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CLIMATE

Thousands march in Germany calling for end to coal power

Thousands of people marched in Berlin and Cologne on Saturday, calling for Germany to abandon coal-powered electricity generation, on the eve of a major climate conference in Poland.

Thousands march in Germany calling for end to coal power
Protesters in Cologne on Saturday. Photo: DPA

Organisers in Berlin said 16,000 protestors marched in Berlin — 5,000 according to police — in a colourful march featuring placards, banners and costumes.

In the western city of Cologne, organisers said 20,000 people turned out to protest — 10,000 according to police.

Hubert Weiger, spokesman for one organisation, “Bund”, called on Germany to commit to pulling out of coal by 2030.

The government is expected to settle on a calendar to phase out polluting power sources such as coal at the beginning of next year.

Already in 2011, Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to phase out nuclear power generation by 2022, in the wake of the disaster at Fukushima reactor meltdown in Japan.

Partly because of that decision, coal remains a cornerstone of energy generation in Germany's energy policy, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the country's energy production.

The marches came ahead of the COP24 climate summit, which opens in Poland on Sunday. Delegates from nearly 200 countries are due in Katowice for the gathering, which is intended to renew and build on the Paris deal limiting global warming.

Coal accounted for 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide in 2017 according to the Global Carbon Project — the largest single source of the pollutant.

READ ALSO: More Germans fear climate change than terrorism, poll shows

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ENVIRONMENT

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction

Campaigners began a legal challenge against five German regions on Monday to force them to take stronger action on climate change, emboldened by a landmark recent court ruling in favour of environmental protection.

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction
Demonstrators from the Fridays for Future movement protest in Gießen, Hesse, with a sign saying "No wishy-washy, no climate lashing". Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

The plaintiffs are basing their case on a sensational verdict by Germany’s constitutional court in April which found that Germany’s plans to curb CO2 emissions were insufficient to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement and placed an unfair burden on future generations.

In a major win for activists, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s federal government then brought forward its date for carbon neutrality by five years to 2045, and raised its 2030 target for greenhouse gas reductions.

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On Monday, 16 children and young adults began proceedings against the regions of Hesse, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saarland, with support of environmental NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH).

They are charging that none of the states targeted by the legal action have passed sufficiently strong climate legislation at the local level, according to DUH.

“The federal government can’t succeed on its own,” lead lawyer Remo Klinger said in a press conference, highlighting state competence in the area of transport.

DUH worked closely together with the youth climate movement Fridays For Future to find activists willing to front the challenges, the group said.

Seventeen-year-old plaintiff Alena Hochstadt said the western state of Hesse, known for its Frankfurt banking hub, had always been her home but she feared having “no future here”.

Concern about the risk of “floods, storms and droughts” led her and other campaigners to seek “a legal basis for binding climate protection”.

READ ALSO: Climate change made German floods ‘more likely and more intense’

Hesse’s ministers for climate and the economy said they were “surprised” by the announcement.

“DUH clearly has not yet understood that we in Hesse are well ahead,” Priska Hinz and Tarek Al-Wazir said in a joint statement, drawing attention to an energy future law from 2012, before the Paris climate agreement.

In July, DUH-supported activists took the states of Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Brandenburg to court on similar grounds.

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