Germany's coal exit contrasts with Australia

July 6, 2019, 8:18 pm | Admin

Bochum, Germany: While the ink is still drying on the approval for Australia's new controversial coal mine, Germany is working to extinguish the coal industry entirely.

Adani was cleared to start work on the Carmichael mine in central Queensland in mid-June after the state government ticked off on the groundwater plans.

It still has some minor federal hoops to jump through before it can start coal extraction.

This is in stark contrast to Germany, which shut its last black coal mine last year, and will close all brown coal mines and power stations by 2038.

The black coal mines were closed as they were economically unviable because the resource was cheaper to import from countries like Australia.

The brown coal will go because of climate change.

The transition from black coal has not been easy, with parts of the Ruhr region in the northwest still experiencing high unemployment levels.

However experts say the exit was heavily cushioned by government subsidies for companies, a commitment to support workers to reskill or retire on good pensions, and investment in the region to attract new business.

Renewable energy is increasing, universities have been built, and the area is also experiencing some rejuvenation through mine tourism.

One of the former mines is a UNESCO world heritage site, and is now home to a museum, pool, and casino.

Bikeways link the sites, art has been installed on slag heaps, and music festivals are held among the empty building shells.

Social historian Professor Stefan Berger said transition in the region was "reasonably successful" .

The government-established multi-stakeholder 'Coal Commission' will use it as a blueprint for the brown coal exit, he says.

However there was no "one size fits all" solution for other countries like Australia, which relies far more heavily on black coal for export revenue.

"It's very hard to make these comparisons and to say this is precisely what you should do out of the experience of the Ruhr," he said.

He said the most important starting point was consensus; between levels of government, and between management, workers and unions.

"It's the idea that to every problem there is a reasonable solution and you just have to find it."

Director of global and European affairs with German mining trade union IG BCE Michael Mersmann visited Australia in 2016 to discuss transition with politicians and the CFMEU.

He said the concept of consensus was one of the most striking differences about business in Germany and Australia.

"One of the biggest problems Australia has is there is no existing relationship between employers, trade unions and states," he said.

"In your country you are rather heading towards a conflict, not a consensus. What we are trying to do here is have softer negotiations and find a solution at an earlier point."

Australia has no plans to phase out coal at this stage.

https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/germany-s-coal-exit-contrasts-with-australia-20190706-p524oz.html

Last modified on July 10, 2019, 8:19 pm | 185