The coal industry is the biggest employer in some regions of Germany. In the east German city of Zeitz, people fear for their jobs and demand concrete plans for their future once the climate-killing fuel is phased out.
Stephan Barth steers his SUV across the hilly terrain of the Profen open-pit coal mine, monitoring conveyor belts transporting freshly extracted coal.
He is out in the mine come snow storm or heat wave. He works weekend and night shifts. It’s a tough job but, he says, it is his dream job. And now, he could lose it. “What will happen when it’s all over here?” he asks.
No other country burns as much lignite, or brown coal, as Germany. Around a quarter of the country’s energy comes from lignite. But it’s a dirty fuel, responsible for almost a fifth of Germany’s CO2 emissions.
Germany must shut down its coal-fired power plants as soon as possible if it’s serious about reaching its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2030 compared to the 1990s levels, experts say.