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Germany: Environmentalists arrested in dispute over RWE's plans to clear forest to mine brown coal

Several environmental activists were arrested on Sunday, 16 September 2018, in a dispute over German energy company RWE's plans to clear an ancient forest in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Activists have occupied parts of Hambach Forest, which is owned by RWE, for years to protest planned clearance operations which the company says are necessary to mine brown coal and guarantee fuel for coal-powered energy plants. Environmentalists have argued that Germany should be winding down consumption of coal. Further information, including statements from RWE, can be found in the articles linked below.

On 19 September, authorities said they were suspending the eviction after a journalist died in an accident, following a fall from a rope bridge strung between two treehouses. 

 

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Article
8 October 2018

Germany: Thousands of anti-coal protesters celebrate Court's decision to temporarily halt RWE's opencast mine plans in Hambach forest

Author: Agence France-Presse, The Guardian

« Thousands of anti-coal protesters celebrate German forest's reprieve », 6 October 2018

Thousands of anti-coal demonstrators descended on Germany’s Hambach forest on Saturday to celebrate an unexpected court victory that suspended an energy company’s planned razing of the woodland to expand a giant opencast mine. The ancient forest near Cologne has been occupied by activists for the past six years and has become a symbol of resistance against coal energy in Germany, a country that despite its green reputation remains heavily reliant on this dirty fossil fuel...[A] court in Münster said it needed more time to consider an environmental complaint against RWE’s upcoming clearing operations.  RWE said on Friday it believed a final judgment in the court case could take until late 2020, which sent its share price plunging – news that was greeted with loud applause at the demo. Buoyed by the court’s temporary reprieve, demonstrators said they were hopeful Hambach forest could be saved. “I have faith. So much can happen in two years’ time. They’ll have no choice but to keep the forest,” said 43-year-old teacher, Julia.

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Article
19 September 2018

German police halt forest eviction after journalist falls to death from rope bridge between treehouses

Author: Associated Press via Washington Post

Authorities in western Germany say they’re suspending the eviction of protesters from a threatened forest after a journalist fell to his death.

Police said Wednesday the young man plunged at least 15 meters (50 feet) from a rope bridge strung between two treehouses in Hambach forest in what appeared to be a “tragic accident.”

The government of North Rhine-Westphalia state later announced it was halting work to clear the forest, which is to make way for a coal mine.

Environmentalists have been trying to prevent the ancient woodland from being chopped down, arguing that Germany should stop extracting and burning fossil fuels.

Dozens of protesters have been camping in the trees in recent weeks, while hundreds more have tried to enter the woods to stop workers from preparing the clearance.

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Article
16 September 2018

German police arrest Hambach Forest activists

Author: Deutsche Welle

German police on Saturday arrested 30 environmentalists protesting plans to destroy Hambach Forest in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

An Aachen police spokesperson said dozens of people were ordered to leave the area as an operation to clear out protesters entered its fourth day on Sunday...

The area is owned by German energy company RWE. The company wants to clear the forest to mine brown coal, which it says is necessary to guarantee fuel for coal-powered energy plants.

The occupation of Hambach Forest "jeopardizes supplies to nearby power plants and refining plants," RWE said in a statement. "Around 15 percent of North Rhine-Westphalia's electricity requirements are covered by coal supplies from the Hambach opencast mine." [...]

But environmentalists have argued that Germany should be heading in the opposite direction and winding down consumption of coal.

Those who had occupied parts of the forest have noted that the woods are home to centuries-old trees and host a protected species of bats. The forest is said to be 12,000 years old...

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Article
13 September 2018

Activists clash with police in Germany over occupation of ancient forest

Author: Judith Vonberg and Nadine Schmidt, CNN

Activists in a forest in western Germany are resisting attempts by police to remove tree houses that environmentalists have occupied for years and to make way for mining company RWE to raze further sections of the forest. RWE runs an open-pit coal mine near the Hambach Forest in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia... The escalation follows a standoff lasting several years as campaigners have sought to prevent RWE, Germany's biggest electricity provider, razing further sections of the forest. In a meeting Monday, RWE and environmental groups failed to reach an agreement that would break the standoff. RWE argues that the next phase of clearing must begin within the next three months if the work is to be completed on time. "This year's clearing measures are necessary to maintain opencast mining operations and coal extraction over the next two years," RWE said in a statement, adding that the company has compensated for its logging activities by planting more than 10 million trees in the Rhineland mining district... While Germany has invested billions in renewable energy and hoped to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2020, the country remains dependent on coal.

 

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Article
28 August 2018

Logging row continues to weigh on work of Germany’s coal commission

Author: Clean Energy Wire

The expansion of a lignite mine that threatens a nearby forest has become a first touchstone of the German coal exit commission’s robustness. But despite fears that the row over the embattled Hambach Forest could gravely impede the commission’s ability to find a consensus on the future use of coal in Germany, the body’s fourth general meeting on Wednesday could see progress in terms of climate action as a new government assessment increases the pressure to reduce carbon emissions from coal... Commentators fear that the quarrel between environmentalists and energy company RWE could make finding compromise on coal more difficult... While the energy minister’s position so far had envisaged halving coal’s COoutput by the target year, a new analysis now suggested a far more ambitious reduction in order to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement... However, the government did not specify the trajectory that could lead to the emissions reduction goal – a key to identifying plants that need to be shut down first.

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