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Climate activists rage as Germany opts for drawn-out coal exit

Climate activists heckled German MPs Friday outside the Berlin parliament building as the country passed a law to end use of coal-fired power generation by 2038.

Climate activists rage as Germany opts for drawn-out coal exit
Activists hung a sign saying 'a future without coal power' outside the Reichstag building. Photo: DPA

Demonstrators are angry at the drawn-out timetable that will see coal plants only gradually taken offline over the coming 18 years, as well as at what they say are over-generous payments to energy companies that more than compensate any lost profits.

“The fossil fuel age is irrevocably coming to an end in Germany with this decision,” Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told lawmakers inside the chamber, urging opponents not to “talk it down”.

Outside, NGO Greenpeace hung a giant banner demanding “a future without coal power” from the Reichstag building's pediment, its script aping the historic structure's famous dedication “to the German people”.

Since ministers agreed the law in January, campaigners including the youth-led Fridays for Future movement have turned to demonstrations calling for a much faster timetable for the end of coal use.

Activists in February occupied a new power plant known as Datteln 4, set to begin generating under the new law, before targeting two opencast coal mines last week.

READ ALSO: 'Climate crime': Activists occupy two German coal mines

 

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has stuck to its course.

“Today could have been a historic day. It's bitter because this law does not include the climate protection that is needed in these times,” opposition Greens party leader Annalena Baerbock told Deutschlandfunk public radio.

Especially galling to environmentalists is a total of €4.3 billion ($4.8 billion) set to flow to power companies, alongside €40 billion ($45 billion) of government aid for regions that depend on mining and energy jobs.

By keeping energy supply predictable, the law will sustain Germany as an industrial hub, leader of the IG BCE mining and energy workers' union Michael Vassiliadis told news agency DPA.

But “we've been debating the exit for too long. We ought to finally come up with a ramping-up plan, for building up renewable energy and the grid,” he added.

Germany aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent compared with 1990 levels by 2030 under targets agreed in December.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

It's official - people in Germany will get cheap public transport for three months this summer after the €9 ticket was approved.

Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

As part of a host of energy relief measures to cushion the cost of living crisis, the German government is offering cheap public transport for the months of June, July and August. 

Monthly tickets will be available at a price of €9 (or €27 for all three months) and they will allow people to use all buses, trains and trams in local and regional transport throughout the country.

So even if people buy the ticket in Munich, they will also be able to use local and regional buses, trains and trams elsewhere in Germany, whether it’s Hamburg or Cologne. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

The ticket will not be valid, however, on long-distance transport such as ICE trains or Flixbus.

The offer was put together by the coalition government – made of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the FDP.

The Bundestag voted for the initiative on Thursday, agreeing to give federal states a subsidy of €2.5 billion to fund the project. 

And on Friday, the Bundesrat – the upper house of parliament that represents the states – gave the green light to the ticket, paving the way for it to begin on June 1st. 

States had wanted an extra €1.5 billion funding boost to deal with lost revenue, however it would have been hugely controversial if they had blocked it.

READ ALSO: German states threaten to block the €9 ticket in the Bundesrat

During a debate on Thursday, federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) said the €9 project was “already a success”.

“All of Germany is talking about local public transport,” he said, adding that it is also being viewed with interest abroad. 

READ ALSO: ‘Fantastic’: Your verdict on Germany’s €9 ticket

The Left party (Die Linke) voted in favour of the €9 ticket, but leader Bernd Riexinger said he thought the plan didn’t go far enough. “Three months is simply too little,” he said.

The opposition, however, slammed the move. Christian Democrat Michael Donth called it an “expensive experiment”.

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn will offer the ticket for sale as early as Monday. Local public transport providers across the country are also preparing their ticket machines for the initiative. It will also be available in travel centres.

People with subscriptions to local transport will automatically benefit from the offer. 

In some regions, such as Stuttgart and Freiburg, the ticket is already available for purchase.

READ ALSO: How to get a hold of the €9 ticket in Berlin

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