Jul. 18, 2016

Sweden should keep coal in the ground, not sell it off (eg. text-sample@theguardian.com)

Coal Keep it in the ground:

The history of the fossil fuel industry can feel like it is told in complicated deals the public isn’t meant to understand. This is what is happening in Sweden. The government-owned energy company, Vattenfall, is demanding the sale of its coal mines and power plants based in Germany to a Czech company, EPH. The deal includes some of Germany’s largest coal mines – and three of the top 10 most polluting coal plants in Europe. They are going to a deeply unattractive buyer – EPH, a company hell-bent on burning as much coal as possible.

In the next couple of weeks, Swedish prime minister, Stefan Löfven, is facing a stark choice. On one hand, he could approve the sale of the most climate-destroying assets in Europe, breaking his own election promises in the process. Or, he could promote a transition to keep coal in the ground – and support a liveable climate – in an unprecedented decision by a government to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Coal is the most polluting of all fossil fuels, and lignite or ‘brown coal’ is the most polluting type of coal and the greatest threat to EU climate goals.

The deal has implications much wider than just European policy. If it goes ahead, it will give an excuse for countries like Australia and Japan to continue burning coal, multiplying the negative climate impact – and shredding Sweden’s ‘clean’ image in the process.

By selling off these filthy coal assets, they will no longer be on Sweden’s books but the mines will be expanded and the brown coal will be burnt by someone else, imperilling humanity. If you applied this approach to slavery, a trading company would sell their slaves to a more brutal owner to clear their conscience while undermining abolition.

For the last four years, EPH has been buying up dirty coal mines and plants across Europe. It now has one billion tonnes of coal and 5GW of coal power plants.

The company has proved to be faceless, brandless, shareholders-less, unaccountable – and already responsible for 6% of European power sector C02 emissions. EPH exploits the loopholes in the EU climate and energy package, which allows it to keep burning fossil fuels despite European agreements to limit emissions from coal power stations.

Löfven’s sale would put four power plants in EPH’s hands as well as five open cast mines.

EPH says it will expand the mines – something, which all Swedish parties promised that they wouldn’t allow during the elections. The whole deal could add a billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. This is equivalent to 24 years of emissions from Sweden.

Löfven is hoping the world isn’t paying attention to this deal. But we are. Just last month, 4,000 people shut down Vattenfall’s coal operations in Ende Gelände – the world’s largest ever act of civil disobedience against fossil-fuel burning.

The Vattenfall sale brings to mind the fight to stop the Keystone XL pipeline – a point at which we draw a line in the sand and say no to fossil fuels. This only happened after an unprecedented wave of actions and President Obama saw the writing on the wall. Since then, he has been bold in standing up to the coal and tar sands industry.

A large majority of Swedes oppose the sale of brown coal. The positive global impact of transitioning the brown coal regions away from a business that threatens human survival and towards new cleaner economies cannot be underestimated. Another future is possible. Will prime minister Löfven listen to public opinion and live up to the promises he has made?

  • 350.org is joining workers and communities in calling on the Swedish government to stop this sale. You can join too. The next demonstration against the sale will take place in Stockholm on 3 June.

See attached note:

(i) KICKING GOALS! Sweden's new Climate Act makes it illegal not to prioritise the climate. A climate plan backed by an overwhelming majority in parliament makes the country the first to significantly upgrade its target since the Paris agreement and sets a goal to phase out greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 with the aim to be carbon neutral by written into law.  Read available here, how to decarbonize from nordic experience.

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