BERLIN (Reuters) - Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel does not expect Germany to withdraw from brown coal in its power production before 2040, despite a growing debate over how to protect the climate from rising CO2 emissions.
"It will on no account be switched off in the next decade - in my opinion not even in the one after that," Gabriel told an energy conference in Berlin.
Calls have grown for Germany to set out a timetable for a withdrawal from coal in power production following the climate protection deal struck in Paris last December.
The government has pledged to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 95 percent compared to 1990 by the middle of the century.
Domestic hard coal mining will cease in 2018 and Germany's coal miners and users expect the country's last brown coal mines to close by around 2045.
While coal will lose significance, Gabriel said it was important to first come up with alternative business opportunities in affected regions.
Germany in June distanced itself from initial proposals to set out a timetable to exit coal-fired power production "well before 2050" as part of a national climate action plan.
Now it plans to set up a committee for climate protection and structural change that will deal with how to exit brown coal production while ensuring jobs for the affected regions.
The committee will be asked to come up with proposals by 2018.
(Reporting by Markus Wacket; writing by Caroline Copley; editing by Jason Neely)