Christopher Laumanns, from the city Leipzig, is one of the climate activists camped out in Pödelwitz. He says that since Merkel made the decision to switch off nuclear power, 3,000 people have been displaced in Germany because of mining for lignite — the technical name for brown coal — and another 2,500 are currently in danger of losing their homes.
Lignite is a low-grade, waterlogged form of coal, mined from vast, shallow, open pits. It’s considered the dirtiest of coals because it is inefficient. Greenpeace warns that for the same amount of energy extracted from high-grade anthracite (black, hard coal), burning lignite releases between two and four times as much CO2 into the atmosphere.
Germany primarily uses brown coal for electricity and the chemical industry.
Last year, 37 percent Germany’s electricity was powered by coal, and 23 percent of it by brown coal, according to the Economy Ministry. That is undermining progress the country has made in expanding cleaner, renewable energy production.