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ENVIRONMENT

‘Just the beginning’: Protesters occupy disputed German coal mine

Activists occupied Germany's newest power plant on Sunday to protest against a law passed last week to end coal electricity generation, but which environmental groups argue is insufficient.

'Just the beginning': Protesters occupy disputed German coal mine
Activists in Datteln, North Rhine-Westphalia on Monday. Photo: DPA

Police said more than 100 protesters entered the site of the Datteln 4 coal-fired power plant in North Rhine-Westphalia.

The organizers, a protest group called Ende Gelände (Game Over), put the number at 150.

The group said in a statement that their activists were “blocking crucial infrastructure”.

“Their action of civil disobedience is a protest against the coal law of the German government,” they said.

READ ALSO: Activists stage protests in Germany as cabinet passes coal exit law

The protest ended in the late afternoon, organisers said, while the power station operator announced legal action against the demonstrators.

“Our protest today is just the beginning,” said Kathrin Henneberger, a spokeswoman for Ende Gelände.

On Wednesday, ministers signed off on a 202-page draft law — under the clunky German title of “Kohleverstromungsbeendigungsgesetz” — to exit from coal by 2038 at the latest, by which time all coal-fired power plants and coal mines in Germany should be inactive.

However, environmentalists say the law is too little, too late.

Plant shutdowns are due to start on December 31st this year with one mine to be closed at Garzweiler, just west of Cologne.
 
The government view is that it makes more sense to close down old and more polluting plants rather than scrap the opening of Datteln 4.
 
“The law is a disaster,” said Henneberger. “We cannot continue burning coal for 18 years.”
 
In a plan adopted last month, Germany set itself the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent compared to 1990 levels by 2030, although it is set to miss its 2020 climate targets.
 
Berlin has promised to set aside €4.35 billion to help coal plant operators offset shutdown costs and aid the coal phase-out.
 
 
Employees working in the sector will also receive assistance while €40 billion of aid has been earmarked for mining regions through to 2038.
 
November saw activists block coal mines in the Lausitz Basin in eastern Germany and Ende Geläde is planning further protests in August at lignite mines in the west of the country.
 
The anti-coal movement has been gaining support in Germany since a 2011 decision to scrap atomic energy led to an increased dependence on coal.

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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.

READ ALSO: 

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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