Climate activists are pledging to defend a tiny village in western Germany from being bulldozed for the expansion of a nearby coal mine
ByFRANK JORDANS Associated Press
BERLIN — Climate activists pledged Sunday to defend a tiny village in western Germany from being bulldozed for the expansion of a nearby coal mine that has become a battlegroundbetween the government and environmental campaigners.
Hundreds of people from across Germany gathered for protest training and a subsequent demonstration in the hamlet of Luetzerath, which lies west of Cologne next to the vast Garzweiler coal mine.
The open-cast mine, which provides a large share of the lignite — a soft, brownish coal — burned at nearby power plants, is scheduled to close by 2030 under a deal agreed last year between the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia and utility company RWE.
The company says it needs the coal to ensure Germany’s energy security, which has come under strain following the cut in gas supplies from Russia since the invasion of Ukraine.
But environmental groups have blasted the agreement, saying it will still result in hundreds of millions of tons of coal being extracted and burned. They argue that this would release vast amounts of greenhouse gas and make it impossible for Germany to meet its commitments under the 2015 Paris climate accord.
“(We) will fight for every tree, for every house, for every meter in this village,” said Luka Scott, a spokesperson for the alliance of groups organizing protests. “Because whoever attacks Luetzerath, attacks our future.”
Prominent campaigners have rallied support to defend the village from destruction, citing the impact that climate change is already having on Germany and beyond.
While much of Sunday’s event had a festival feeling, with families attending and a popular band playing on site, some activists were preparing for possible confrontations with the police. Protesters briefly clashed with officers last week, and German news agency dpa reported that barricades and other defensive measures have been put in place to prevent Luetzerath being razed.
Environmentalists and the left-leaning Green party, which is a member of both the state and federal governments in North Rhine-Westphalia, are at odds over Luetzerath.
Yazgulu Zeybek, the co-chair of the party in the western state, urged protesters to forgo using force and permit the village’s destruction to go ahead.
She stated that the Greens “neither wished for nor chose” the destruction of Luetzerath in an interview with the Westdeutschen Allgemeinen Zeitung, but added that the legal situation was clear.
RWE owns the village and its surrounding areas, and the last farmer to live there sold the company his land in 2022 after losing a legal battle to prevent his eviction. Since then, only a small number of activists have occupied the property, some of whom have built their own tree houses or caravans.
Police have said no clearance will take place before Jan. 10.