Fighting for a Just Transition (1/3): Kathrin Henneberger (Germany)

Kathrin Henneberger is a climate justice activist and a co-founder of the Institute of Environmental Justice e.V. She is currently running to be a member of parliament for the Green Party in Germany.

Could you briefly introduce yourself (and possibly your group/collective)? What are you committed to? Where are you active?

I grew up in close proximity to Shell’s largest oil refinery in Germany, in the south of Cologne. Experiencing how the corporation repeatedly mistreated the nature of the Rhine floodplains and learning about the human rights violations it committed in other regions of the world politicized me and made me an activist for climate justice. 

What are some issues and struggles that are moving you/you right now?

In addition to Shell’s refineries, the Rhineland also hosts the most climate-damaging coal-fired power plants in Europe and open-pit lignite mines that are still eroding the landscape, threatening ancient forests like Hambacher Forst as well as villages. More than 600 million tons of lignite are still to be extracted at the Garzweiler open pit mine. To ensure that this does not happen and that the five villages still standing here are preserved, a wide variety of actors are fighting together against the coal company RWE. Remember the name of the village of Lützerath and feel free to come by. Tree houses are being built… 

What role does Shell play in your region?

Shell is one of many fossil fuel companies in the Rhineland. It is not without reason that we call the region the biggest carbon source in Europe. In my hometown, where I grew up, I have seen how underground pipelines break and pollute the groundwater and how flaring kept happening. Big flames suddenly appeared in the sky and a truly sickening smell drifted over our neighborhood. This is what I personally associate with Shell. 

What does the resistance against Shell and the struggle for a just future look like on the ground? What strategies play a role in this?

It was always particularly important to me to look at the international level. What can we do to make corporations like Shell globally liable. Currently, it looks like I’ll be sitting in the Bundestag (German Parliament) starting this fall. One of my to-dos is to fight for the most serious environmental crimes to be included in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, thus paving the way for Shell’s actions in the Niger Delta, for example, to no longer go unpunished. 

In a nutshell: Why must Shell fall?

The time when fossil fuel companies like Shell or RWE violate human rights with impunity, destroy entire landscapes and cause the climate crisis must finally be a thing of the past. We must no longer allow them to treat our earth in this way. Fossil corporations, only concerned about their short-term profits, no longer have a place in a climate-friendly world. 

Which groups and movements in your region are worth following? How can people show their solidarity with these movements even from afar?

I would especially like to recommend the resistance at the Garzweiler open pit mine. New structures are forming here that are truly worth following. Take a look at @AlleDoerfer @LuetziBleibt @luetziwald and @UnserAllerWald on Twitter. August will also feature the Art Without Coal Festival. Feel free to drop by