Dear Chancellor Merkel,
The world is watching as the conflict around the Hambach forest, neighbouring villages and coal mine is escalating. The recent actions by the government of North Rhine-Westphalia on behalf of coal energy company RWE have only further fuelled the conflict. Now instead of thousands, tens of thousands of people are peacefully demonstrating each week against the irresponsible behaviour of RWE and the regional government.
Your government has tasked a commission to deliver a plan for a sustainable phase-out of coal in Germany by the end of this year. We write to you today to urge you to intervene immediately by supporting a moratorium on any tree felling activities in the forest at least until the commission has made its recommendations which must be taken into account for any final decision about the forest; and to commit to a swift and just coal phase out in Germany in line with the UN Paris Climate Agreement starting without further delay.
Germany’s international climate reputation has been linked with your leadership for many years. Its renewable energy policies within the ‘Energiewende’ have been an inspiration for the rest of world – and have directly contributed to making renewables the cheapest form of new electricity in over 100 countries already.
However, the unfolding events at Hambach Forest are casting a shadow upon Germany’s global climate reputation. We support the thousands of citizens who are peacefully protesting against RWE’s intention to raze the forest in the name of coal. Yet, the Hambach Forest is more than a symbol. If RWE is allowed to proceed with the destruction of the forest while the commission is negotiating a coal phase-out, then the German government would imply that Germany is not seriously considering to put itself back onto a Paris-compliant decarbonisation pathway.
In this regard, we note the acknowledgement by 288 investors with more than $26 trillion in assets showing that the Paris Agreement temperature goals require a complete coal phase-out by 2030 in the EU and OECD countries. This 2030 OECD coal phase-out date is also supported by the UK and Canada-led Powering Past Coal Alliance, which includes 14 EU member states. The oldest and dirtiest coal power plants in Germany will therefore have to close in the coming few years, which in turn means that neither the Hambach Forest nor villages such as Keyenberg or Pödelwitz have to be sacrificed for coal.
There has never been a better and more urgent time for you to show climate leadership. Like many parts of the world, Germany has just experienced one of the hottest summers ever recorded. Around the world, heat waves, droughts, forest fires and storms are serving as urgent reminders that we must act on climate now.
Under your watch, Germany has not reduced its emissions over the last decade and is set to miss its agreed climate target for 2020 by a significant margin. The continued over-reliance on coal is the major reason for this failure.
Your government is in a unique position to be able to show the world how a socially just coal phase out can be done. You can combine climate protection with a pro-active regional transformation that supports communities and workers. If you want Germany to be seen as a climate pioneer globally, you need to act now.
We call on you to
- Set an immediate moratorium on any tree felling activities in the Hambach forest at least until the “Coal Commission” has made proposals for a just and fair coal phase-out that are in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. Ensure that RWE as well as the government of North Rhine-Westphalia respect this moratorium.
- Commit to legally enshrining a just coal phase out in 2019, which puts Germany on track to meeting its 2020 climate target and setting a 2030 coal phase-out deadline.
Signatories of the letter can be seen here.
Jennifer Morgan and International Civil Society Organisations
Executive Director of Greenpeace International
5th October 2018