German environmentalists stage protest against coal power

Garzweiler II. Photo credit: Bert Kaufmann via Flickr.
By Anders Lorenzen

Last month German environmentalists formed a human chain to protest coal power and coal mining in the country.

Protesters showcased their anger against the open-pit coal mine Garzweiler II in the region of North-Rhine Westphalia, and called for cuts in open-pit mining.

But this was not a protest against government policy, in fact the human chain should be seen as support for the government, as it is proposing a levy on coal power plants that are more than 20 years old.

Germany’s Ministry of Economics says those policies would affect the 10% most CO2-polluting power plants in Germany, essentially those based on lignite.

6,000 people took part in the 7.5 kilometer long chain, linking hands as they formed the largest anti-coal protest Germany has ever seen.

Over a third of Germany’s emissions come from coal, so the government with the proposed levy has taken the next step towards its target of reducing emissions by 40%.

A poll has found that the majority of Germans, that is 73%, support the government plans.

Germany’s energy policies have been criticized in the past.  It was argued that the rapid decommissioning of nuclear power plants had resulted in an increase in coal usage, and thereby with an increase in emissions. But latest figures have shown that emissions are now declining in Europe’s powerhouse, while at the same time the German green economy continues to surge. Last year Germany set an installation record in onshore wind power, easily surpassing any other European country.

The chain was meant to send a strong signal to Chancellor Angela Merkel that, in a crucial global climate treaty year, Germans are serious about phasing out coal power and moving towards a clean energy future.

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