On the Germany-Poland border, thousands are protesting a huge coal mine

Lignite mining near Jaenschwalde Germany
All rights reserved. Credit: Jörg Gläscher / Greenpeace
Lignite mining near Jaenschwalde, Germany
Image caption: 
Lignite mining near Jaenschwalde, Germany

Today, several thousand people have joined hands across the German-Polish border, forming a human chain that passes through towns and villages that stand on the front-line of the fight against climate change.

This is an act of solidarity with the more than 6,000 people who will be forced from their homes by massive new coal mines proposed by utilities Vattenfall and PGE. It also marks a line in the sand for all those who realise that coal has no future in our energy system if we are serious about tackling climate change.

The two proposed mines would each be the size of Manhattan and target a rich seam of lignite, a type of coal that was recently described in the New Scientist as "a nightmare fuel" due to its particularly high carbon footprint. In doing so these companies plan to bulldoze villages with centuries of history and richly textured cultures. Understandably, local people are bitterly opposed to being uprooted and their homes destroyed.

Vattenfall and PGE still need planning permission on both sides of the border and that's why locals are joining with people from all over Europe, including more than 70 Greenpeace members from the UK, to demand that this social and environmental disaster is not allowed to go ahead.

The proposed mines are the perfect example of a wider global trend towards ever more destructive forms of fossil fuel extraction. From fracking and coal gasification to oil exploration in the pristine Arctic, the fossil fuel industry is pursuing every remaining drop of oil, every molecule of gas and every last lump of coal.

And despite clear warnings from experts that two-thirds of existing fossil fuel reserves cannot be burned if we are to stand a chance of limiting climate change, the industry is confident that nobody will stop them.

In the UK, we're in the midst of an all-out government push to keep old coal power stations open and polluting right through to 2030 and possibly beyond. Despite recently signing up to targets for reducing carbon emissions, the government has voted against proposals to cap emissions from old coal plant; is working with industry to water down air pollution rules; has frozen a tax on carbon it had only just introduced; and is now proposing to subsidise power stations to the tune of millions of pounds, just to keep them open.

David Cameron cannot claim leadership on climate change and at the same time orchestrate a set of policies designed to support one of the dirtiest forms of energy on the planet.

Like the thousands of people holding hands right now to resist the greed and short-sightedness of the fossil fuel industry, it's time to come together to demand that our politicians show real leadership and commit to closing these power stations down.

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