Energy Democracy

Basic income model project to accompany the phase-out of lignite

What's the problem?

The lignite phase-out was and still is an example of how ecological and social concerns are played off against each other. This leads to a split in society and to great resistance to the phase-out of lignite, also from the population. An early exit is therefore counteracted not only by the controversial argument of energy supply security, but especially by socio-political propaganda, thus legitimizing further lignite-based power generation and the resulting CO2 emissions. The Structural Strengthening Act for Coal Regions, which accompanies the phase-out, also focuses on creating jobs. Thus money is again given into the economy according to the→ Trickle Down Principle , hence people stay dependent and cannot actively participate.

What's the measure?

The phasing out of lignite is to be linked to an initial model project for the → Unconditional Basic Income. Instead of subsidising corporations

  • currently 40 billion are planned for structural change and 4.35 billion euros are to be paid to corporations as compensation - direct investments are to be made in the population in order to let something grow locally from below, through the population itself.

How can the implementation look like?

An accompanying basic income project can be implemented in different ways. Even a small-scale project can help to deal with current issues relating to job preservation in a different way and promote a change in awareness. It can also be an impetus to expand the measure and thus serve as a catalyst for important changes. Even a village or district with about 1000 inhabitants* in an area affected by the phase-out of lignite, who all receive a basic income of, for example, 1000 euros per month for five years, could be sufficient for a start or small project. This would cost about 60 million euros over the entire period (i.e. just 1.68 percent of the planned compensation for the corporations). In relation to a small town or several districts (with approx. 50,000 people), the costs - savings and additional income effects are not yet taken into account - would amount to about three billion euros. What is important in implementation is that not only (former) lignite workers* should receive the basic income, but all people in the selected region. This is necessary to do justice to people who have already lost their jobs, but also to counteract a further social divide between supporters* and opponents* of the lignite industry. In addition, quite different social and also economic interactions can be expected from the basic income. For a more detailed description of examples, see the page of the initiative BGE instead of lignite.

How does this work against climate change?

With the financial security of the people, the fear of the lignite phase-out disappears and thus the main argument for continuing to generate electricity from lignite. Depending on the size of the project, it may be possible to reach more people than with measures that create "replacement jobs". Moreover, a basic income can contribute to a general change in awareness of our working culture and can undermine job security as a killer argument for social change. Finally, the lignite industry is just one of many examples of how much money is invested in corporations to preserve jobs and thus continue environmentally damaging practices. For example, the Structural Strengthening Law, which accompanies the lignite phase-out, also formulates the goal of strengthening the automotive sector in the Central German mining area. Such measures, which are controlled by the Federal Government, could be counteracted in the future if the mere preservation of jobs is no longer a decisive criterion. Thus, the project could serve as an example for other economic sectors and accompany socio-political changes that are ecologically necessary, or even serve as a transition for a nationwide → Unconditional Basic Income. With a basic income covering the whole country, jobs and their relevance would in principle be valued according to other criteria. In this way, individual citizens* would be protected and encouraged to stand up independently for their ideals and also for the development in the region. The EWS Schönau (10) can be used as an example in the energy sector of what ambitious citizens* are capable of. Such idealistic projects, in particular, could be promoted through an Unconditional Basic Income. Furthermore, financial security creates security and takes away people's worries and fears about the future. Fear causes stress. Thus we are permanently on alert and only focussing our acutely upcoming problems and the securing of our own existence. In this way, we ignore consequences that affect other people (for example in the Global South) or that will only become noticeable in the distant future (for example due to climate change).

Therefore, a secure → livelihood enables more foresight and also more commitment and critical examination of difficult issues, where one may have to question oneself. For example, more conscious consumption (more organic and regional products) can be expected from a basic income (11). Thus the potential of the measure also goes beyond the savings effects of an earlier phase-out of lignite.

Which other positive effects does the measure have?

By reducing stress, UBI has a positive effect on people's health and satisfaction. Furthermore, it goes hand in hand with a possible reduction in working hours, which can, among other things, encourage the exercise of voluntary positions or participation in democratic processes. All in all, it can be regarded as an emancipatory opportunity for the population.

How quickly can the measure be implemented and how long does it take before it takes effect?

With political will, the measure could be implemented directly. The financial resources for the lignite phase-out are planned for a structural change anyway. Depending on how firmly these are already fixed for various measures, any remaining funds could still be used for the project. If necessary, subsidies from other sources could also be used for this purpose.

References to other measures?

The measure can be one of several possibilities, to implement am area-wide Unconditional Basic Income. (See also: Basic Income)

Through the emancipatory approach the measure can also be seen as a favourable condition for many other measures.

Further literature, sources

  1. MDR: Wind und Sonne können Europa zu 100 Prozent versorgen (2019, )
  2. IGBAU: Kohleausstieg: Hunderten Industriereinigern droht Jobverlust (2020, abgerufen am 07.02.2020)
  3. Bundesamt für Wirtschaft und Energie: Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Reduzierung und zur Beendigung der Koh-leverstromung und zur Änderung weiterer Gesetze (Kohleausstiegsge-setz) ()
  4. Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung: Pressemitteilung Nummer 21/20 vom 16. Januar 2020 (2020, abgerufen am 07.02.2020)
  5. ZDF: Was das Kohle-Gesetz regelt - und was nicht (2020, )
  6. BGE statt Braunkohle: Menschenwürdiger Strukturwandel, geht das? (abgerufen 13.02.2020)
  7. Bundesministeriums für Wirtschaft und Energie: Entwurf eines Strukturstärkungsgesetzes Kohleregionen (2019, abgerufen 13.02.2020)
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