BERLIN, June 6 (Xinhua) -- The mining trade union IG BCE urged policymakers to help create new industrial jobs in regions affected by Germany's planned exit from coal power production.
"The coal miners know that there is an expiry date on their profession," IG BCE president Michael Vassiliadis told the German press agency (dpa).
He emphasized that large-scale investment was needed to make former German coal mining areas more attractive as locations for high value-added industrial manufacturing rather than low-skill, low-wage professions.
Vassiliadis' comments were made on the same day as the scheduled launch of the official "Growth, Structural change and Employment" commission by the federal government in Berlin to oversee a national transition away from coal as an energy source. The commission is made up of political, industrial, environmental and trade union representatives, including the IG BCE president.
According to Vassiliadis, greenfield and brownfield sites were abundant in coal mining regions throughout Germany. However, in order to "attract businesses on a large scale", private investors would require a more comprehensive incentive structure than subsidies could be provided by the government.
The commission overseeing Germany's coal exit will work until the end of October to present a plan on how to manage and finance structural change in the regions affected by the development. Concrete related proposals for how Berlin can come closer to achieving targets for carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction by 2020 will be unveiled shortly thereafter.
One of the key objectives of the coal commission is to limit the extent to which Germany falls short of its own climate policy objectives. Not least due to Berlin's abrupt decision to gradually exit nuclear power in 2011, Germany continues to rely to a significant degree on highly polluting coal to meet its national energy needs.
German environmental organizations have repeatedly called for a swift phasing out of coal power as a means to reduce the country's CO2 emissions. However, IG BCE has cautioned against exaggerating the short-term effects of an exit from the technology on Germany's performance with regards to climate policy.
Speaking to Xinhua on Wednesday, Thilo Schaefer, energy expert at the Cologne-based German Economic Institute (IW), noted that although the economic rationale of coal power generation was declining due to rising costs for CO2 emissions certificates, an abrupt exit would still bear significant costs.
"A coal exit which is sped up by policymakers will lead to higher electricity generation costs, eliminate additional jobs and complicate structural change," Schaefer said.
The Confederation of German Industry (BDI) similarly highlighted that the official commission installed by Berlin was confronted with a difficult task.
"(The commission) will have to strike a balance between climate policy goals, the future of economically-deprived regions, and reliable power supply at competitive prices for all of Germany," BDI president Dieter Kempf told dpa.
Kempf warned that it would be "fatal" if the commission focused exclusively on a "symbolic exit" from electricity generated by coal power. He argued that Germany was better advised to take a "holistic path" of modernizing the national economy in an environmentally-friendly fashion instead of choosing to eliminate individual technologies altogether.
Meanwhile, the environmental organization World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) has announced that it will cooperate with the commission, and will consider the interests of all stakeholders involved.
Nevertheless, WWF Germany director Michael Schaefer insisted that the final outcome would have to be a "fair contribution of the electricity sector to meeting the Paris climate goals."
Michael Schaefer noted that Germany was only allowed to emit another 4 billion tons of CO2 between 2015 and 2100 under the international accord which has been signed by all United Nations (UN) member states except for the United States. A less than ambitious approach by the coal commission would most likely mean that the permitted level would already be reached by 2030.
A recent study conducted by the Emnid institute for renewable energy suppliers found that Germans attach high value to the protection of jobs in coal mining areas. A total of 74 percent of respondents in the representative survey indicated that the coal commission should focus on that goal, while 72 percent also named the expansion of renewable energies as another key policy priority.