German coal plant construction site occupied

Feature story - October 4, 2007
BOXBERG, Germany — Since Monday, activists have taken action against the construction site for the Boxberg new coal-fired power plant in eastern Germany. Their demand is simple; the owner company, Vattenfall, must stop building dirty coal plants and instead invest in clean renewable energy technologies.

Greenpeace activists climb on seven cranes at the coal power plant building site of Vattenfall in Boxberg. They hang a huge Banner from the crane reading: Vattenfall: Stop building! Climate protection instead of brown coal! Smaller banners at the other cranes read: Stop CO2!

The 34 activists camped in cranes on the site, and hung a giant banner relaying this to Vattenfall, and small banners with the message "Stop CO2" were hung from six cranes on the site. On ground level the message was clear "Climate change, powered by Vattenfall."

Wednesday update

On Wednesday, three days later, 11 activists remained perched on one of the cranes, while 20 volunteers painted "Stop CO2" onto the side of the smoke stack under construction. Vattenfall has refused to meet with Greenpeace to talk about climate change and how the Boxberg plant will contribute to the global warming.

Coal is number one climate killer, and the coal they are planning to burn at Boxberg is lignite, or brown coal, the dirtiest type possible. The emissions from Block R alone, where the blockade is happening, would discharge 4.4 million tonnes of CO2 a year, equivalent to the entire CO2 emissions of Costa Rica over the same time.  

"Germany repeatedly attempts to establish itself as a climate protection leader on the international stage, yet continues to build filthy lignite power plants. This makes a mockery of Germany's climate commitments. The German government and Vattenfall must immediately stop construction of coal plants, and invest in renewable energy instead" said Gabriela von Goerne, Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaigner, at the Boxberg site.

Policy and science reality check

UN scientific findings dictate that industrialised countries must cut their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050, to keep global mean temperature rise as far below 2°C, compared to pre-industrial levels, as possible, urgently needed to prevent climate change from spiralling out of control.

Yet, governments across the world continue to invest in coal - the dirtiest power source in the world. If new coal-fired power plants, across the world, continue to be built at their current rate, this outdated technology will account for an enormous 43 percent of global CO2 emissions within 20 years.

Vattenfall is one of the biggest power companies in Europe, active in Sweden, Finland, Germany, Poland, Denmark and the Netherlands. A massive 63 percent of the power they produce in Germany is generated through brown coal, despite this the company is aggressively marketing itself there as climate protection aware.

What dialogue?

Ironically, given their refusal to meet with Greenpeace, Vattenfall is running a massive advertising campaign in German newspapers calling for dialogue to build trust in the company.

Well, this is exactly what Greenpeace is offering them - dialogue. Perhaps it's the terms that are scaring them so much. Greenpeace want to talk about the relationship between coal and climate change, Vattenfall want to be considered "climate aware" while investing heavily in brown coal, the largest contributor to CO2 emissions possible.

The volunteers are heading down from the cranes now, but their demand for concrete answers from Vattenfall about their climate change policy remains. The three day continuous presence at the Boxberg site is just the beginning for this campaign.

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