Ende Gelände – direct action against climate change

Bettina Trabant reports on the Ende Gelände protest against brown coal extraction in the Rhineland.

Photo: Mark Bergfeld

This week sees the coming together of thousands of climate activists from all over Europe to protest against the continuing extraction of brown coal by German company RWE. Under the banner of Ende Gelände: “here and no further – stop coal. Protect the climate!” a series of climate camps and acts of civil disobedience are taking place in the Rhineland between the 18th and 29th of August.

At the annual general meeting of energy giant RWE, organisers of Ende Gelände set shareholders an ultimatum to either start immediately with the phasing out of coal or else they would do it for them in August. As the company never responded to this ultimatum, organisers of Ende Gelände are taking matters into their own hands. From the 24th of August, participants in the climate camp will protest at the edge of the open cast mine, block the diggers and occupy the tracks of the coal train line to prevent any further extraction of brown coal.

In the Paris climate agreement, signed in 2015, world leaders have agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in order to avoid runaway climate change, which will result in droughts, rising sea levels and more severe weather events. Phasing out coal, fossil fuels and other non-renewable energy sources is vital in order to achieve the goals set by the Paris Agreement. In recent years we have already seen the effects of climate change and particularly in the global south we are getting news of droughts, hunger, sinking island states, devastating storms and the extinction of species.

When it comes to climate and environmental legislation Germany is always being hailed as the role model for passing laws combating climate change. But as with all governments under capitalism their words are louder than their actions and their actions will only go so far as not to dent the profits or go against the interests of any national corporations. None of the big political parties in Germany provide a real outline of how they intend to tackle climate change and phase out coal energy. Germany, as the world’s number one producer of lignite, is doing nothing to stop the production of brown coal. In the German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, the new conservative-liberal coalition intends to scrap the already watered-down climate protection plan of the previous government, cap the expansion of renewable energy and continue mining without any end date. North Rhine-Westphalia is home to one of the biggest lignite mines in the world.

The organisers of Ende Gelände clearly see the need to combat climate change intertwined with the need for system change and see abolition of capitalism as the only realistic solution.

We cannot seriously tackle climate change or provide global social justice without overcoming capitalism, its obsession with growth and its mechanisms of exploitation. As long as energy giants such as RWE, E.on, Vattenfall, EPH and EnBW continue to control the energy system they will use it to make themselves profits. We need a transformation of the energy system based on decentralisation and grassroots democracy in which people make their own decisions about usage and production. We need a thorough social and economic transformation so that everyone can lead a good life!

The organisers of Ende Gelände are keen to make their actions transparent and democratic and provide special action training for everyone prior to the events. They have organised climate camps where activists from all walks of life can come together. They are specifically keen to highlight their commitment to Women’s and LGBTQ liberation. The basic idea behind the Ende Gelände protest is to use critical mass to block diggers from extracting coal.

They have local groups in all major German cities, including Berlin, Frankfurt, Freiburg, Hamburg and Cologne, to prepare for this week’s action and to continue the protest after the camp and direct action has ended.

There will be further action in November at the UN climate conference in Bonn.
For more information visit their web site at https://www.ende-gelaende.org/en, where there is plenty of information in English.

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