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Greta Thunberg makes surprise visit to German forest

August 10, 2019

While on her way to a UN climate conference, 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg stopped in western Germany to stand with activists at the Hambach Forest. The woods have been threatened by a nearby lignite mine.

Greta Thunberg in Hambach, Germany
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/O. Berg

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg made a surprise visit to the Hambach surface mine in western Germany on Saturday to protest against the destruction of the ancient Hambach Forest.

Thunberg, 16, was on her way to a UN climate summit in New York, but she stopped in Hambach to stand with environmental protesters from the German activist group End of Story.

"This is so important because it is so symbolic," said Thunberg. "Our war against nature must end today."

Read more: Is Sweden's no-fly movement just media hype?

Hambach Forest, located between Cologne and Aachen in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, is at risk of being destroyed by a lignite mine operated by the German utility giant RWE. An expert proposal to end the use of coal by 2038, which has been approved by the German government, was supposed to save the forest. However, protesters say RWE is endangering the woods by pumping out precious groundwater.

Thunberg described how hard it was for her to see the mine, saying: "It was so enormous, so devastating and it makes me somehow sad."

She said that Germany's plan to phase out coal by 2038 is too late. According to her, Germany cannot burn coal for another 20 years if global warming is to be kept below 1.5 degrees Celsius (3 degrees Fahrenheit).

"That's not my opinion or what I think," she said. "That's what science says."

The 16-year-old's climate protests have mobilized students across Europe to call on their governments to address climate change. Germany has seen thousands of students participate in Fridays for Future protests.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has acknowledged the pressure from Thunberg and her supporters, but has cautioned that "we are also taking new directions, and these new directions must of course be thought through."

dv/jlw (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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