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ENVIRONMENT

Bats, birds and ants evicted for new Tesla plant near Berlin

US electric car giant Tesla began clearing forest for its first European "Gigafactory" near Berlin Thursday, and is now racing against the clock to rehouse ants, birds and hibernating bats.

Bats, birds and ants evicted for new Tesla plant near Berlin
Tesla cleared forest on Friday for its new plant in Grüneheide. Photo: DPA

Workers have started clearing a 92-hectare area of forest at the
site in Grünheide in Brandenburg state after Tesla received the green light from authorities last month.

READ ALSO: Tesla gets green light for factory site near Berlin

But after concerns from environmentalists, Tesla has announced measures to relocate wildlife from the affected area, according to reports in various German media this week.

The company will have to relocate “forest ants, reptiles and five bats”, Tagesspiegel daily wrote Wednesday.

According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, numerous ant colonies would be dug out with “shovels and little diggers” and relocated way from the plot.

Tesla spokespeople could not immediately be reached for comment on the
plans.

According to local media, the company has also promised to hang 400 nesting
boxes in the area, as deforestation will rob a number of birds of their homes.

Tesla's planned factory site in Grüneheide, Brandenburg. Photo: DPA

But with the factory intended to open in 2021, the car giant faces a race against time to clear the forest and relocate the animals.

Birds will return to nest in the trees from March onwards, and the bats are set to wake from hibernation and begin mating around the same time.

Germany's Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) warned that moving the bats in particular would not be easy.

“To disturb the bats as little as possible, they will have to be moved during hibernation,” Christiane Schröder, director of NABU's Brandenburg branch, told the Berliner Zeitung daily last month.

In a recent interview with Tagesspiegel, Brandenburg's state environment minister Axel Vogel praised Tesla's environmentally minded approach.

Tesla had “approached conservationists early and proactively,” said the Greens party politician. Co-founder Elon Musk had himself proposed a plan to plant three times as many trees as would be cut down, he added.

Brandenburg, a state surrounding Berlin, has high hopes that Tesla's arrival could bring thousands of high quality jobs.

But critics have claimed that deforestation could harm wildlife and endanger the drinking water supply.

And environmental protection is not the only hurdle Tesla have faced in
Grünheide.

Last month, authorities defused seven World War II bombs discovered at the site of the future factory. 

READ ALSO: Seven World War II bombs diffused at Tesla's factory site near Berlin

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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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