21 Sep 2018, 11:56
Kerstine Appunn Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

Saving Hambach Forest "an illusion" - RWE / Moorland fire releases CO2


Not cutting down the embattled Hambach Forest would cost four to five billion euros, Rolf Martin Schmitz, head of energy company RWE, which wants to clear the forest to expand a nearby lignite mine, said  in the political talk show Maybrit Illner on public TV station ZDF. “The assumption that the forest can be saved is an illusion,” said Schmitz. It had to go because the land was needed to stabilise the embankments at the edge of the pit mine. If the forest remained standing, RWE would have to collect “huge amounts” of soil from other areas at great cost, said Schmitz. The Hambach Forest is “really just a symbol” and “this piece of forest cannot be saved.” German economy minister Peter Altmaier pointed out that the government had decided to cut coal-fired power generation by about 50 percent by 2030, and emphasised that it was still needed to secure power supply, especially in light of the nuclear exit. Green member of the Bundestag Anton Hofreiter replied that in the failed 2017 coalition negotiations between the CDU/CSU, FDP and Green Party, Altmaier had said the immediate shutdown of 7 gigawatt lignite capacity is possible. “Why was it possible back then, and now that we are not part of the government it’s technically not possible?,” Hofreiter asked.

Watch the show in German here.

For background, read the CLEW article Germany’s coal commission insists no decision yet on exit date and the coal commission watch.

Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union / NDR

A fire under a moorland, caused accidentally during a military exercise in northern Germany, has released at least over half a million tonnes of CO2, the NGO Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) says in a press release. The smouldering fire had been started in early September by a missile test by the German army (Bundeswehr) and by now encompasses an area of more than eight square kilometres. “Given this year’s extreme drought, weapon testing on the moor land without sufficient precaution through fire vehicles just beggars belief,” the NABU’s moor expert Felix Grützmacher said. The NGO says the fire not only kills many rare animals on the ground but also continues to release large amounts of carbon emissions every minute and by now had emitted at least as much carbon dioxide as 50,000 average citizens in Germany emit in a year.
According to public broadcaster NDR, the region has been categorised as an emergency area to prepare evacuation. NABU expert Grützmacher told NDR that, depending on the fire’s extent below the surface, up to 900,000 tonnes of CO2 might have been release by now. The Bundeswehr says that the fire is unlikely to be extinguished soon and, in a worst-case scenario, could continue for several weeks to come.
[According to an article by Spiegel Online, the fire might already have released up to 1.4 million tonnes of CO2 as the NABU's initial calculations were made when only five square kilometres were burning.]

Read the press release in German here, the NDR article in German here and the Spiegel article in German here

Clean Energy Wire

Climate change adaptation has played a big role at the G7 environment ministers’ meeting, said German environment minister Svenja Schulze in a telephone press briefing after the first day of the meeting in Halifax, Canada. “It is important to discuss this question against the backdrop of the dry summer, tropical storms and the concern especially in the developing countries,” she said. At the meeting, six of the seven countries reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. While the US delegation made clear their standpoint regarding climate protection, there was no feeling of a “blockade”, said Schulze. “Overall, we had a very positive meeting. Ahead of [COP24 at] Katowice, it is important to keep discussions going with as many actors as possible.” The G7 was formed to debate the most important economic topics, said Schulze, and “environmental policy is now a fully established issue here”. At the meeting, guests like companies Unilever and BASF presented best practices on topics such as circular economy, said Schulze. “The companies put pressure on the political sphere to become more ambitious.” 

Find the chair’s summary in English here.


The German government has to carefully moderate the many differing interests in order to successfully make security policy implications of climate change a key topic during its two-year term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, writes Susanne Dröge, Senior Fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) Global Issues Division, in an in-depth analysis. It must also  emphasise the value for each member state. Germany must make clever use of its “diplomatic resources”, such as the country’s credibility as a climate pioneer, and previous efforts such as the Group of Friends on Climate and Security, which was initiated to develop solutions for the impact of climate change on security policy, raise public awareness and boost UN involvement in this area.

Find the analysis in German here.

See the CLEW dossier The energy transition and climate change for more information.


German steel company thyssenkrupp has started production of the synthetic fuel methanol from CO₂ and other emissions in steel production, the company says in a press release. The fuel production from side products of steel smelting is part of the so-called Carbon2Chem project, which is funded by the German ministry for research and education (BMBF). thyssenkrupp says the procedure could be scaled up to convert about 20 million tonnes of annual CO₂ emissions from steel mill gases, and it could be used in other energy-intensive industries. “There’s no point in just prescribing climate protection targets if we don’t have the technical means to implement them,” said German research minister Anja Karliczek, adding that the project showed how investments in cleaner technology can pay off. thyssenkrupp CEO Guido Kerkhoff said that “our vision of virtually CO2-free steel production is taking shape.”

Find the press release in English here.

See the CLEW dossier on The energy transition’s effects on the economy for more information.

Clean Energy Wire

The German Energy Agency (dena) has gathered a group of companies from the energy, automotive, aviation, chemicals and mineral oil, mechanical and plant engineering, insurance and finance sectors to launch a global alliance for power fuels. The list of particpants includes large companies like Daimler, Uniper, and DLR, who share the aim to open up global markets for synthetic fuels generated with renewable electricity. The dena sees the development of power-to-liquid technologies as a “missing link” for a successful energy transition, since not all processes requiring energy can be carried out with electricity.

Read the dena press release in German here.

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