15 Jan 2020, 14:06
Benjamin Wehrmann

Adani coal mine row with climate activists backfires on Siemens CEO Kaeser – media commentaries

Handelsblatt / WirtschaftsWoche / Focus Online

The row over German industrial heavyweight Siemens's involvement in the controversial Adani coal mine project in Australia with climate activist movement Fridays for Future (FfF) could come back to haunt company CEO Joe Kaeser, Axel Höpner writes for the newspaper Handelsblatt. "The topic is creating a lot of upheaval within the company," Höpner writes, adding that investors in the company were longing for a quick clarification of Kaeser's succession, once his contract expires next year. Kaeser on Sunday said the company would stick to its contractual commitments and continue to work on the Adani project, even though he personally would not approve of it. 
In a separate article in the newspaper WirtschaftsWoche, Andreas Macho says the FfF activists already eye other companies, such as ThyssenKrupp, to name and shame for their involvement in fossil fuel projects. "The criticism of students from FfF is no longer limited to energy companies and coal plant operators. Suppliers, consultants and investors shift into the focus," he writes, arguing that protests by FfF will become "an abiding issue" for the companies' PR departments that will require careful handling. 
Meanwhile, the head of German coal worker union IG BCE, Michael Vassiliadis, acknowledged that FfF had become a "defining force" in Germany's public debate. Many of the climate activists' arguments have by now gone beyond "emotional" strength but also receive "factual support" from scientists, Vassiliadis said in a dpa news agency article  carried by the website Focus Online.

FfF had criticised Siemens for its participation in Australia's largest coal mining project at a time when the southern continent is ravaged by unprecedented wildfires, arguing this would undermine all of the company's other climate action credentials. Kaeser reacted by offering prominent German FfF activist Luisa Neubauer a seat on Siemens Energy's board of directors, an offer which the 23-year-old student declined, arguing Siemens should instead put a climate-concerned scientist there.

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