German police start removing climate activists from Lützerath

Police officers carry a demonstrator to clear a road at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany.
Police officers carry a demonstrator to clear a road at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany. Copyright Michael Probst/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Gael Camba
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Several hundred climate activists tried Tuesday to prevent heavy machinery from reaching an abandoned village in Germany that is due to be cleared for the expansion of a coal mine as police pushed back protesters and removed roadblocks ahead of a possible clearance this week.


A police operation is underway to remove protesters from the village of Lützerath in western Germany. The authorities have started building a fence around the village telling the activists to leave.

Around a thousand climate protesters have been occupying the village for more than two years over plans to expand the nearby massive open-cast mine.

The activists say this is against Germany's international commitments to reduce emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases.

"We are forming human chains, we are blocking, we are not letting them in," said a spokesperson of the movement. They have built treehouses and entrenched themselves to slow down the police evacuation. Some have even tied themselves to a rope hanging between houses.

The move echoes a similar demonstration in the Hambach forest in 2018, which successfully delayed a coal mining project and since then became a symbol of anti-coal protests.

Germany still dependent on coal

Germany is still dependent on coal which amounts to 31% of the country's energy production according to the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E), at a time when its Russian gas supply has been greatly reduced (10% of the country's energy consumption, according to ENTSO-E). 

The government's three-way coalition includes Germany's Green Party which has pledged to reduce Germany's reliance on coal. However they have been obliged to order more coal-fired power plants and delay decommission plans for some others.

Energy producer RWE says it needs to extract more coal to fill its supply contracts, which run until 2030. That's the year when Germany has committed to stop mining the black gold.

The company has been buying out residents from many villages to expand its Garzweiler opencast mine. Lützerath could be the last one to be destroyed.

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