Fridays for Future climate activist denounces RWE at shareholders′ meeting | News | DW | 03.05.2019
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Fridays for Future climate activist denounces RWE at shareholders' meeting

Luisa Neubauer told RWE shareholders their company's long affair with coal needed to end soon. A leader of the German Fridays for Future movement, she said the energy giant bears responsibility for the climate crisis.

The leading figure in the Fridays for Future climate movement in Germany told RWE shareholders on Friday that Germany's biggest energy firm needed to drop coal power completely by 2030.

"No company in Europe bears more responsibility for the climate crisis than RWE," Luisa Neubauer said in the western German city of Essen. "How can you answer for that before me and my generation? Whoever seriously plans to convert coal into electricity after 2030 has not understood the crisis we are in."

RWE heads had not "mentioned the words 'climate change' a single time" in their speeches at the last eight shareholders' meetings, she wrote on Twitter.

Critical RWE shareholders had invited Neubauer to speak at the event alongside RWE chief executive Rolf Martin Schmitz. Neubauer, 23, is seen as the face of the weekly strikes by schoolchildren calling for more political action to combat climate change.

Read more: Constance becomes first German city to declare 'climate emergency'

Going green?

As students protested outside the meeting hall, Schmitz said it was "good" that young people had spread awareness about the threat of climate change. Yet activists should not only make demands but also be aware of what was possible, he said.

Luisa Neubauer at a Fridays for Future demonstration in Berlin

Luisa Neubauer is regularly seen at Fridays for Future marches throughout Germany

In January, a government inquiry recommended that Germany close all coal-fired power plants by 2038. Fridays for Future has demanded that Germany shut down a quarter of its plants by the end of 2019 and all stations by 2030.

Schmitz, 61, also defended RWE's green credentials, citing a 34% reduction in the company's carbon dioxide emissions from 2012 to 2018 and its pledge not to invest in any new coal-fired power plants.

He said a recent deal with E.ON that would see RWE take over its rivals' renewal energy business would create a "new" company. "Generating clean and safe electricity — this is the goal that drives us forward," he said.

According to figures from the Environment Ministry, Germany produced 38 percent of its electricity from renewable sources in 2018.

Friends of the Earth Germany said in a statement that RWE's "new, green image" would not convince anyone so long as the company remained committed to coal.

Read more: Fridays for Future: The #Climatestrike movement comes of age

Fridays for Future activists gathered outside the shareholders' meeting in Essen while Neubauer spoke

Fridays for Future activists gathered outside the shareholders' meeting in Essen while Neubauer spoke

Fear for Hambach Forest

Outside the meeting hall, many Fridays for Future activists called on the company to abandon its plans to clear Hambach Forest in western Germany to expand a nearby open-cast mining pit.

Under political pressure, RWE signed a one-year moratorium on plans to log the forest in February. Violent clashes erupted last year between police and environmentalists protesting to protect the woods.

RWE is "taking people for idiots," Greenpeace said Friday. The organization said aerial photography showed how RWE excavators were "digging ever closer to the Hambach Forest in recent months."

amp/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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