Volkswagen CEO Herbert DiessRonny Hartmann/AFP via Getty Images

VW boss says no to coal, yes to Fridays for Future

‘If Germany does not make progress on the phase-out of coal, we cannot expect others to do so either,’ writes Herbert Diess.


BERLIN — Volkswagen will close two coal-fired power plants near its headquarters and is pushing policymakers to accelerate the phasing out of coal, CEO Herbert Diess said Friday while also throwing his support behind the student protest movement Fridays for Future.

"I can understand every young person who takes to the streets on Fridays," Diess wrote in a LinkedIn post.

The car boss was announcing a plan to switch two coal plants for gas turbines at its Wolfsburg headquarters in northern Germany. The move will slash CO2 emissions at the sprawling plant by 60 percent from 2022, equivalent to the output of 870,000 cars, Diess claimed.

The company has launched a major electro-mobility push over the last two years, spurred by EU vehicle emission targets, toxic pollution in urban areas and the Dieselgate scandal.

"If Germany does not make progress on the phase-out of coal, we cannot expect others to do so either," wrote Diess, adding that he had refused offers from companies wanting to purchase VW's coal plants. "Without clean energy, there is no clean mobility."

Diess wrote that Germany needed to work on phasing out coal plants before the existing 2038 deadline, warning without ditching coal, global environment targets would be missed.

"More than 1,000 new coal-fired power plants are currently under construction, or in planning, worldwide. If they all go online, we will not only miss the Paris climate target of 1.5 degrees, we will even exceed the 2 degree mark," wrote Diess.

Diess' statement came shortly before the company announced an €830 million compensation package for German consumers affected by the Dieselgate scandal. That followed months of wrangling with consumer groups and seeks to head off a lengthy process of litigation.