German energy giant RWE vows action against climate activists

Environmental activists block the rails during a protest against climate change outside the Neurath Power Station near Rommerskirchen, Germany. (Reuters)
Updated 27 June 2019
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German energy giant RWE vows action against climate activists

  • A thousand activists invaded the vast Garzweiler lignite mine
  • RWE say that having given “many warnings” about trespassing

BERLIN: German energy giant RWE said Sunday it will be seeking prosecutions after hundreds of climate activists occupied their open-cast mine at the weekend to protest against the use of coal.

Following a cat-and-mouse game with police on Saturday, around a thousand activists invaded the vast Garzweiler lignite mine, some 43 km west of Cologne.

Police say it took until Sunday morning to completely clear the area of protesters, who RWE accuse of trespassing and arson.

Around eight officers were injured during the protests, according to police, but no figures were given on how many protesters were taken into custody.

The action was part of a series of protests as Garzweiler, which covers 48 square km, supplies lignite, or brown coal, to power stations in the region.

HIGHLIGHT

Between 20,000 and 40,000 young activists from 17 countries flocked to Aachen near the Dutch and Belgian borders Friday for a huge show of force of the school-strike movement launched by Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg.

“The group has no sympathy for the 1,300 ‘activists’ who illegally entered the Garzweiler opencast mine and occupied the tracks on the coal supply lines,” said RWE in a statement.

“In addition, there were several arson attacks on a pump station, switch cabinets and vehicles.”

The “Ende Gelaende” (EG) protesters want to shut down RWE’s operations and end Germany’s use of climate-damaging coal-fired power stations long before the government’s cut-off target of 2038.

The German phrase “Ende Gelaende” means that something is irrevocably finished — similar to “end of story” — which is how the protesters feel about the fossil fuel age.

Many of those who took part in the occupation were school pupils and students who were part of the “Fridays for Future” demonstrations the day before.

Between 20,000 and 40,000 young activists from 17 countries flocked to Aachen near the Dutch and Belgian borders Friday for a huge show of force of the school-strike movement launched by Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg.

According to EG organizers, about 8000 people also took part in a rally in the small town of Keyenberg, near the Garzweiler mine, on Saturday.

Hundreds of climate protesters then entered the vast mine, bringing excavation to a standstill.

RWE say that having given “many warnings” about trespassing, they will be taking action “against all criminal offenses in connection with any occupations and blockades that have taken place.”

On Friday, 500 activists managed to cut off the supply of coal to the nearby Neurath plant, one of Germany’s main coal-fired power stations, by sitting down on the rail tracks the supply trains use.

Police said the tracks between the Neurath and Niederaussem power plants were still blocked on Sunday morning.

RWE said that despite “enormous disruption,” the “operation of the power plants and electricity generation were never at risk.”

However, “the company has suffered an economic loss, which is currently being determined.”

RWE insists it is “fully committed to climate protection targets” and says that between 2012 and 2018, the company reduced CO2 emissions by “60 million tons or 34 percent.”

“There is a plan on the table for phasing-out coal and there is no reason to endanger people and carry out illegal actions,” says Frank Weigand, CEO of RWE Power.

“We naturally respect the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protests such as ‘Fridays for Future’.

“But it is not acceptable to deliberately break the law under the guise of climate protection.

“Blocking tracks and entering opencast mines is dangerous and against the law.”


BMW picks insider Zipse as CEO to catch up with rivals

Oliver Zipse
Updated 26 min 21 sec ago
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BMW picks insider Zipse as CEO to catch up with rivals

  • German giant has lost ground to Mercedes-Benz and Tesla as tech steps up

FRANKFURT: BMW has named Oliver Zipse as its new CEO, continuing the German carmaker’s tradition of promoting production chiefs to the top job even as the auto industry expands into new areas such as technology and services.
Hailing Zipse’s “decisive” leadership style, BMW hopes the 55-year-old can help it win back its edge in electric cars and the premium market  from rival Mercedes-Benz.
But some analysts questioned whether Zipse was the right choice with new fields such as software and services like car-sharing becoming increasingly important.
“What is intriguing is the cultural bias to appoint the head of production. It works sometimes but ... being good at building cars is not a defining edge the way it was 20 years ago,” said Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois.
Current CEO Harald Krueger, and former chiefs Norbert Reithofer, Bernd Pischetsrieder and Joachim Milberg were all former production heads.
Zipse joined BMW as a trainee in 1991 and served as head of brand and product strategies and boss of BMW’s Oxford plant in England before joining the board.
He will become chief executive on Aug. 16, taking over from Krueger who said he would not be available for a second term.
“With Oliver Zipse, a decisive strategic and analytical leader will assume the Chair of the Board of Management of BMW. He will provide fresh momentum in shaping  the future,” said Reithofer.
Zipse helped expand BMW’s efficient production network in Hungary, China and the US, in a move that delivered industry-leading profit margins.
Under Krueger, BMW was overtaken in 2016 by Mercedes-Benz as the best-selling luxury car brand.
It also had an early lead over US  rival Tesla in electric cars, but scaled back ambitions after its i3 model failed to sell large numbers.
Reithofer initially championed Krueger’s low-key consensus-seeking leadership, but pressured him to roll out electric vehicles more aggressively, forcing Krueger to skip the Paris Motor Show in 2016 to reevaluate BMW’s electric strategy.
Krueger’s reluctance to push low-margin electric vehicles led to an exodus of talented electric vehicle experts, including Christian Senger, now Volkswagen’s (VW) board member responsible for software, and Audi’s Markus Duesmann, who is seen as a future CEO of the company.
Both were poached by VW CEO Herbert Diess, a former BMW board member responsible for research who was himself passed over for BMW’s top job in 2015.
VW has since pushed a radical 80 billion euro ($90 billion) electric car mass production strategy, and a sweeping alliance with Ford.

Other skills
“A CEO needs to have an idea for how mobility will evolve in the future. This goes far beyond optimising an existing business,” said Carsten Breitfeld, chief executive of China-based ICONIQ motors, and former BMW engineer. “He needs to build teams, attract talent, and promote a culture oriented along consumer electronics and internet dynamics.”
German manufacturers have dominated the high-performance market for decades, but analysts warn shifts towards sophisticated technology and software is opening the door to new challengers.
“Tesla has a lead of three to four years in areas like software and electronics. There is a risk that the Germans can’t catch up,” UBS analyst Patrick Hummel said.
Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport car magazine, normally quick to champion German manufacturers, this week ran a cover questioning BMW’s future.
“Production expertise is important, but if you want to avoid ending up being a hardware provider for Google or Apple, you need to have the ability to move up the food chain into data and software,” a former BMW board member said.