Orientation for a Global Coal Phase-Out

Book volume with 15 country case studies on the political economy of coal has now been published - including German case study by the Wuppertal Institute

  • News 08.02.2022

Only 15 countries are responsible for 80 per cent of coal use worldwide. The newly available research work on "The Political Economy of Coal" is unprecedented with 15 consistently designed case studies and a cross-sectional evaluation. It shows why this particularly climate-damaging fuel is still used for electricity production. In detail, the project concerns Australia, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Colombia, the Philippines, South Africa, Turkey, the USA and Vietnam: these 15 countries account for 80 per cent of all coal-fired power plant capacity in operation, under construction or in planning. The project was led by the Berlin climate research institute MCC (Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change). 36 scientists from renowned institutions around the globe were involved. In their nationwide studies, they all follow the "Actors, Objectives, Context" analytical framework developed at MCC: what are the actors with the greatest influence on political decisions, what are their objectives, and what influences the priority of these objectives, i.e. the energy mix? The result is a detailed explanatory pattern of global coal use.

Dr. Lukas Hermwille, Senior Researcher in the Global Climate Governance Research Unit at the Wuppertal Institute, and Dr. Dagmar Kiyar, Senior Researcher in the Energy Policy Research Unit at the Wuppertal Institute, examined the German coal phase-out and in particular the negotiation process of the German Coal Commission and the subsequent legislative implementation of its recommendations. The analysis shows that in the case of Germany, the objective of managing structural change and supporting coal workers and the affected regions dominated the negotiations. It was supported by a coalition of trade unions, industry, state-level governments as well as major political parties fearing a surge of far-right populism. Meanwhile, the climate protection objective played only a subordinate role in the negotiations; meeting the German climate targets was a key condition in the mandate of the coal commission. Yet, the German targets date back to 2010 and are not aligned with the more ambitious objectives enshrined in the Paris Agreement. This explains why the German coal phase-out schedule is so late and so expensive.

In addition to the 15 case studies, the book contains an introductory chapter introducing the common analytical framework and a concluding chapter with a cross-sectional evaluation. It is published by Routledge. The electronic version is available free of charge under an open access license in the link below.

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