The phase-out of Germany's nuclear power has increased its reliance on brown coal
By Caroline Copley and Klaus Lauer
BERLIN, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Germany will lay out a climate action plan for 2050 by the middle of next year and is talking to industry groups and trade unions about ways to end coal-fired power generation, its Environment Minister said on Monday.
Global leaders clinched a breakthrough deal in Paris on Saturday to transform the world's fossil fuel-driven economy within decades in a bid to arrest global warming.
While Germany's green energy campaign has earned it the reputation of a leader in environmental policy, critics say it needs to set a timetable to scrap coal power if it is to meet its own ambitious long-term climate targets.
"It is completely clear that we need to exit fossil energy sources by the middle of the century," Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said, adding Germany needed to find a way to cushion the social impact in some regions.
The German government is due to decide on a climate action plan for 2050 by the summer of 2016 and will give more concrete details on a coal exit then, Hendricks told a news conference.
Europe's largest and most dynamic economy generated more than a quarter of its electricity from renewable sources - such as wind and solar power - last year.
But at the same time the phase-out of nuclear power has increased its reliance on brown coal, the dirtiest of all energy sources, which is cheaper than low-emission gas-powered plants.
The coal sector accounted for around 44 percent of electricity generated in Germany in 2014.
Faced with opposition from unions in coal-producing states, Germany dropped a proposal to impose penalties on the oldest and most polluting coal-fired power plants in July. Instead, it will set up a coal-fired electricity reserve.
Green groups say Germany needs to do more if it is to meet its goals of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990 levels by 2020, and by 80-95 percent by 2050.
A poll for Greenpeace conducted during the Paris climate talks found 69 percent of those surveyed wanted a bigger commitment from Chancellor Angela Merkel to phase out coal.
German companies also urged the government on Monday to toughen up measures to meet its climate goals.
A group of more than 30 firms, including sporting goods maker Adidas, Commerzbank and retailer Metro, signed a document pledging to play a role in the fight against climate change and calling on politicians to do their part as well.
(Reporting by Caroline Copley and Klaus Lauer in Berlin, Maria Sheahan in Frankfurt; Editing by Michael Nienaber/Mark Heinrich)
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