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Germany: Minister casts doubt on 2030 coal exit

November 1, 2023

Germany's finance minister has questioned the country's ability to phase out coal as an energy source by 2030. Abandoning the goal could deepen division within Germany's ruling coalition.

Finance Minister Christian Lindner, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and German Minister of Economics and Climate Protection Robert Habeck
Lindner (left) agreed on the early exit alongside Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Economics Minister Robert HabeckImage: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP

Germany's finance minister on Wednesday raised doubts about the government's aim to stop the use of coal by 2030.

The comments by Christian Lindner, who leads the neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP), threaten to deepen cracks within the ruling coalition, which also includes Germany's Green Party.

What the finance minister said

Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democrats (SPD), the Green Party and the FDP had agreed to "ideally" move the country's phaseout from coal forward from 2038 to 2030.

However, Lindner said Germany would only be able to meet that target if alternatives were in place.

"Until it is clear that energy is available and affordable, we should end dreams of phasing out electricity from coal in 2030," Lindner told the German daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper.

"Now is not the time to shut down power plants," the politician added.

Lindner said he wanted Germany to lean more heavily on domestically sourced natural gas. He also said that the country needed to develop renewable energy more rapidly.

Climate wrangling: Germany's coalition on the brink?

He added that the European Union emissions trading scheme, which allows for the trade of CO2 certificates, meant that from 2030 other countries could produce the carbon dioxide that Germany did not.

"This date is of no use to the climate anyway, since the CO2 emissions saved in Germany are allowed to accrue additionally in Poland, for example, due to European rules," he said.

What was the reaction?

The environmental organization "Friends of the Earth Germany" said it considered the 2030 deadline indispensable for Germany to achieve its climate goals.

It added that "the CO2 certificates thus released in Germany must be canceled so that the emissions do not occur elsewhere in Europe either."

Lindner's statement was also criticized by coalition partner, the SPD. "The word 'ideally' is in the coalition agreement for a reason. The goal is not to discuss the date, but the measures we need now to quickly expand renewable energies," SPD parliamentary group vice-chairman Matthias Miersch told the Rheinische Post newspaper.

A spokesman for the Greens, whose co-leader Robert Habeck is Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, said the government was still working on its early exit from coal. 

"The process of an early coal phaseout is embedded in an ongoing review of security of supply," the spokesman said.

rc/wmr (AFP, dpa)

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