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Tens of Thousands Rally to Demand a German Coal Phase-Out

HAMBACH, Germany - More than fifty thousand people from across Europe gathered at the site of the controversial Hambach forest to show their opposition to coal and support for climate action in Germany. [1]

The demonstrators included local farmers, environmental activists, church groups, local residents and supporters from other countries, including Italy, France and the Netherlands.  It was the largest-ever anti-coal demonstration in the Rhineland. Banners carried slogans like “Farmers against coal” and “We will end coal”.

Campaigners have already scored one victory in the fight to protect Hambach forest, which has become the symbolic climate battleground for the fight against coal in Germany, with a court ruling stopping the planned felling of trees of energy giant RWE. [2]

Martin Kaiser, executive director of Greenpeace Germany, called the ruling an important step in the fight against coal, but said much more was needed:

“The court ruling shows that blatant lies and reckless policies of corporations like RWE are no longer acceptable. However, it doesn’t switch off a single coal plant and doesn’t stop any of the other lignite  mines. There still are villages, forests and churches in danger of being destroyed and people are no longer willing to accept that – at the Hambach Forest or any other mines anywhere in the world.

“This rally is about demanding that the German government break the deadlock of a climate policy that has failed to reduce carbon emissions for nearly a decade now, but it also is about showing governments everywhere that a growing climate movement is demanding an end to dirty and outdated fossil fuels. The German coal phase-out needs to start here and now and the last coal plant needs to shut down by 2030 if we are to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

With the largest coal fleet in Europe, Germany’s energy policy impacts all its neighbours and the rest of the world.  Large emerging economies like India and China will be influenced by what Germany does. Its continued use of coal is putting at risk the changes that science says are needed to stay within 1.5C.

The Hambach forest protest comes as a government-appointed Coal Commission is considering a future for Germany’s coal regions, how the country can meet its climate targets and when coal should be phased out.

Martin Kaiser, who is a member of the Commission, added:

“The court ruling stopping the razing of Hambach forest puts wind in the sails of the Coal Commission’s work. Now we need to make the decision to start to process of phasing out coal.”

In the IPCC report to be published on October 8th, climate scientists will explain how global warming can still be limited to 1.5°C, and the probable consequences if it is not.  Without a rapid end of greenhouse gas emissions, especially those from coal, and the protection and restoration of forests and other ecosystems, we are further exacerbating climate change.

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