At the UN climate summit in Glasgow, there was nothing more bitter than the coal phase-out.

For good reason: Experts agree that the world has no chance of curbing climate change halfway if the climate crime of coal-fired power generation is not ended quickly.

But large and energy-hungry emerging countries such as China and India cover a good two thirds of their electricity needs.

In the end, a compromise was found in Glasgow that coal-fired power generation should not be stopped, but only "shut down", according to the final declaration, which Beijing and New Delhi also agreed to.

If the pressure on the emerging countries to do without coal grows, doesn't Germany have to work harder and switch off its coal-fired power plants earlier in order to remain credible? According to the previous plans, the Germans want to take their time to phase out coal by 2038. That is too late if Europe's largest economy is to become climate neutral before the middle of the century, as announced. Not only do “green” think tanks such as Agora Energiewende calculate it, but also the Federation of German Industries (BDI), which in a recently published study advertises that coal power should be switched off as early as 2030.

The Berlin traffic light coalition, who are preparing to form the next federal government, do not want to commit themselves.

In their exploratory paper published in mid-October it only says that an “accelerated phase-out from coal-fired power generation” is necessary, which “ideally” should be achieved by 2030.

The SPD, the Greens and the FDP received a lot of criticism for this less resolute-sounding formulation.

What use are declarations of intent?

In fact, however, the demand that the next government absolutely must decree an earlier date for the coal phase-out is misleading.

What would that be gained?

A further declaration of intent for a goal that is only to be achieved in the legislative period after the next, nothing more.

The real problem lies elsewhere: If the SPD, Greens and FDP are serious about the quick exit from coal, then they have to win over social majorities for unpopular measures. Firstly, higher CO2 prices are necessary so that the emission-intensive coal-fired electricity is covered with its true ecological costs. This harbors social explosives, because low-wage earners are first of all more burdened than the wealthy. But rising prices work. Great Britain, for example, introduced a CO2 tax in 2013, which increased the extremely low price in emissions trading at the time. As a result, the share of electricity from coal has decreased drastically within a few years.

However, a higher CO2 price alone is not enough.

There is also a need for inexpensive and climate-friendly other sources of electricity, and in large quantities.

After all, not only the coal-fired power plants but also the nuclear reactors, which Germany will shut down at the end of 2022, have to be replaced.

Coal and nuclear power together recently made up more than a third of German power generation.

Demand for electricity is growing

At the same time, the demand for electricity will rise sharply in the coming years due to climate protection in traffic, heating and industry.

Some predictions are that Germany will need 40 percent more electricity by the end of the decade.

This will require more gas-fired power plants and, above all, a lot more electricity from renewable energy.

Their expansion must be at least doubled.

However, wind turbines and solar parks are extremely unpopular with many citizens, at least when they are built on their own doorstep.

The coal exit will be uncomfortable.

If you want it, you have to be for higher CO2 prices, for more wind power and solar energy.

Then the coal-fired power plants will disappear quickly and all by themselves.

A state-prescribed shutdown date is cheap and superfluous.

Keywords: