Environmentalists and police battle in a 12,000-year-old German forest in fight over coal mining

When German riot police began removing environmental protesters from treehouses perched high in a 12,000-year-old forest, they were met with an organic response: buckets of human waste raining down on their helmets and shoulders.

Two weeks later, most of the 150 activists have been removed from their redoubts in the oak and beech trees of Hambach Forest, a few miles west of Cologne. But the struggle over whether the woods should be cleared to make way for an open-pit coal mine has cast a spotlight on Germany’s uneven efforts to meet its decades-old pledges to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

In keeping with its image as a clean energy leader, Germany promised in 1997 to reduce such emissions 40% by 2020 from the level in 1990. Much of the reduction resulted from unification with communist East Germany, whose heavily polluting industrial base quickly collapsed. Since then, Germany has made little further headway — with the total reduction amounting to 33%.

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