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31 October 2022

Coal phase-out in Germany

The multi-stakeholder commission as a policy tool


In recent years, numerous countries have adopted carbon-neutrality targets and/or have made pledges to phase out coal. While such policy ambition should be applauded, it also raises various concerns, including how to ensure their implementation in the context of a just transition. Confronted by this question, in 2018 Germany formed a multi-stakeholder commission to negotiate its coal phase-out. After six months of meetings and deliberations, the German Coal Commission presented its final report, which included a target date for ending coal-fired generation as well as structural policy recommendations for impacted regions.

With this analysis, we aim to shed light on how the complex socio-economic challenge of phasing out coal can be achieved through a multi-stakeholder commission that can facilitate political consensus.This analysis showcases the German Coal Commission as an example of real-world practice, while touching on existing theories related to multi-stakeholder engagement. We have drawn from interviews with former German Coal Commission members, to present valuable lessons learned to an international audience. Multi-stakeholder engagement is not a “one size fits all” solution,and needs to be tailored to domestic conditions. However, we believe that Germany’s experiences can contribute to the coal phase-out debates taking place in other countries.

Key findings

  1. The recommendations and decisions derived from multi-stakeholder engagement can make an important contribution to driving the clean-energy transition.

    To efficiently reach its goal, a properly tailored “Coal Commission” must ensure a well-balanced mix of relevant stakeholder interests, formulate a clear mandate, solicit stakeholder opinion, and set a realistic, but flexible timeline.

  2. Political economic circumstances and timing are crucial when establishing a multi-stakeholder commission.

    The political environment and public opinion can either accelerate or impair the consensus-building process. Analysis of the country’s readiness for such a commission and an inclusive policy process is key.

  3. A trusting and transparent environment must be fostered in which stakeholders can engage in an inclusive and cooperative dialogue.

    Careful preparation is important for a smooth and efficient process. The flow of information should be transparent and open. Power imbalances and the potential lack of expertise of some stakeholders must be addressed. The set-up must avoid giving any participants the sense they have been excluded or “left out”.

  4. Multi-stakeholder commissions devoted to climate action cannot replace political leadership and ambitious emission reduction policies.

    Accordingly, such commissions should not be misused as a forum for “delegating away” poli-tical responsibility or delaying climate action. In addition, members of parliament should be actively involved in order to augment the legitimacy of the proceedings and increase the likelihood that the commission’s recommendations will be implemented.

Bibliographical data

Nga Ngo Thuy
Publication number
Version number
Publication date

31 October 2022

Last revision

19. FEB 2024

Suggested Citation
Agora Energiewende (2022): Coal Phase-Out in Germany. The Multi-Stakeholder Commission as a Policy Tool.
This publication was produced within the framework of the project Coal Phase-Out in Germany: The Multi-Stakeholder Commission as a Policy Tool.


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