Coal phase-out 2035

Germany's Electric Future

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The planet has a limit and it shows us this forcefully. With record temperatures, melting poles, acidified seas. With dying species. Not least of all, humans are affected: every year the emissions of coal-fired power plants in Germany cause several thousand premature deaths. Reason enough to respectthe Earth’s limits – also in the way in which we generate electricity. But this necessitates a serious and far-reaching change in the energy sector. Decisionmakers in politics and the economy are still too timid to take the necessary steps. And yet time is running out for an accelerated phase-out of coal.

The present study by Öko-Institut and Prognos AG, which was carried out on behalf of WWF Germany, tackles this issue. With an approach that points the way ahead, the leading research institutes have calculated a robust phase-out path for coal-fired electricity in Germany based on the carbon budget.

The carbon budget takes the Paris Agreement as its yardstick: the Parties have agreed to limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius. To achieve this, only a limited amount of CO2 – a maximum of 890 gigatonnes worldwide – is allowed to enter the atmosphere. This means that the German electricity sector, which is responsible for approx. 40 percent of Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions, can only emit four gigatonnes of CO2.

The analyses build on this foundation. They show how Germany can make a fair contribution to global climate protection efforts without causing bottlenecks in the electricity supply. The pace of the coal phase-out is, however, decisive. There is no time left to postpone the problem. The time is also short for keeping structural breaks in regions to a minimum and for keeping the costs of energy transition low. The study further shows that efforts must not be limited to the coal phase-out – the focus also needs to be on the expansion of renewable energies and the power grids.