Dialogue between RWE and environmental groups

  • Hambach Forest clearing to be carried out as planned
  • Clear rejection of violence and agitation

Talks were held yesterday between RWE and the Deutscher Naturschutzring, Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) and Greenpeace environmental groups. The aim was to reach an agreement on the clearing required in the Hambach Forest during the 2018/19 clearing season, and therefore help to de-escalate the situation. During the discussions, RWE offered to reassess whether the start of clearing could be delayed until the middle of December 2018. This is the latest possible date that would, in theory, enable the work to be completed by the end of February 2019, as required by nature and wildlife protection regulations. The company made it clear that such an assessment would be explicitly subject to the proviso that the Federal Government and the State support this postponement, and also that the public authorities and security forces would facilitate this timeframe. In return, the environmental groups would have to accept the need to start clearing from 15 December 2018. They were not prepared to do this. This means that the current plan to start clearing in mid-October remains in place.

RWE stated once again in the discussions that this year’s clearing measures are necessary to maintain opencast mining operations and coal extraction over the next two years. Accordingly, there is no substantive link to the findings of the Commission on "Growth, Structural Change and Employment”, which will deal with the medium- and long-term prospects for coal-fired power generation and may be delayed in their completion. Suspension of the clearing operations cannot therefore be justified by the Commission's work. Rather, the need for measures in the 2018/19 clearing season arises irrespective of existing differences of opinion between RWE and the environmental groups about the speed of reducing lignite-based electricity generation in Germany. RWE has implemented extensive recultivation measures in the past, already having created around 87 square kilometres of new forest and planted more than 10 million trees in the Rhineland mining district. The recultivation measures are considered by experts worldwide to be pioneering and exemplary, standards which will be consistently pursued in the future.

Even though no agreement was reached, both sides welcomed the open dialogue and exchange. RWE and the environmental groups all agree on the complete rejection of violence. However, the environmental groups declined to make a joint appeal against violence as a sign of de-escalation, and announced their intentions to communicate this beyond their groups, independently of talks with RWE. It was agreed to keep the channels of communication open in light of the Commission’s findings.

Dr Rolf Martin Schmitz, CEO of RWE AG
This dialogue was important to us. We respect other opinions in the discourse about lignite, as long as they are expressed peacefully. In our view, the law doesn’t just provide a safe compass for companies, but the rules of the game also apply to civil society and must be followed. There is no room for agitation and violence within these boundaries.
Dr Rolf Martin Schmitz, CEO of RWE AG