Protesters occupy German village Luetzerath earmarked for demolition to make way for coal mine | Climate News

Environmental activists occupying a German village after a coal mine swallowed them have vowed that police will be ready to fight to evict them.

The village of Luetzerath in western Germany has been gradually abandoned by its original inhabitants, as it is to be demolished to make way for an expansion of the Grüzweiler II lignite mine.

The village stands just a few hundred meters from a vast pit where German utility giant RWE mines lignite coal for burning in nearby power plants.

The village’s fate sparks a wider debate over Germany’s efforts to wean itself off coal, the most polluting fossil fuel, by 2030. Gas crisis.

An environmental worker is surrounded by police officers as he sits upright on a monopod at the demolition site of the Garzweiler II open cast lignite mine in Luitzerth, Germany, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023.  According to the police, they have removed the barricades once again.  For security reasons in the occupied village of Luitzerth.  The village of Luetzerath has been abandoned by its inhabitants but is occupied by opponents of lignite mining to protest the further expansion of fossil energy.  Photo: AP
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An environmental activist is surrounded by police officers as he sits on a monopod directly on the edge of a mine collapse. Photo: AP
A Garzweiler II opencast lignite mine from energy company RWE works at the Garzweiler II opencast lignite mine in Jakerath, Germany, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, near the village of Jakerath.  Protest against further expansion of fossil energy.  (Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa via AP).  Photo: AP
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The mine produces lignite coal that powers nearby power plants. Photo: AP

Environmentalists, who warned that coal would release millions of tons of climate-warming carbon dioxide and harmful air pollution, moved into the abandoned homes of former residents two years ago.

The group LuetziBleibt – which translates as Luetzi is Staying – claimed that “about two hundred people” were hunted in the village at the time and more were expected to join over the weekend.

“We want coal to stay in the ground because it threatens the very foundation of human civilization,” said Luetzi is Staying spokeswoman Johanna Ankerman.

“Climate disaster is already here, already hitting people hard in the Global South, who didn’t cause it. [it]we are calling for a change in our current economic system,” he told Sky News by phone from the camp.

Tree houses built in trees as part of a protest camp against open pit lignite mining in Luetzerath, Germany on December 20, 2022.  An eviction from the camp was announced for January 2023 as the Ignite excavator is now operating less than 100 meters away.  protest camp.  (Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa via AP).  Photo: AP
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Activists said they had tree houses and ‘other structures from which it is difficult to evacuate people’. Photo: AP
Environmental activists sit on a makeshift platform near the edge of the demolition of the Garzweiler II opencast lignite mine in Luetzerath, Germany, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023.  According to the police, they have removed the barricades once again for safety reasons.  The occupied village of Luetzerath.  The village of Luetzerath has been abandoned by its inhabitants but is occupied by opponents of lignite mining to protest the further expansion of fossil energy.  (Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa via AP).  Photo: AP
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The occupants sit on the tracks on a makeshift platform, near the edge of the mine’s demolition. Photo: AP

But the Heinsburg County administration has given police permission to evict the squatters from Tuesday, January 10. Activists expect police to begin fencing off the village to prevent more people from joining.

“We’re definitely not going to move,” Ms. Ankerman vowed.

“We’re going to stand in the way of the destruction that’s happening here… We’re going to defend this village and we’re going to defend environmental justice.”

Environmental workers work on a barrier near the demolition edge of the Garzweiler II open cast lignite mine in Luitzerth, Germany, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023.  According to the police, they have once again removed a barricade in the occupied village of Luitzerth for security reasons.  .  The village of Luetzerath has been abandoned by its inhabitants but is occupied by opponents of lignite mining to protest the further expansion of fossil energy.  (Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa via AP).  Photo: AP
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An obstacle near the demolition edge of the Garzweiler II opencast lignite mine. Photo: AP
Climate activists chant during a protest in front of the Ministry of Economy and Climate, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, in Berlin, Germany.  About 150 people gathered outside Hebeck's ministry on Wednesday to protest the Garzweiler coal expansion.  Mine would swallow Luetzerath, arguing that a compromise between the government and RWE would result in more emissions, not less.  (AP Photo/Marcus Schreiber) Photo: AP
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About 150 climate activists protested outside the Ministry of Economy and Climate in Berlin. Photo: AP

Last summer, the German government said it was forced to phase out excess coal power. A “bitter but necessary” move to fill the void left by President Vladimir Putin’s cutoff of Russian gas.

Ministers are exploring how to promote clean energy, with the goal of getting 80 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action and the mine operator, RWE, were not immediately available for comment, but said last year that the war in Ukraine had increased the importance of a secure supply of lignite coal for power plants. .

A study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) claimed that even in the absence of Russian gas, the lignite coal beneath Luetzerath was not needed to secure German power supplies.

Protesters believe Germany can find ways to manage without coal.

“It’s about making the grid more resilient and building more renewable energy, along with creating potential for energy storage,” Ms Ankerman said.

He said that it is not the group’s responsibility to come up with an alternative, but to prevent mine expansion to protect people from climate change.

“After all,” he added, “climate catastrophe cannot wait for this problem to be solved. And we don’t have time to burn more coal… We have to manage multiple crises at once. And It is entirely possible”.

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