Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera 26 Mar 2020

Germany: The Coal War

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A country that has relied on coal as an energy source for hundreds of years has had enough.

Germany has declared the industry must end.

The country's last black coal mines were closed in 2018, and now Chancellor Angela Merkel's administration has decided to phase out all remaining brown coal mines and coal-fired power plants.

Highly polluting and a major source of carbon emissions, most of the latter are in the east of the country, lingering remnants of the communist era. Under what's called the Coal Compromise, the government, mining and energy companies and unions have all agreed to phase out the industry by 2038 in return for a $60bn injection of government funds.

But the pact is controversial. While everyone accepts the industry's demise is inevitable, there's still fierce disagreement about the pace of change. Tens of thousands of people in eastern Germany still rely, directly or indirectly, on coal for their livelihoods, and community leaders have only agreed to a deal that will allow them time to readjust and provides funds to kick-start replacement industries.

But environmentalists are demanding coal's immediate end, which they say is necessary if Germany is to honour its commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

"We don't have any time to waste. We can't wait another 18 years," says Daniel Hofinger, part of a newly formed direct action movement now putting pressure on the government to act faster. With both sides digging in their heels, battle lines have been drawn.

In a film that says much about the challenges the world must make to deal with climate change, reporter Eric Campbell travelled to Lusatia in the former East Germany, as a mass protest action was about to get under way.

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