader of Germany's most populous state last week. His predecessor, Armin Laschet, stepped aside to take up a seat in German parliament after an unsuccessful bid to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel in last month's federal elections. Laschet was handed much of the blame over the CDU's poor performance.

Merkel was in Glasgow, Scotland, this week attending the COP26 climate conference, likely her last. Merkel's 16 years as chancellor, as a former environment minister, have led to very mixed reviews on her own climate credentials in Germany. She's faced criticism both for failing to act and for supposedly stifling German industry, depending on whose reviews you seek out.

es/msh (AFP, dpa)