Kathrin Gutmann

  • Country: Germany
  • Cohort: 2021
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When Kathrin Gutmann led the launch of the Europe Beyond Coal campaign in 2017, a joint effort by dozens of civil society organizations, coal fueled almost a quarter of the continent’s electricity. The idea that it could be phased out by 2030 seemed wildly ambitious.

Even after signing the Paris Agreement and agreeing to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by more than half by 2030, only three European countries had committed to ending coal use. Yet, after relentless advocacy by Europe Beyond Coal members, by mid-2022, another 14 countries had pledged to be coal-free by 2030, and six more had phase-out plans for the 2030s.

Breakthrough Idea

Free Europe from coal and achieve a fossil fuel-free, fully renewable-based European power system by mobilizing civil society across the continent to build momentum and trigger tipping points that lead to systemic change.

Not even the COVID-19 pandemic or the energy crisis triggered by Russia’s war on Ukraine could overcome that momentum. Indeed, several countries have already gone coal-free. So, while continuing to push to eradicate coal, the campaigners set their sights higher.

With support from Kathrin’s 2021 Climate Breakthrough Award, they developed a strategy to leverage Europeans’ heightened awareness of the perils of fossil fuel dependency and their renewed enthusiasm for adopting clean and efficient technologies to phase out gas as well.

In March 2023, they launched Beyond Fossil Fuels, a campaign to shift Europe’s power system to all renewable energy by 2035, making the most of solar, wind, energy efficiency, storage, and smart grids. In the near term, the campaign aims to prevent any new coal power plants from ever being built, close existing plants as soon as possible, and start phasing down gas infrastructure development to avoid locking in any more fossil fuel use.

More than 60 civil society organizations are part of the campaign, and Kathrin and her team have moved quickly to back their advocacy with evidence, including a detailed roadmap showing how Europe can reduce coal and gas use by a third by 2025 and eliminate them by 2035, and a survey showing small and mid-size businesses would benefit from the shift.

The investments needed are significant, Kathrin admits, but governments have spent hundreds of billions of euros just to ease the impact of the energy crisis, and Europe has the resources. “What it would buy is an end to the destructive, exploitative status quo, a permanent reduction to electricity bills, far more secure energy supplies, and real action on climate action all at once.”

Kathrin is confident because she knows what her coalition has already accomplished. But most of all, she is driven by a vision of what Europe—and the world—could be: a place where people live in harmony with one another and with nature, with fairness, hope, and peace.


Kathrin Gutmann is Campaign Director of Beyond Fossil Fuels, an extension of the Europe Beyond Coal campaign that she has led since 2017 and developed while serving as coal policy coordinator for the Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe. 

She has more than 20 years’ experience in climate and energy policy and advocacy, international network coordination, and campaigning. She has served as Head of Policy and Advocacy with WWF International’s Climate Program and in different capacities with Climate Analytics, the European Climate Foundation, the German Environment Ministry, the Green Party in the German Bundestag, and Greenpeace International.

She has also volunteered with the German youth environment organization BUNDjugend and is on the board of Reclaim Finance. She has a master’s degree in political science from the Freie Universität Berlin.

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