Miners, Environmentalists Protest Outside German Coal Talks

Miners' unions and environmentalists held competing protests Friday outside the German government building where experts were holding crunch talks on plans to end the country's use of coal.

Mnet 204038 Germany Union Protest Kay Nietfeld Ap
Union protesters hold flags prior to a meeting of a panel of experts on the exit of the using coal called 'Coal Commission' in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. Germany wants to stop using coal, a major source of the carbon emissions that drive climate change. (Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP)Union protesters hold flags prior to a meeting of a panel of experts on the exit of the using coal called 'Coal Commission' in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. Germany wants to stop using coal, a major source of the carbon emissions that drive climate change. (Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP)

Miners' unions and environmentalists held competing protests Friday outside the German government building where experts were holding crunch talks on plans to end the country's use of coal.

Unions oppose Germany quitting coal quickly and are demanding assurances from the government that jobs will be protected. Green groups, meanwhile, are calling for the swift closure of coal-fired plants and mines to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help curb climate change.

A survey released by public broadcaster ZDF found 73 percent of Germans believe a quick exit from coal is very important. The telephone poll of 1,285 people had a margin of error of about three percentage points.

The meeting in Berlin follows months of haggling over the amount of funding affected regions and companies will get, and what the final deadline for coal use in Germany will be.

Greenpeace, which wants all coal plants shut down by 2030, said Germany needs to show leadership after failing to cut its carbon emissions for a decade.

In this photo taken Aug. 27, 2018 bucket wheel digs for coal near the Hambach Forest near Dueren, Germany. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)In this photo taken Aug. 27, 2018 bucket wheel digs for coal near the Hambach Forest near Dueren, Germany. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

"We need legally binding goals for how quickly emissions in Germany need to fall," Martin Kaiser, head of international climate politics at Greenpeace, told The Associated Press. "Otherwise we will crash past the climate goals for 2030, as we did for 2020."

The government had appointed the 28-person panel—composed of scientists, politicians, environmental campaigners, and business representatives—last year to ensure all interests were heard and the shift away from coal is as smooth as possible.

Germany is committed to an 'energy transition' that involves replacing fossil fuels with renewable sources such as solar and wind power. While the country has made great strides in that direction—renewables beat coal for the first time last year—removing coal from the power equation entirely is a major challenge.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said ensuring a reliably supply of electricity and affordable energy prices were a priority for Europe's biggest economy.

"The energy transition will succeed if we get a big consensus from all actors in society," Altmaier told reporters.

If Friday's meeting fails to reach consensus, a further meeting is scheduled for Feb. 1. Chancellor Angela Merkel has already scheduled a meeting with governors from coal mining states next Thursday.

More in Chemical Processing