Sweden's government has endorsed the sale of state-owned Vattenfall's four coal mines and mining assets in Germany to Czech investors. Environmentalists say the deal betrays the Paris pact to phase out fossil fuels.
Swedish state-owned utility Vattenfall secured government approval Saturday to sell its lignite operations in Germany, an energy sector it is pulling out of, amid a shift to renewable resources. The controversial deal was first announced in April.
"I have informed the company that we back the deal that the Vattenfall board has decided on," Enterprise Minister Mikael Damberg told reporters.
The 18 billion-Swedish kronor (1.9 billion-euro) deal by a consortium comprising Czech energy company EPH and its financial partner PPF Investments includes coal-fired power plants and mines in the eastern German states of Brandenburg and Saxony, as well as cleanup and remediation costs.
The coal-fired plants are controversial in Germany because of the millions of tons of greenhouse gases they emit each year.
Climate Minister Isabella Lovin of Sweden's Green Party told a joint news conference the government "had thoroughly investigated the deal but didn't find any formal reasons to reject it."
Green groups object to 'dirty coal' deal
German riot police guard against anti-coal activists that occupied the Vattenfall-owned factory Schwarze Pumpe on May 14, 2016 near Spremberg, Germany.
But critics in Sweden immediately criticized the Social Democratic-led government for offloading its coal assets rather than decommissioning operations.
"Europe needs to phase out coal as soon as possible to stand a chance of meeting the Paris Agreement," said Johan Rockstrom, a professor of Global Sustainability at Stockholm University. "This decision is disgraceful and unacceptable."
Greenpeace spokeswoman Annika Jacobson said it "implies a direct subversion of the Paris Agreement."
The so-called Paris Agreement aims to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared with preindustrial times. It only enters into force once 55 countries - including signatory Sweden - that represent at least 55 percent of global emissions have joined it.
Four activists were briefly detained last month after climbing on top of the entrance of the Swedish government headquarters disguised as construction workers to protest the sale.
In May, a protester was arrested for squirting a red liquid from the spectators' gallery during a debate on the issue in Sweden's parliament.
To offset the negative effects, the government promised to buy and annul carbon dioxide emission rights worth 300 million kronor (32 million euros) annually, a move that green groups say is inadequate.
Oxfam Germany climate change campaigner Jan Kowalzig said the Swedish government "is spurning the landmark treaty on climate change adopted last year in Paris," calling the sale "a failed attempt to clean up Vattenfall's dirty environmental record."
jar/tj (AP, dpa)