Environmental lawyers have voiced incredulity at this year’s official choice for Europe’s greenest city: Essen, Germany’s coal capital.
ClientEarth energy lawyer Ken Huestebeck said: “This is an astonishing award. You are not truly a green city as long as you are heavily invested in coal companies. Essen is an indirect owner of RWE, the EU’s biggest coal energy company by capacity, and Steag, the seventh biggest – both headquartered there.
“Essen’s investments in these projects are laden with climate risk. The city is not taking an active enough stewardship role to usher the companies into a greener era. RWE and Steag’s reliance on coal amid the German energy transition is digging them a hole – RWE paid no dividends for the first time last year and Steag’s are expected to be frozen too until at least 2020.
“Relying on investments like these that are unsustainable – financially and environmentally speaking – puts public services at risk, really putting Essen’s residents at a disadvantage. We recognise efforts by Essen’s leadership and residents to create a healthier city, but must question its commitment until it puts its money where its mouth is.”
Protestors disrupted the German environment minister’s speech on the award, which took place in Brussels last night.