April 25, 2015 / 3:41 PM / 5 years ago

Thousands of coal workers march in Berlin in protest against climate tax

* 13,500 workers march against coal levy in Berlin

* Protesters fear job losses, decline of industry

* German public supports government’s climate targets -survey

BERLIN, April 25 (Reuters) - Thousands of coal miners and workers in coal-fired plants marched in Berlin on Saturday to protest a proposed levy on the oldest, most polluting power stations, saying it could lead to massive job losses and the decline of the industry in Germany.

Germany is wrestling with how to safeguard its energy supply while sticking to tough goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent by 2020 and exit nuclear power two years after that.

The government has proposed imposing penalties on old and highly polluting power plants to cut emissions from the coal sector by a further 22 million tonnes by 2020.

But opponents say the plan will damage the coal industry and could put up to 100,000 jobs at risk.

In Berlin, a crowd estimated by police at 13,500 marched from the economy ministry to the chancellery holding placards that read, “Hands off our brown coal”, and “We oppose the social blackout in our region”.

Germany’s largest power producer, RWE, and other energy groups have said the levy would lead to the immediate closure of RWE’s lignite-fired power plants.

“We expect everything to be taken off the table, which could mean the end of brown coal production and power,” Michael Vassiliadis, head of the IG BCE coal union, told protesters.

Meanwhile, 6,000 environmental campaigners formed a human chain over 7 kilometres long at an open cast mine owned by RWE in Garzweiler, western Germany to protest against environmental damage caused by brown coal.

A poll for conservation group WWF and civil movement Campact published on Saturday found that 73 percent of those surveyed were in favour of restricting production at the oldest brown coal power stations to help achieve the climate goals. (Reporting by Caroline Copley and Reuters TV; editing by Jane Baird)

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