Munich (dpa) – Climate activists protested outside Siemens offices across Germany on Friday, demanding that the conglomerate end its participation in a controversial mining project in Australia, where raging bush fires have been met with calls to tackle climate change.
The demonstrations, organized by the German branch of the Fridays for Future environmental youth movement, took place in several German cities, including Munich, where the firm is headquartered.
Protesters said they handed over a petition signed by 57,000 people during the hundreds-strong Munich demonstration.
Siemens chief executive Joe Kaeser also met Luisa Neubauer, the 23-year-old activist who has become the face of the German movement. A company spokesman confirmed on Thursday that she had been invited to discuss the issue with him.
The protests centre on controversial plans by Indian industrial group Adani to build one of the world’s largest coal mines in central Queensland, with Siemens contracted to provide a rail signalling system for the project.
Australian climate activists have for years been voicing their opposition to the mine, which would yield up to 60 million tons of coal per year.
Siemens has come under pressure as a partner in the project. As a result, Kaeser agreed in December to reassess the contract, which is said to be worth around 20 million euros (22.2 million dollars).
A decision could be made any day now, according to company sources.
“We take the issue very seriously and are taking the time necessary to hear and discuss different perspectives,” a Siemens spokesman said.
Nick Heubeck, a Fridays for Future activist, was optimistic about the company’s invitation to discuss the matter.
“We have built up so much pressure in Germany and Australia that we could imagine Siemens taking what we see as the sensible decision in light of a sum of 20 million euros,” he said.
Australian conservation and climate action groups were also protesting on Friday against Siemens.
A “Stop Adani” campaign opposes Siemens’ involvement, which it says is central to Adani’s plans to access the Galilee coal basin, where there are currently no coal mines.
“The eyes of the world have been on Australia as climate change has fuelled the worst bush fire season we have ever experienced,” Christian Slattery, a senior campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation, told dpa.
“It is shameful that Siemens would choose to support a coal mine that will make future bush fires even worse.”
Across Australia, more than 10 million hectares of land have burned since the bush fire season started in September, which is early for the season. At least 26 people have died and several thousand homes destroyed.