Germany's climate contradictions: the coal-mining powerhouse with 'net zero' ambitions

Germany is one of the great contradictions in the European climate debate: enthusiastic about "net zero", spurning nuclear power, the Greens about to enter Government and control some powerful ministries, and yet it continues to mine and burn coal on a scale seen nowhere else in Western Europe. Pretty dirty coal at that.

The giant Garzweiler open cast coalmine in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia continues to expand – it is already one of the deepest and widest man-made holes in Europe, having devoured 20 villages so far that had the misfortune of being built a few metres above a reach seam of coal.

Unless the arrival of the Green party in government changes thing (and it might) 6 more villages 6 are due for destruction before the mine ceases production in 2038.

One of those is Kuckham, a village inhabited since the eleven hundreds, but which will soon be gone. We spoke to campaigners who can trace their families in Kuckham back to the seventeenth century and they are not going without a fight.

ITV News Europe Editor James Mates visited German villages that will be destroyed to make way for more coal mining

One of the great ironies of all this is that the empty homes in Kuckham, bought up by RWE -the giant energy firm that runs the Garzweiler mine, are suddenly inhabited again, given over to emergency housing for some of Europe’s first climate refugees. Less than an hour’s drive from Kuckham was the epicentre of one of the worst floods in German history.

Just a few months ago, medieval towns like Ahrweiler were inundated by raging torrents of water that swept down the Ahr valley after days of apocalyptic rain. These weren’t slowly rising waters, but floods that saw streets fill with water to a level more than two metres high within minutes. More than 200 people died.

More than 200 people died in floods in Germany this year, which affected the Ahr valley (pictured)

It is going to be years until Ahrweiler and other towns in the valley are restored and repaired, years in which many thousands of people are going to be unable to return to their homes. German victims of climate change now being housed in the very facilities believed to be causing that change. As I said: one of the great contradictions.

You can watch On Assignment on Tuesday October 26 at 10.45pm on ITV and afterwards on the ITV Hub.