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Siemens Stands by Australian Coal Project Despite Climate Outcry

Oliver Sachgau

(Bloomberg) -- Siemens AG said it intends to honor a controversial contract to supply signaling systems to an Australian coal mine, defying the demands of activists and triggering more protests across Germany on Monday.

The company will establish a sustainability committee that will have the power to stop or escalate projects, but the company will ultimately continue with the Adani contract, Chief Executive Officer Joe Kaeser said in a statement on Sunday.

“I do realize, most of you would have hoped for more,” Kaeser said in the statement. “While I do have a lot of empathy for environmental matters, I do need to balance different interests of different stakeholders.”

Fridays for Future activists, including Greta Thunberg, put pressure on Siemens to renounce the contract and not work with Adani Power Ltd. on the planned Carmichael coal mine in Queensland.

“Siemens’ announcement that it will continue working on Adani’s coal mine while bushfires rage in Australia is nothing short of shameful,” environmental lobby group Australian Conservation Foundation said in a statement. “The company has shown its true colors with this decision. It has a climate change policy, but it is hollow and empty.”

Kaeser had met with German activist Luisa Neubauer on Friday, and in private talks offered the 23-year-old a seat on the supervisory board of Siemens Energy, which she turned down. Siemens Energy creates gas turbines and wind turbines, while the Adani contract will be supplied by Siemens Mobility, a different division.

‘Unbelievably Angry’

Protesters staged demonstrations at 15 Siemens locations in Germany on Monday, after large-scale protests on Friday.

“I’m unbelievably angry,” Matylda Bobnis, a Fridays for Future activist, said in an interview outside the company’s headquarters in Munich. “I want to stand in front of Siemens today and show them that I’m not going to let this pass unnoticed.”

Fridays for Future has not yet decided on next steps, but Bobnis said she and others intend to maintain pressure on the company.

Australian Resources Minister Matt Canavan had urged Kaeser last month “not to be intimidated by the noisy anti-coal minority.”

“If the protesters achieve their goals of ending coal mining by bullying companies into submission, the result would be millions more people without a home, without access to electricity and without as much hope as they otherwise could have,” Canavan said.

(Updates with activist quote from seventh paragraph)

--With assistance from James Thornhill and Iain Rogers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Oliver Sachgau in Munich at osachgau@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net, Chris Reiter

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