Hamburg, it‘s time to phase out coal, gas and wood burning!

Joint statement against ongoing climate damage caused by the Tiefstack combined heat and power plant

16. Juni 2022

In a joint statement published today, more than 30 environmental organisations denounce the proposed conversion of the Tiefstack coal plant to fossil gas or wood, both of which cause similar harm to the climate as coal. The signatories demand investments in energy conservation and in climate-friendly renewable energy that must be developed in a socially just, democratic way. The appeal, initiated by ROBIN WOOD, has been signed by German and international NGOs and networks, including Environmental Action Germany (Deutsche Umwelthilfe), BirdLife Germany (NABU), Global Forest Coalition and Save Estonia’s Forests.

At a press conference scheduled for tomorrow, Hamburg's environment ministry (BUKEA) will be issuing a statement about the coal-phaseout plans for the Tiefstack plant. A further announcement by the supervisory board of the city-owned energy provider, Hamburger Energiewerke (HenW), on this issue is also expected on 1 July. The civil society groups that signed the joint statement advocate a rapid coal phase-out which does not involve replacing coal with fossil gas or wood. A conversion to wood or ‘natural’ gas, they warn, would contradict Hamburg's climate commitments, given that both fuels are no less harmful for the climate than coal.

"If the city of Hamburg takes its own climate goals and its self-description as a progressive and cosmopolitan city seriously, it must develop a truly sustainable heating concept. This includes funding for socially acceptable insulation projects for homes and other buildings, measures to reduce overall energy use, as well as the rapid expansion of genuinely low-carbon renewable energy for the heat sector. The climate-damaging and socially unjust burning of wood and gas, on the other hand, has no place in the future of heat generation," says Ronja Heise, Energy Campaigner from ROBIN WOOD.

The groups point out that the use of industrial waste heat and large heat pumps powered by renewable energy would contribute to a climate-friendly energy transition.

Due to methane leakages throughout its supply chain, which vary according to the methods and location of extraction, fossil gas poses a similar threat to the climate as coal. In view of the dramatically worsening climate crisis as well as geopolitical risk, a phase-out of all types of fossil energy is necessary.

Wood is not an acceptable alternative either. Mary S. Booth, Director of American Thinktank PFPI and internationally recognised expert on the topic of biomass burning says: “Scientists have warned repeatedly that burning forest biomass increases greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuels and that offsetting that carbon pollution takes decades to centuries. It doesn’t make sense to create new infrastructure to burn forest wood when we so urgently need to protect and restore forests for climate and nature. To sell that as climate protection is a mockery. If Hamburg relies on wood combustion, the city is moving backward, ecologically and economically .“

So far, the public does not know how the city of Hamburg intends to generate heat and electricity at the Tiefstack site in future. The process for developing those proposals, launched by Hamburg’s environment ministry, was designed in a non-transparent manner, excluding civil society from participating in developing Hamurg’s strategy to transform heat generation.

The far too sluggish coal phase-out as well as the conversion plans have long been met with widespread public criticism. As early as October 2020, there was a civil society statement against plans to burn bush wood from Namibia at the Tiefstack site in the future.


Ute Bertrand, Press Spokesperson at ROBIN WOOD, Tel. ++49 171 835 95 15, presse [at]