Edenhofer to the Coal Commission: "Take action now"

The MCC Director spoke to the panel of experts this Friday. He presented possibilities for a rapid reduction of greenhouse gases in the German energy system.

Coal phase-out exit, structural change

Photo: MCC


“Germany has by far the highest CO2 emissions from coal in the European Union—they are twice as high as in Poland, for example,” Edenhofer explained to the commission members. The panel was launched by the German government and is officially labeled 'The Commission for Growth, Structural Change and Employment'. Edenhofer explained that Germany is no longer a climate pioneer; countries such as Great Britain or France, but also Sweden and Austria, have been noticeably more successful in reducing greenhouse gas emissions—and thus in reducing the risks of climate change.

“However, our government has committed itself in the Paris Agreement to contributing its share of emissions reductions so that  global warming is limited to well below two degrees—concrete measures are therefore needed now to achieve this goal,” the MCC Director continued. Edenhofer is one of the leading scientists at “E-Navi”, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research's major research project on the energy transition; he is also director designate of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

From the economist's point of view, the easiest and most cost-effective sector in which to reduce CO2 emissions is in electricity generation. “That is why a rapid coal phase-out is a very sensible option for climate policy,” Edenhofer stressed. If emissions were not saved by renouncing the particularly carbon-intensive burning of coal, emissions would have to be reduced elsewhere in order to meet the climate targets. “In this case, the necessary emission reductions would have to be achieved more quickly by the manufacturing sector, which would be considerably more difficult and expensive,” said the scientist.

However, a German coal phase-out must necessarily be accompanied by a strengthening of European emissions trading, explained Edenhofer. If hard coal were removed from the system in Germany, more electricity from lignite might be sold in Europe. To prevent this, a European minimum price in emissions trading would be necessary. According to Edenhofer, CO2 prices generate income that could be used for social redistribution or the development of infrastructure. “In any case, this would also be of interest to finance ministers.” He added: “The revenues could compensate the losers of the coal phase-out. This would increase its social acceptance.”