Yesterday, a group of grassroots climate activists climbed onto a ledge at the entrance of the Rosenbad, the seat of the Swedish government in Stockholm, to drop a banner reading, “We keep the coal in the ground” featuring logos of the governing parties (Greens and Social Democrats).
As the video below shows, it was an exemplary, calm and peaceful action of civil disobedience to draw attention to the Swedish government’s impending decision on the fate of its largest source of emissions. Climate scientists have warned that the potential deal to sell state-owned company Vattenfall’s coal assets in Germany would ‘violate the Paris agreement’.
Swedish media and politicians reacted to the protest by grossly distorting, misrepresenting and discrediting legitimate and peaceful protest, a vital element of any functioning democracy. The media reported on the calm and collected action during which no one was hurt and no property damaged as ‘violent’. This claim lacks any foundation, is factually wrong and is, if nothing else, appallingly poor journalism. Politicians went on to condemn the action as ‘undemocratic’ with Prime Minister Stefan Lofven calling it ‘reprehensible’.
What is truly reprehensible is that the Swedish government which promised only last December in Paris to keep global temperature rise below 1.5-2℃ and celebrates itself as a leader aspiring to become ‘fossil free’ is even considering this deal. Rather than taking responsibility for its state-owned coal reserves, it is thinking about handing over some of Germany’s largest lignite mines and some of Europe’s most polluting coal power plants to a tax-dodging buyer that is betting on still being able to burn as much climate-destroying coal as possible.
If the Swedish government approves the deal, it will make a mockery of the commitments it has made through the Paris climate agreement and the Green party will break the promises it made in last year’s elections. It will enable the release of around 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of 24 years of emissions from Sweden. It will also act against the will of the Swedish population.
The government still has the chance to do the right thing and keep its coal in the ground once and for all. That is why a group of concerned people decided to do what they could to stop this deal from happening. Four of them were temporarily arrested, a risk they knowingly took to shine a spotlight on the significance of Sweden’s decision on our chances to stop catastrophic climate change. They have demonstrated courage and leadership where politicians are dragging their feet.
Share this article in which they explain why they risked time in jail for coal to show your solidarity using the hashtag #låtkoletligga.