Kathrin Henneberger questions the Greens’ coal compromise

Kathrin Henneberger questions the Greens’ coal compromise

Ms. Henneberger, the Green-led economics ministries in Berlin and Düsseldorf have negotiated with RWE to bring the phase-out of coal forward from 2038 to 2030. Five villages will remain, and 280 million tons of lignite will remain in the ground. In December, the Bundestag passed a corresponding law with a traffic light majority. What’s wrong with that?

Very often pictures are drawn in black and white, but very often it is not so simple, but rather complicated. Here in the Rhineland we have had great success. We saved the Hambach Forest, we saved five villages. In 2019, that was still considered impossible. I have always supported Lützerath and of course I will continue to do so. In 2022, before the summer break, we negotiated the law on the availability of replacement power plants and the accompanying motion for a resolution. For me, that was a great moment of democracy. We parliamentarians from the SPD, the FDP and the Greens sat together. The other MPs listened to me and then included the sentence in the motion for a resolution: “The German Bundestag supports the preservation of the village of Lützerath at the Garzweiler opencast mine”. We wanted to avoid being cleared again. Because we also think it is important that crises are not played off against each other.

And then?

The second step was the negotiation with RWE, and we, the reporters on coal policy in the Bundestag, are no longer at the table. What I blame RWE very hard for: The coal company also has a responsibility. For questions like: What future are we building here in the Rhineland, which conflicts are we still fighting and how? RWE was not willing to allow a rethink to take place here. We want a pause, a pause, because we don’t know exactly whether we’ll ever really burn this coal under Lützerath. But RWE now wanted to destroy Lützerath so that they could clear the way to burn the coal after all. The coal company also knows that it only has a few years left in which it can burn the coal profitably. I will do my best in Parliament to ensure that we meet the climate targets and shut down the opencast mines.

Are you also angry at your own party?

By knowing what people are like and how people argue and whatnot, my anger is focused on whoever got us into this mess. And that is the coal company RWE.

You have been a member of the Bundestag for the Greens for a constituency in the Rheinisches Revier since 2021. At the moment you are often in Lützerath. In what capacity do you do this: as a politician or as an activist?

I am parliamentary observation. My role is to be there for the people in my region. My role here is a mixture of pastoral care and parliamentary observation.

The evacuation of Lützerath is progressing: officials are taking activists away on Wednesday.  Anyone who resists will be carried.

The evacuation of Lützerath is progressing: officials are taking activists away on Wednesday. Anyone who resists will be carried.

Image: Frank Röth

Before you moved into the Bundestag in 2021, you were spokeswoman for the action alliance “Ende Gelände”, which drew attention to itself with the storming of opencast mines and occupations of bucket wheel excavators. Do you have to think of this activism as a bubble in which there is certainly a lot of idealism but no sense of compromise?

When I read the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climtechange (IPCC) and the different scenarios that are coming our way, it is difficult to make a compromise that leads to global warming of more than 1.5 degrees. The latest findings are: The current global warming is already leading to tipping points. Once that happens, when the permafrost thaws, when the Greenland ice sheet melts, without us being able to stop it, then feedback effects will develop and warming will continue – no matter what we do next.

Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck said at the beginning of the Lützerath clearance that the RWE deal was a good decision for climate protection because it would result in a significant reduction in the size of the opencast mine. What’s wrong with it?


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