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Germany clinches coal deal

Thursday, July 02, 2015 - 02:04

Germany says it wants to mothball some of its largest brown coal power plants as part of a switch to renewables, but is dropping a levy on the industry. As David Pollard reports, it's good news for power companies, but environmentalists say the government is selling out.

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For climate campaigners a promise broken, but Germany's government say its latest plans for an energy policy deal with the coal industry is a bold move forward. Economy minister, Sigmar Gabriel. (SOUNDBITE) (German) GERMAN ECONOMY AND ENERGY MINISTER, SIGMAR GABRIEL, SAYING: "Until now, we had only cogs. Now we have clockwork. It shows we're serious about energy change ... It will open a new chapter for our economy.'' First page of that chapter: the equivalent of around five brown coal power plants are to be mothballed. Necessary, says the government, to safeguard its 2020 carbon-reduction targets. But a black mark on that page, say environmentalists: a planned levy on coal plants is not going ahead. Apparently conceding to industry protests that a levy could cost 100,000 jobs. And major power companies like RWE could be compensated if they keep brown coal plants in reserve for power shortages. Greenpeace has derided the plans as a making a mockery of May's G7 climate deal. And the wrong people will be paying for them, says chairman of the Green Party parliamentary group, Anton Hofreiter. (SOUNDBITE) (German) ANTON HOFREITER, CO-CHAIR OF THE GREEN PARTY'S PARLIAMENTARY GROUP, SAYING: ''This deal is expensive and dirty. Dirty, because it doesn't cut enough CO2. Expensive because instead of the power companies paying for the pollution, the taxpayer pays.'' Economies globally are trying to shape up their environmental policies ahead of a major UN-sponsored climate change conference in December. Germany's Energiewende - a shift towards renewables - already seeing Europe's largest economy saying NO to nuclear. This latest move comes after months of wrangling in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition. Welcome, nonetheless, says CCLA's James Bevan. (SOUNDBITE) CCLA, JAMES BEVAN, SAYING: ''There are short-term dislocations which are socially painful in any industrial retooling and reorganisation, but the long-term goal that this supports, which is one of generating a more climate-friendly agenda for growth, is very important.'' And welcomed too by what is one of Germany's largest utilities. Shares in RWE up over five per cent on news of the levy being dropped.

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Germany clinches coal deal

Thursday, July 02, 2015 - 02:04