In August 2013, around 200 activists blocked a coal track – the main transport route for coal between the huge open-cast mine Hambach and the power-plants owned by the energy corporation RWE. They were protesting against the disastrous social and ecological impacts of the coal industry – the immense contribution to climate change, the destruction of villages and nature, and the grave damage caused to health.
The occupation of the coal track “Hambach-Bahn” happened in the context of joined action days called for by activists in the Rhineland coalfield. This region is “Europe’s biggest climate culprit”. Here, five large coal-fired power plants are responsible for 13% of all German CO₂-emissions. The lignite exploited in three huge open-cast coal mines results in more pollution than ordinary hard coal. In the past few years, resistance in this area has been growing. Since 2010, so-called climate camps have been taking place annually. This form of protest developed in Great Britain in 2006 as a decentralized response to the increasingly unsuccessful summit protests of the anti-globalization movement. Climate camp activists demand the immediate phase-out of lignite, and a non-nuclear, fossil-free energy-supply – ecological, decentralized, social and in the hands of the people.
The occupation of the “Hambach-Bahn” in August 2013 brought together people from different contexts and regions of the world (statement of the climate camp media team). This is unsurprising, given that the impacts of burning lignite are felt beyond borders: not only because of climate change, but also because of the distribution of particulate matter. Depending on the weather, fine dust from RWE’s power plants and open-cast mines can settle anywhere in Europe and cause devastating health impacts. Non-violent action of civil disobedience is thus legitimate, explains an activist: “Again and again, actions of the anti-coal movement are criticized, because they transgress existing laws. But if the law protects industries that destroy the future of this planet, not transgressing the law is a problem, but the law itself.”