Pressure mounts on Sweden to ditch Vattenfall coal sale

Vatenfall’s German coal dreams

Creative Commons: Bert Kaufmann, 2012

Pressure is mounting on the Swedish government to halt the sale of its German lignite mines, with a ‘special’ debate on the issue kicked off in the country’s Parliament.

Ahead of the debate on the sale of the state-owned Vattenfall’s Lusatia operations, demonstrators are gathering in Sweden, Germany and Belgium urging the government to reject the deal.

The sale could incur up to €2.9 billion in losses, see 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions passed on to owners-to-be Czech energy company EPH and PPF Investments, and break the Swedish government’s own rules for state-owned companies.

The protest is also echoed in an open letter from German NGOs, who stress that holding onto the mines and phasing-out its coal operation is “the most important contribution that the Swedish government could make to fight climate change“.

Failing to do so, they add, would represent a betrayal of its commitment on decarbonisation and its promise under the Paris Agreement.

Key Points

  • Fossil fuels need to be kept in the ground, not sold off, if governments are serious about tackling climate change. Lignite is one of the dirtiest forms of energy, and each year Vattenfall’s open-cast mines in Lusatia produce 60 to 65 million tonnes of the brown stuff and 60 million tonnes of CO2 – more emissions than the whole of Sweden. By holding onto its assets, and phasing out coal production in the region, Sweden would be making a significant contribution to the global shift to a clean energy future.
  • Citizens will pay the price as companies risk health and the climate in favour of profiting from coal. Last year alone, Swedish taxpayers, had to bear over €1.6 billion ($1.8 bn) in losses associated with Vattenfall’s German lignite business and could incur another €2.6 billion ($3 bn) of losses from the sale of its assets. Coal mining in Lusatia – and across Europe – has decimated villages and destroyed livelihoods and cultures, while continued coal burning is responsible for 18,200 premature deaths and €43 billion in health costs every year.

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