Coal-fired power generation is the single most important source of carbon dioxide emissions in many countries, including Germany. A government commission recently proposed to phase out coal by 2038, which implies that the country will miss its 2020 climate target. On the basis of a choice experiment that assessed 31,744 hypothetical policy scenarios in a representative sample of German voters, we show that voters prefer a phase-out by 2025. They would uphold their support for greater climate ambition up to an additional cost to society of €8.5 billion. Voters in Rhineland and Lusatia, the country’s main coal regions, also support an earlier phase-out, but to a lesser extent than voters in other regions. By demonstrating that political decision-makers are more reluctant than voters in overcoming energy path dependence, our analysis calls for further research to explain the influence of particular stakeholders in slowing energy transitions.
Adrian Rinscheid, Rolf Wüstenhagen