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Discussion paper

We can work it out

Could Germany’s multi-stakeholder approach help move Australia out of coal-fired power?
Coal Coal-fired power Energy industries Energy resources Energy transition Australia Germany
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Both Australia and Germany have had long, polarised debates on phasing out coal-fired power. This reflects the fact that the biggest barriers to a phase out are social, cultural and political ones rather than technical and economic.

In 2018 Germany set up a multi-stakeholder group, the German Coal Commission. Its mission was to deliver a plan for the phase out of coal-fired power and to meet Germany’s 2030 emission reduction target. The Commission comprised 28 members from government, energy businesses, the wider business community, unions, environmental groups, academia and affected regional communities.

In January 2019, after seven months of consultation and negotiation, the Commission announced a plan to transition Germany out of coal-fired power by 2038. Out of its 28 official members, 27 voted for its plan. Germany’s experience shows the strengths of multi-stakeholder groups. A diverse group is likely to arrive at a better solution than a narrow group, and the stakeholders are likely to be more committed to the outcome if they have participated meaningfully in reaching that outcome.

The Coal Commission was a mechanism to negotiate the policies to end coal-fired power. This paper focusses on the successes, weaknesses and trade-offs involved in such process. It does not focus on the policies themselves in detail.

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