For decades, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic have been at the heart of Europe’s so-called “lignite triangle” which produces most of the continent’s coal-based electricity. But with climate change now a top political priority, the priority is shifting to renewables.
UN secretary general Antonio Guterres says all OECED countries must phase out coal by 2030 at the latest in order to comply with the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The European Union’s objective, agreed by EU leaders in December 2019, is to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. That means Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic – the top three coal burners in Europe – are coming under growing pressure to transition to clean energy.
For those countries, ditching coal is no longer just an environmental argument, it is also increasingly an economic imperative. CO2 prices on the EU’s carbon market have hit historic highs in recent months, going above €40 per tonne for the first time in April after years spent languishing under €10.
This is making hard coal and lignite, the most carbon-intensive energy source, increasingly unviable economically. A recent report by think tank Agora Energiewende found most lignite units in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic will become permanently unprofitable in the second half of the 2020s.