Standing together took on a whole new meaning this weekend, as 6,000 people from across three continents formed a 7.5km long Human Chain in Germany’s Rheinland as part of the largest anti-coal protest the region has ever seen.
Stood shoulder to shoulder and linking hands, protesters from environmental groups, affected communities and members of the German public formed a chain along the Garzweiler II open-pit mine in the region of North-Rhine Westphalia.
The protesters were calling for cuts in open pit mining, fighting the coal related displacement of five communities, and supporting ambitious government plans to shelves Germany’s dirtiest and oldest lignite power plants and achieve its 40% emissions reduction target.
The protest comes as a poll found that the majority of Germans support a the government’s plans to increase climate protection.
73% of the more than 1000 German citizens who participated in the survey support the so-called ‘climate levy’, which aims to tax the oldest and dirtiest brown-coal-fired power plants.
This weekend’s protest, along with the latest poll, have sent a strong message to Chancellor Angela Merkel who will host a meeting of G7 leaders in Bavaria in June, where climate is expected to top the agenda ahead of COP21 later this year.
Magda Stoczkiewicz, Direktor Friends of the Earth Europe said:
A successful German energy transition including a phase out of coal is of great international importance. Failure would make the rest of the world wonder: Why should we even try, if the Germans can’t do it? Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel simply can’t afford to cave in to pressure from the coal lobby, as doing so would send a terrible signal ahead of the UN climate summit at the end of the year.
Following the success of this week’s protest, a coalition of grassroots activists have announced a mass act of civil disobedience targeting Germany coal later this year.
On the weekend of 14-16 August, hundreds of people from Germany and neighbouring countries will gather at the Rhineland coalfields – Europe’s biggest source of CO2 emissions – and force utility company RWE to stop the diggers, and call for an end of coal in the face of increasingly dangerous climate change.
350.org European Organiser Emma Biermann said:
Germany has been leading the way with its transition to renewable energy but is still far too reliant on coal. The vast majority of Germans want to move away from coal to 100% renewable energy, and people are no longer prepared to be held back by the outdated business model of fossil fuel companies like RWE. Governments need to phase out fossil fuels now – starting with coal.
Coal accounts for over a third of Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions while RWE’s lignite mines and coal power plants in the Rhineland in Western Germany are the biggest source of CO2 in Europe, with three of its power plants in the top 5 of the continent’s largest CO2 emitters.