• The brown coal miners in the Hambach Forest keep the police on their toes.
  • At the same time a debate over the schedule for the coal exit has flared up: The co-chairman of the coal commission set up by the Federal Government, Ronald Pofalla, presents a concept, according to which the last coal power plants in Germany are to be closed between 2035 and 2038.

From Michael Bauchmuller, Berlin, and Christian Wernicke, Dusseldorf

On Sunday, thousands of coalition opponents make their way to the Hambach Forest, but the biggest uproar takes place elsewhere: in Berlin. There, the coal commission has tormented from session to session, without really getting closer to their goal. In just three months, it should set out when and how Germany could forego coal power without overburdening affected regions. But suddenly there is an exit plan in the room, allegedly forced by one of the four chairmen of the Commission, the former head of the Chancellor Ronald Pofalla. And the whole commission is upside down.

Of the mirror Pofallas had reported on such an initiative that he had already prepared a roadmap for withdrawal after sounding in the Commission and the Government. As a first step, coal-fired power plants with a combined output of five to seven gigawatts should be phased out by 2020. That would be equivalent to five to seven large power plants.

Between 2035 and 2038 then the last plants should stop their service. Until then, affected regions, above all Lusatia and the Rhineland, will benefit from new infrastructure and new jobs from the public sector. Only: no one from the Commission knows such a concrete plan, not even in the circle of its chairmen. "There have been talks," says the Ministry of Environment. "But we have nothing in writing." That's similar with many members of the 28-member panel.

"Maximum annoyance"

The news of a possible solo attempt Pofallas has pushed the mood again there massively. Even before, there was hardly a vote between the four chairmen, in addition to the board of directors Pofalla, the former Prime Minister Stanislaw Tillich and Matthias Platzeck and the scientist Barbara Praetorius. Now members are reporting "maximum annoyance" at environmental organizations, unions and the energy industry alike. It creates the impression of deals in back rooms, warns Michael Vassiliadis, head of the mining union IG BCE. With such exit scenarios Pofalla "negligently cut the delicate little plant of trust that had just formed on the board".

Greenpeace is "irritated", the RWE Group calls an exit to 2038 "unacceptable". The situation in and around the coal commission is even more chaotic than around the Hambach forest, which RWE wants to clear for lignite.

Thousands of people were protesting there on Sunday, including many families with children, against the clearing of the occupied forest and the planned deforestation. The organizers spoke of 9000 participants, the police estimated 4000 to 5000 demonstrators. Some participants planted trees brought along in this so-called "forest walk".



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