German energy boss named ′Dinosaur of the Year′ | News | DW | 28.12.2018
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German energy boss named 'Dinosaur of the Year'

A bitter row over new coal mining plans at Hambach Forest has helped the head of German energy firm RWE, Rolf Martin Schmitz, to win the booby prize. The award has been named by environment group NABU since 1993.

Rolf Martin Schmitz, the CEO of German energy firm RWE, was on Friday named "Dinosaur of the Year 2018" after he insisted on the clearance of a large chunk of the Hambach Forest to increase open-pit coal mining activities.

German nature conservation group NABU awarded the satirical prize to Schmitz, who they said had placed himself beyond the pale with his "outmoded demonstration of power" in an ongoing dispute over the planned clearance of the forest, which lies west of Cologne.

NABU President Olaf Tschimpke said that the RWE chief was an "industry dinosaur" who must recognize the signs of the times.

Read more: Germany's last deep pit Prosper-Haniel closes

"While international climate conferences and the national coal commission are struggling for concrete climate protection, Mr. Schmitz has found himself offside in the dispute over the deforestation of the Hambach forest," Tschimpke said.

Accused of 'foul play'

The RWE executive board's intense activity in favor of clearance is an example of "foul play," the environmental group's head added.

"After all, RWE also knows that there is no way around the exit from coal if Germany wants to meet the climate goals of the Paris Agreement."

Hambach has been the center of years-long protests by environmental campaigners over plans to clear around half of the remaining woodland to expand the nearby open-pit mine, operated by RWE.

Read more: New attack against coal plans at Germany's Hambach Forest

Green groups say 90 percent of the forest has already been cleared and Germany remains too reliant on coal for electricity generation, despite promises to phase out the worst polluting fossil fuels.

In September and October, police faced off against protesters as they attempted to clear a makeshift camp set up in defiance of the company's plans.

Environmental activists face of against police Reuters/W. Rattay)

Environmental activists dug their heels in when police launched a large-scale operation to clear their makeshift camp

The deforestation process was halted temporarily in November by a court ruling to assess the impact of the clearance on a protected species of bat.

Several 'dinosaur' candidates

Tschimpke said the judges had a tough time deciding this year's winner, especially as the ongoing Dieselgate scandal continues to tarnish the reputation of Germany's automakers, and the country grabbles with bans on diesel vehicles as part of the transition to cleaner energy.

Read more: German cities urged to ban polluting fireworks at New Year

The booby prize, which has been won twice before by an RWE boss, has been awarded by NABU every year since 1993 to personalities who, in the view of the association, have stood out for their regressive public commitment to nature and environmental protection.

Watch video 03:12

Coal mining comes to an end in Germany

In 2010, former RWE CEO Jürgen Grossmann received the award for his commitment to extending the life of Germany's nuclear power plants. In 2006, his predecessor, Harry Roels, was named "Dinosaur of the Year" after lobbying for an extension to the operating life of the aged Biblis A nuclear reactor in central Germany.

Last year, farming union president Joachim Rukwied won the title for denying the responsibility of agriculture for species extinction. 

mm/rt (AFP, DPA, EPD)

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