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Greenpeace hopes to buy coal plants in Germany to shut them down

Environmental group wants to prevent emissions by keeping the coal in the ground

The environmental activist group Greenpeace announced Tuesday that it plans to buy four coal-fired power plants and their corresponding mines in eastern Germany so it can shut them down and prevent the mines from being expanded.

Swedish power company Vattenfall, wholly owned by the Swedish government, currently owns the lignite (also called brown coal) plants and mines that Greenpeace said it will attempt to purchase.

“Vattenfall and the Swedish government must take responsibility for their emissions also outside the Swedish borders. If they don’t do it, we must take action,” Annika Jacobson, Greenpeace Sweden’s program manager, said in a press release Tuesday. “The Swedish government cannot contribute to an acquisition by a buyer that would continue to burn enormous amounts of coal. This is a signal Sweden cannot give before the Paris climate conference.”

In Paris this December, world leaders will gather to sign a global climate treaty based on national pledges to reduce emissions and increase use of renewable energy in an effort to avert the worst effects of climate change.

Vattenfall did not reply to Al Jazeera’s request for comment by the time of publication.

Greenpeace said it wants to phase out the plants and prevent other potential buyers from continuing and expanding the mining operation. The value of the operation was estimated at $2.2 billion to $3.3 billion, Bloomberg reported.

Vattenfall’s emissions from the four power plants in eastern Germany are greater than Sweden’s total emissions, Greenpeace said in the press release. 

The company said last year it would dump its coal-fired plants in Germany in order to better align itself with Sweden’s climate change plan and would focus on wind and other renewables. “We have a clear strategy to reduce our carbon dioxide exposure and to transform our business into a more renewable-based portfolio,” Magnus Hall, the CEO and president of Vattenfall, said in a press release last year.

If the operation were sold to another buyer rather than shut down, five lignite mines could be opened, amounting to the equivalent of 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide, Greenpeace estimated. One of the power plants Greenpeace hopes to acquire, in Jänschwalde, is Europe’s fourth-largest carbon dioxide emitting power station, the German newspaper Deutsche Welle reported.

Greenpeace plans to finance the purchase with donations, through crowd-funding and other sources, spokesman Juha Aromaa told the newspaper. 

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