Germany made ‘painful choices’ clearing village to make way for coal mine, says climate envoy | Climate News

Germany had to make “painful choices” when it evicted the occupants of a village to make way for a coal mine expansion, its climate envoy has told Sky News.

Footage of German riot police in Lutzerath clashing with protesters against the nearby Garzweiler lignite mine has made headlines around the world.

It was a move some found incongruous with Germany’s ambition to be a global climate leader.

Jennifer Morgan, Secretary of State and Special Envoy for International Climate Action, said: “These are the very difficult societal debates that you have to have if you really want to make progress on the climate crisis.

“Are there tough choices and painful choices that come along the way? Absolutely.”

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January 14: Demonstrations to save a German village

Ms Morgan highlighted other ways in which Germany had rushed to ensure the lights stayed on as Russian President Vladimir Putin squeezed gas supplies to Europe.

These included phasing out all Russian fossil fuel imports “in a very short period of time”, switching to 80% renewable energy by 2030 and reducing energy consumption by 60 % in industry and 14% by households, she said.

Ms Morgan added: ‘I hope this is seen as the direction in which Germany is heading, that there are very difficult political compromises being made,’ she said, referring to the fact that the coal-intensive region of North Rhine-Westphalia had consequently brought forward its coal end date.

But she admitted that Germany was “vulnerable” to the recent energy security crisis and had “learned the hard way not to be so dependent on fossil fuels or on one country”.

The activist-turned-diplomat, who was once the head of Greenpeace International, also hinted at some sympathy for Lützerath activists.

She called it “incredibly important in a climate crisis” that young people can engage “in an act of political debate about their future”.

Policemen spray activists during a protest against the expansion of the Garzweiler opencast lignite mine, Germany's RWE utility, in Luetzerath, Germany, January 14, 2023. REUTERS/Christian Mang
Police spray activists during protest against mine expansion

“Rebalancing the interests of fossil fuels”

In an interview at the German Ambassador’s residence in London, Ms Morgan said ‘there needs to be a rebalancing’ of the influence of fossil fuels at the annual UN COP climate summits .

Last week, 450 environmental groups wrote to the UN call for a repressionafter 630 lobbyists registered to attend COP27 in Egypt last year.

Their concerns grew after the United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s largest oil producers and host of COP28 in December, appointed an oil executive and a government minister to lead the talks.

Ms Morgan said the world must ‘respect those the country has put forward’ and that Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, like any COP president, should ‘take on a role that is in fact greater than what he is doing currently in his daily work”.

Campaigners have called on Mr Al Jaber to step down as head of state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Corporation, but Ms Morgan declined to say whether she would tell him when she meets him in February.

When asked if Germany, long a nuclear skeptic, should reconsider the form of clean energy, she replied: “Definitely not”.

“Nuclear has enormous risks in itself, it is extremely expensive and it takes a long time to build,” she added.

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Tom Heap and Victoria Seabrook discuss fossil fuel lobbyists at COP climate summits

Ms Morgan, who was in London for talks with government ministers Lord Zac Goldsmith and Graham Stewart, said it would be ‘safer’ for the UK – which is planning a vast expansion of nuclear power – to stay away.

“Going further into offshore wind, as the UK has done, and building it nationally, also onshore, going for energy efficiency – I think that’s a safer path” , she said.

Ms Morgan, who represents one of the world’s largest emitters and economies, also spoke about what keeps her up at night.

“That we are moving too slowly,” she said. “That the pace and scale of change is not fast enough and that we have to do so many things at once.

“How do you get everyone to act like this is the crisis?”

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