Rapidly phasing-out fossil fuel technologies is required to achieve climate targets. Around the world, participatory approaches are set up to overcome resistance by incumbent actors, and to agree on phase-out and just transition pathways. In this paper, we examine the stakeholder commission that was set up to propose how to go about organizing the German coal phase-out. Hailed by many as a means to settle a long-standing societal conflict, the Coal Commission’s proposal is not in line with the Paris Agreement. We analyze the role and functioning of this commission, and the collaborative dynamics in its decision-making process, leading to the German coal phase-out proposal. Thereby, we seek to shed light on the possible contribution of collaborative governance approaches to the formulation and imple- mentation of ambitious climate policy. Based on semi-structured interviews with members of the Coal Commission, we find that the collaborative approach helped to overcome the stalemate in the energy sector transition. However, incumbents and state actors influenced the commission’s recommendations to large extent and prevented a more ambitious coal phase-out pathway. Thus, prior political decisions on ambitious emission reduction targets are needed to achieve ambitious phase-out agreements. Our findings contribute to the debate on whether stakeholder commissions can help to govern system trans- formations in the context of climate policy.