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Ecosia search engine offers to buy Hambach Forest

October 9, 2018

Berlin-based search engine Ecosia has offered to buy Hambach Forest from energy company RWE. The threatened woodland has been the scene of sometimes violent clashes between police and anti-coal activists.

Ecosia founder Kroll with his offer to RWE
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A.I. B änsch

A Berlin-based search engine that donates the vast majority of its profits to conservation projects has offered to buy an area of German woodland threatened with clearance for lignite-mining from its energy-firm owners.

The tech company sent a fax early Tuesday offering over €1 million ($1.15 million) for the remaining 200 hectares of Hambach Forest to the owner, RWE, said Genica Schäfgen of Ecosia.

The offer is valid until October 31.

"We think that such a fair balance of interests between RWE and the population can be found, and are committed to the purchase of the land, in order to pursue environmental and social interests together with organizations that have campaigned for the protection of the forest and have dedicated themselves to nature conservation," Ecosia chief executive Christian Kroll wrote to RWE chief Martin Schmitz.

"We are not commenting on this offer and will not react to it; the offer speaks for itself," an RWE spokesman said, stressing that for the company it was not a matter of the forest but the lignite located under it.

Massive protests

RWE's plans to clear half of the remaining woodland for lignite extraction have led to massive protests, the latest of which was last weekend and attracted 50,000 demonstrators. Last month, a journalist died after falling from a rope walk connecting protesters' treehouses.

On Friday, an administrative court in the city of Münster ordered a halt to the clearance, pending a review of a complaint brought by the German Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation (BUND) regarding a protected species of bats.

On Tuesday, RWE offered to reduce the amount of lignite it extracts at the Hambach site by up to 38 percent to between 10 million and 15 million tons per year between 2019 and 2021.

The company has extracted 40 million tons of lignite a year from the site. RWE says it needs fresh supplies of fuel urgently or electricity production will be placed in jeopardy at its lignite-burning plants.

An RWE spokesman said that production could be reduced at two plants between Dusseldorf and Cologne by 9 to 13 terawatt hours this year; last year RWE produced 202 terawatt hours of electricity, 74 of which came from burning lignite.

Ecosia says it has 8 million users. It uses the vast majority of its profits to fund conservation projects, which include planting trees as well as building up a reserve fund, from which the offer for Hambach Forest came.

Ecosia said they based their offer on what RWE's predecessor paid for the land in the 1970s, the equivalent of 500,000 euros.

"Hambach Forest Stays!" Germany and the Coal Industry

av/rt (DPA, AFP)

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