Activists fighting coal mine expansion in Germany in standoff with police

Activists protesting the expansion of RWE’s open-pit coal mine in Lützerath, Germany. (Image by Lützerath Bleibt, Twitter.)

Activists in Germany were in a standoff with the police on Sunday, as they protested against the expansion of RWE Group’s Garzweiler open-pit coal mine on the western side of the country.

The expansion demands the demolition of Lützerath, an abandoned village 40 kilometres west of Cologne. Since there are no permanent residents there, it has been declared an exclusion zone and police are allowed to do what it takes to remove people or materials hindering its clearance, which is scheduled to start on January 10, 2023.

According to DW, some activists began occupying the town two years ago but as the deadline to demolish it approaches, more protesters have joined the action and are now estimated at 1,500 people. They live in tents, treehouses, huts and other precarious accommodations. 

On the other side of the skirmish, about 100 police keep dismantling the blockades the protesters set up and delaying buses taking supporters to Lützerath.

For the activists, the tiny village has become an emblem of the fight against doing business as usual, seriously comitting to the Paris Agreement and, thus, keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

Back in December, RWE, the German government and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia ratified a deal that pushes the country to phase out coal by 2030 instead of the previously set 2038 deadline. The agreement saved several villages from destruction but Lützerath wasn’t among them. 

RWE has said that coal from Lützerath and nearby areas will be needed to supply power stations from 2024 onwards, as other mines in the region continue to shut down and Germany reduces its dependence on Russian energy imports. 

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