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German eco-activists on barricades defending village from coal mine expansion

Eco-activists on barricades defend village Lützerath in Germany from expansion of coal mines

Photo: @LuetziTickerEn

Published

January 10, 2023

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Published:

January 10, 2023

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Environmental groups and associations have been opposing RWE and the local authority’s plan for months to demolish the village of Lützerath in the Rhine region to increase lignite production. The government of North Rhine-Westphalia argues the expansion of the coal pit is necessary for energy supply. Environmental groups oppose the demolition of villages and the increase in lignite output. Tensions have risen in the past days with announcements that the village would be evicted, so activists are on barricades.

German electricity company RWE and the government of North Rhine-Westphalia intend to evict and demolish the village of Lützerath to expand a lignite mine’s surface area.

The village near Cologne is surrounded by mines. It has been almost completely abandoned for some time. The media reported that in June, Lützerath had eight regular inhabitants.

However, environmental activists occupied the village as the defense line against extending the lignite exploitation zone.

Environmental groups and activists set up barricades and turned to sit-ins, protests, and other forms of non-violent resistance.

Photo: @LuetziTickerEn

The resistance to the demolition of the village is gathering many supporters. Several organizations and groups working under the initiative, such as Fridays for Future and Last Generation, have called for solidarity. Lützerath Lebt is the umbrella slogan for the climate camp and the campaign.

The government’s decision in contravention of climate goals

Activists say the damage fueled by German politics and business must stop. Politicians do not yet dare to recognize the problems. Coal must stay in the ground, the protestors emphasized.

They claim the decisions and strategies of the authorities and RWE are opposed to the country’s climate goals and commitments.

The expansion of coal mines is contrary to the climate goals and commitments

For many in Germany and Europe, the village of Lützerath became a symbol of resistance and climate struggle.

Climate camp for climate future

Activists from various parts of Germany arrived at the climate camp and erected barriers to stop the police. They also organized concerts and “village walks.” The climate camps are set out on the outskirts of the village.

The police have been trying to evict the village and the camps since January 3. According to the activists, it will take days and weeks, given the obstacles they have set up.

Numerous activists say the police would try to evict villages and climate camps within days. Tensions around the hamlet in the western part of Germany are increasing.

Locals and environmental groups have been trying in many ways to stop the expansion of the Garzweiler mine.

After many public campaigns and attempts to negotiate with authorities and the company over the past three years, a farmer allowed activists to build a camp on his property. They live in houses abandoned by former residents of the village. The “last line of defense” against coal expansion was established.

Coal security is the government’s priority

The population from several municipalities west of Cologne had to be relocated due to the expansion of the Garzweiler mine, one of the largest in Europe.

The authorities intend to allow a temporary increase in the use of lignite, to provide electricity during the crisis

The authorities intend to allow a temporary increase in the use of lignite to secure electricity supply during the energy crisis. The German government announced in October that it would reactivate two additional lignite-fired thermal power plants.

Extended coal mine exploitation 

As reported by Euractiv, part of the agreement between RWE and the German government, which determined the fate of Lützerath, was to turn off two coal-fired power plants of 3 GW in total in 2030, eight years earlier than the legal framework foresaw. Germany has pledged to phase out coal by 2038.

In exchange, two power plants with a combined capacity of 1.2 GW that were scheduled to be turned off in 2022 will operate until March 2024.

The government and RWE have agreed to extend the operation of two power plants with a combined capacity of 1.2 GW

With the decision, RWE has obtained permits to mine another 290 million tons of coal, which threatens climate goals, environmental groups warned. 

In October, the dismantling of a wind farm near the coal mine began.

The coal exploitation zone of the Garzweiler mine extends over 100 square kilometers. Annual lignite output amounts to 25 million tons, while the duration of lignite stocks is estimated by 2045.

The Lützerath resistance also has a symbolic meaning. For many activists, defending the village means staying on the path toward meeting the climate goals set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

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