Stockholm, Sweden — Climate activists sharply criticised the Swedish government for approving the sale of state-owned energy company Vattenfall’s lignite operations in Germany to Czech buyer EPH. Instead of stopping the deal, the government announced they will engage in carbon emissions trading.
350.org co-founder Bill McKibben commented: “Physics is not fooled by this kind of trick. Pouring that carbon is an act of climate sabotage, and we will work hard to keep that coal in the ground.”
Climate scientists Johan Rockström, professor at Stockholm University, and John Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts had warned that the deal will ‘violate the Paris agreement’.
Olivia Linander, Swedish campaigner at 350.org said: “Sweden’s breach of the Paris agreement shows that governments won’t keep their promise to prevent climate catastrophe unless we make them. It’s up to us, ordinary people, to make sure the fossil fuels we simply cannot burn stay in the ground and push for a just transition away from fossil fuels.”
The deal sees Vattenfall hand over some of Germany’s largest lignite mines and some of Europe’s most polluting coal power plants to Czech group EPH, which announced that it has no intention to stop burning coal. The deal could lead to the release of over a billion tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of 24 years of Sweden’s current annual emissions as an entire nation.
350.org Keep it in the ground coordinator Tim Ratcliffe said: “Sweden has the power and responsibility to ensure the carbon it owns stays in the ground. Slavery didn’t end by selling slaves to someone else. A climate crisis can only be averted by keeping fossil fuels in the ground and carbon trading has consistently failed to do that.”
Protests in Sweden and abroad called on the Swedish government to stop the deal. In May, 4,000 people blocked one of Vattenfall’s lignite mines and power plants in Germany for 48 hours in an unprecedented civil disobedience mass action called Ende Gelände (‘here and no further’). The action was part of a global wave of escalated action showing that the climate movement will not rest until all fossil fuels are kept in the ground. Politicians, scientists and climate activists urged Sweden to stop the sale, including former US Vice President Al Gore and former President of Mexico Felipe Calderón.
350.org Executive Director May Boeve commented on the announcement: “This decision betrays the lofty ideals Swedish politicians espoused in Paris, and the commitments they made to other nations in the fight against climate change. But that’s not a surprise, because politicians were never going to be the answer on their own. It’s up to our movement to keep pressure on, and fight for the solutions scientists say we need in order to move our society off fossil fuels, towards an economy powered entirely by clean energy.”