The Hambach open-cast mine, the largest in Europe, opened in 1978 and located 40 kilometres west of Cologne, is situated between the towns of Jülich and Kerpen in the heart of the Rhine lignite mining area. The exploitation of the mine was hampered by a conflict over the protection of the ancient Hambach forest, located on the edge of the RWE-operated mine. This sparked a heated public debate about the future of coal in Germany and became a symbol of resistance against the environmental destruction caused by the coal industry. The location was deeply entrenched in the public eye, along with narratives associated with it, which, placed within the context of the Germans’ cultural and emotional attachment to forests, reinforced the emergence of a large civic movement, the goal of which was to protect the Hambach forest. The movement’s network of supporters crossed social and international borders. Pressure from German public opinion led to the decision to protect the forest from logging. This case shows that places are not only spaces in which transformations take place, but they can also play a central role in decision-making and policy development with regards to the transformation of carbon regions.