Greenpeace estimates 7,500 people from 28 countries joined hands to fight lignite mining plans
By Megan Darby
An estimated 7,500 activists formed a human chain on Saturday to protest against opencast coal mining near the German-Polish border.
The protesters, from 28 different countries, linked hands over an 8km stretch between the villages of Kerkwitz in Germany and Grabice in Poland.
They were demonstrating against plans to expand mining for lignite, also known as brown coal, in the region.
Meri Pukarinen, the head of the climate and energy unit at Greenpeace Poland, said: “It is inspiring that more than 7,500 people from all over the world have demonstrated today for a liveable future without dirty brown coal.
“This will give people in the region strength and courage for the coming years in the fight against lignite plans.
“We will not give up until politicians understand that the majority of the public is against new brown coal projects.”
Poland’s state energy company PGE and Stockholm-based Vattenfall want to open six new mines in the Lusatia region.
This will involve moving 6,000 people from their homes.
Lignite is a major source of energy for both Germany and Poland. It is a cheap but highly polluting form of coal.
Poland depends on coal for 90% of its electricity generation and the government sees a dominant role for the fuel for decades to come.
Analysis by Greenpeace suggests the country could halve its coal use by 2030 with a shift to renewable energy.
In Germany, despite an enthusiastic drive for renewable power, coal use has risen in recent years to 45% of the generation mix.
Cheap coal has filled the gap created by a phase-out of nuclear power, while gas has been too expensive to compete.
The Lusatia region’s lignite is estimated as the largest single fossil fuel reserve in Europe.
But the Greenpeace warned exploiting that reserve would make it hard to meet targets to reduce carbon emissions.
Burning lignite on the scale expected would use up half Germany and Poland’s carbon budgets between 2020 and 2050, the NGO estimated.
“Lusatia is about to become the scene of one of Europe’s biggest environmental crimes. These mines must be stopped, otherwise there is no chance Europe will reach the self-imposed climate goals,” said Pukarinen.